Buko Nero

Five years…that’s how long it took for us to eventually visit Buko Nero. First noticed this tiny restaurant long ago, we wanted to visit them to celebrate special occasions but unfortunately the restaurant was always closed during our special dates.

Three weeks…that’s how long in advanced we made our reservations. No email contact available, reservation only available via phone during their opening hours. The tiny restaurant only seats about 20 pax each night.

One photo…that’s all I have for this post.

Buko Nero

In fact it was tough writing/noting down my dining experience at the restaurant as they don’t even allow me to copy down the 5 dishes listed on their “Daily Special” menu written on the white board in the dining hall. I was interrupted by the lady boss when I was typing on my phone, informing me that I’m NOT ALLOWED to write down the 5 dishes. *I was stunned when I first heard that and actually had to re-confirm with her that I’m hearing her correctly and she coldly replied – Yes (no reasons provided)*

The lady then proceeded to inform us (in a matter-of-fact manner) a few items that were available but not listed on the yellow menu which was placed on the table; and that we were allowed to order the daily special set and top-up for the difference if we were to change the main course.

We settled on 1 daily special set and a few ala carte items. Warm bread was served, followed by the complimentary appetizer comprising of cucumber & caviar topping.

As we left our mobile phones on the table and had been fiddling with the phone while waiting for our food, we started to feel uncomfortable by the lurking eyes of the lady boss. Finally she walked over to inform us that there is a no photography policy at the restaurant.

Maybe most of their customers were regulars who were familiar with these unwritten rules…I certainly had a “culture shock” when told that we had infringed/almost infringed their policies which were not displayed nor told to us prior to our dinner…

Awkwardness and uneasiness filled my heart as I felt aggrieved…as we clearly saw other diners posting photos of the dishes they had at the restaurant. To clear our doubts, we enquired on the inconsistency in enforcing the policy and their reasons for imposing this rule.

Perhaps not many guests had posed her this question as I sensed that she was caught slightly off-guard and lost a bit of her poised composure. She re-emphasised that its her and her husband (the chef) policy of not allowing photography and hoped that we respect them. While assuring her that we would respect the policy I pressed on to seek the reason behind it. She faltered for a moment then said that they didn’t want their food to appear “unglamourous” but couldn’t stop guests from taking photos secretly behind their backs while they were busy.

While we got the answer for the reason why we were not allowed to take pictures for the sake of “un-glamourising” their dishes, at the back of my mind I’m still wondering why I couldn’t copy down the dishes that I’ve ordered and would be eating for the night… I felt I was treated like a felon caught stealing information from the restaurant for some illicit purposes… Nonetheless, having cleared up the “photography” issue and given her the assurance that we would not take any photo, I felt the tension eased off slightly.

Anyway back to my dinner, for the dishes I tried to memorise the terms of some specific italian words on the board (afterall I got the whole night to test my spelling skills) and note down what I had eaten without “copying” down in totality what was written on the white board…

The daily special for the day comprised of:

  • Mozzarella Carrozza – a popular Neapolitan snack, a small pastry sandwich filled with chesse, fried in oil to form a light golden-crust.
  • Carrot, basil and prawn soup – lady boss emphasised that the soup is dairy-free. It was a smooth and velvety carrot puree.
  • Sorbet – act as a palate cleanser. It was a pink coloured sorbet with sour plum powder sprinkled on it. Served by another lady (presumably mother of the lady boss) who was more friendly and warm.
  • Rigatoni with bolognaise sauce (ragù) – The rigatoni was a kind of pasta that looked similar to tortiglioni. Its a tube-shaped pasta with longitudinal ridges along the length. I managed to finish the al-dente pasta but not the meat-based sauce as I was pretty full by then.
  • Pistachio cake with lemon curd and liquorice gelato – Two small pop cake sized pistachio cakes was nicely complemented by the citrusy lemon curd with the unique and refined taste of liquorice gelato.

Other ala carte items ordered:

  • Tau kwa tower – had a gravy which was akin to our local rojak with tau kwa stacked up along with shredded carrot, cabbage, sliced tomato and golden mushrooms.
  • Porcini soup – mushroom soup and this one contained dairy in it. It was creamy and buttery with aromatic truffle oil on it.
  • [not in the menu] Cod fish with crispy crumbs with crab meat, cherry tomato and cucumber – Cod with a dense flaky flesh was balanced by the crispy crumbs coated on top served in a light gravy with vegetables.

Before we reached our dessert that was included in the daily special, the lady boss came by to ask if we would like to order another dessert. As we couldn’t ascertain if we could finish 1 more dessert we asked if we could place the order after we finish our first dessert. She kindly obliged and we enjoyed the pistachio cake dessert so much that we decided that there was certainly room for a second dessert. To which, we ordered their chocolate tart with peanut butter gelato that proved to be another delightful treat. The peanut butter gelato was sweet yet savory, the chocolate tart served hot and fresh from the oven. Great ending to our dinner.

Admittedly we had a rocky start to our dinner…I felt mild sense of welcomeness from the lady boss and were stupefied quite early into our dinner about the “unwritten rules”…especially the no copying part…(I can accept their no photography policy and empathised with their concerns after hearing their reasons for imposing the rule). As mentioned, after clearing up our doubts and agreeing to comply with their rules, things were much better. Although the lady boss felt kinda aloof – I guess it may be a fine line between being professional and being overly distant. We gained solace from the warmth from the more senior lady who walked ever so gently around the restaurant and filling our glasses discreetly so as not to disturb diners.

126 Tanjong Pagar Road
Singapore 088534
Tel: 6324 6225

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