Aglio Olio, The Singapore's [sic] Version of Pasta
With an ongoing discussion about the merits of localization lately, I kinda wanted to push this concept a little more by coming out to this place (China Square Center #01-40, 6327-3622), where they're definitely upfront - if not proud - about their localization: the tagline here is "The Singapore's Version of Pasta," complete with its grammatical imperfections and all. What makes the food local? They throw sliced local chili padi peppers into every dish, and even give you a four point scale between mild and extra spicy to choose from (Beppu Menkan comes to mind here).
To test this place out, we grabbed the namesake aglio olio, or at least, in a mushroom variety. When asked about how spicy the ratings were, the waiter told us that the two-chili rating, or "normal," was "within local tolerance," and that if it weren't spicy enough, one could always add Tabasco (a common practice for locals with Italian food here). We opted for the three-chili "spicy." We also asked for a recommendation on a second dish, and were told that the "bacon cream base" was popular, which we requested to be "normal" in spiciness.
The latter dish turned out better than I thought it would, with a rich creamy base indeed, and a surprisingly clean degree of kick that I didn't actually mind that much, and in fact admittedly rather enjoyed (I never would have wanted to put a bunch of chili padi on a creamy white sauce-based pasta on my own initiative). But the mushroom olio disappointed. While it was indeed spicier at a three-chili rating, there wasn't much of that garlic-browned-in-oil taste that commands the name aglio e olio. And in this case, I really didn't like the fresh chili peppers that they used - I would have wanted dried chili pepper flakes scorched in oil for that extra aroma instead.
Oh well. So closes another episode in the interests of exploring localization. I did kinda like the cream-based pasta, but I'll definitely pass on the aglio olio next time (if I were to ever come back, that is). At least it was pretty cheap at only S$9.90 (US$5.80) per dish.