esidents at Hillview must have rejoiced at the establishment of HillV2, a neighbourhood shopping mall anchored by a premium supermarket and being home to several gourmet dining options. They also now have a very respectable Italian restaurant to call their own, no longer needing to travel far for home-style Italian food. That restaurant, of course, is iO Italian Osteria, which is managed by the same team behind Etna. I picked this place for a family dinner this past weekend, having dined here once before with Pris.
If you enter iO via its left entrance, you’ll walk past a display of assorted breads and pastries. If you have a thing for freshly baked breads, every breath you take as you walk along the display is guaranteed to make your mouth water, as your eyes take in the sight of iO’s golden-brown, oven-baked goods.
After peeling yourself away from the bread counter, you’ll come to the contemporary combination of wooden dining furniture and exposed concrete surfaces, which lend a modern feel to the restaurant. The large, glass walls let in plenty of natural daylight, and when the sun sets, the street lights outside provide a more urban feel to the dining atmosphere.
Our first starter was the burrata, which made up for its relatively small quantity with a nice, creamy texture and a good balance of components on the plate. The cheese was seasoned nicely too, and we suspect the extra virgin olive oil that was lightly drizzled over the salt and pepper had something to do with it.
Our second appetiser was the porchetta, stuffed with wild fennel and baked until the crackling was a delightfully thin crisp. Despite the crispy skin, the pork belly was still succulent and full of flavour. Paired with the mustard provided, this is a winner for me. I had this on my first visit too and the quality has been consistent on both occasions.
The little bowl of fried seafood is another steal, in my opinion. For just nine dollars, you get a mix of fish, scallops, prawns and squid, all fried till the batter is crispy but without overdoing the seafood. If you’re after value-for-money options, this definitely won’t disappoint.
Opting for a lighter main, I ordered pasta with chopped prawns, cherry tomatoes and leeks. I’d also had this on my first visit and it was reminiscent of a similar dish I ordered during a recent vacation in Hong Kong. iO’s version is easily the stronger of the two, though, as the lemon sauce was light and provided a thin coating to the pasta, which was a little thicker than I expected for tagliolini (although that’s being unnecessarily pedantic for this sort of setting). This is simple comfort food done well.
The other mains ordered by our table were the roasted farm chicken, grilled ribeye and one of the chalkboard options of a grilled tenderloin. All three were well executed and no one had any quibbles with their food.
The panna cotta at iO is on the softer side, unlike many of the stiffer ones that many Italian restaurants here generally serve, although it has to be said that serving the dessert in a mason jar means it can go as soft as you like, since the kitchen doesn’t need to worry about separating the pudding from a silicon mould. The toffee syrup meant that the dessert quickly became cloying more quickly, though, so we were grateful that there wasn’t too much of it.
Although we ordered our two desserts at the same time, the chocolate lava cake arrived at least ten minutes later than the panna cotta. It’s unusual for desserts to be served so far apart from one another, but all could be forgiven when we put the first spoon through the cake, as steaming hot chocolate gushed out from its core onto the plate. It was a gastronomical sight to behold, and made the long wait worthwhile. I half-suspected that the kitchen might have had a second go at the lava cake as they weren’t happy with the first attempt, which would probably explain the timing of the dessert arriving at our table. Whether that actually was the case, I’m glad they didn’t rush this.The espresso ice cream was rich and had a strong coffee flavour, providing a cool flavour pairing with the warm chocolate. If there’s a better way to end the meal, I’m not interested.
iO Italian Osteria is definitely a welcome addition to the Hillview neighbourhood, adding to the tiny list of notable Italian restaurants in the Upper Bukit Timah area (the other being Galbiati at Rail Mall, along the estate’s main arterial belt). Staying smack between the two restaurants, I’m nothing but happy to have more dining options in my neighbourhood. With consistent quality and very reasonable prices, I expect to be back regularly. In fact, we’re coming back next weekend with Pris’ family for dinner!