Sunday, July 13, 2008

La Strada, Shaw Centre

La Strada, bread
La Strada, Shaw CentreI'm slowly but surely getting to appreciate how the Les Amis group position themselves as one of the best restaurants in their business here. I walked out of La Strada (1 Scotts Road, Shaw Centre, #02-10, tel : 6737 2622) after a leisurely lunch feeling good about the place, pretty much the same good feel I had from Aoki a couple of doors down the same pavement. Thanks ice, for making the lunch arrangements. The quality of the food and the unobtrusively attentive service did merit justification of their heftier price tags. This place was quite close to stellar. Anything more comprehensive would have been fine dining or my personal butler. I can't begin to describe how good a thing it was for the server to actually know what was on menu instead of the usual "please hold on, let me check" or the baffled mask/sheepish grin.

The starters for lunch were a smoky pan fried scamorza cheese, wagyu carpaccio in truffled mayo and foie gras.

La Strada, scamorzaLa Strada, carpaccioLa Strada, foie gras
I had no complains with the starters. The lightly fried scamorza was delicious, clad in simplicity. I could just almost call it juicy and I'm not talking just about grease. Wagyu carpaccios were wasted on me since the way they are done never imparts any of the additional flavours associated with that breed of cattle. The saving grace of the carppacio di manzo for me was the heady truffle mayonnaise with the thinly sliced Parmigiano Reggiano which made it memorable.

I haven't had a nice piece of pan fried foie gras in a while and this definitely deserved a mention. You know, the tell tale shades of bronzed char that shading the edges thinning out onto the centers that forms part of the lightly crisp shell of the liver that is still slightly pinkish on the insides and quivery soft. My last recollection was simply disappointing. This was as I said, nice and on a crisp piece of toast with some excellent pear compote.

La Strada, tagliolinitagliolini al granchio

La Strada, carbonaraspaghetti alla chitarra con salsa carbonara tartufata

La Strada, french baby chickenoven roasted french baby chicken

We had some idea of what we wanted from the mains and that was made concrete by the recommendation from the server. I wouldn't call it a blind leap of faith in this instance to make our choices by virtue of suggestion. Since like I said, we already had some idea.

The tagliolini al granchio of shredded mud crab, garlic, chilli and white wine turned out to be remarkably Asian in flavours. To put it into a local context, this was mee pok in a sauce that tasted as unanimously agreed upon, like that of the three egg spinach/boxthorn. The winning pasta I felt was definitely La Strada's rendition of the carbonara featuring truffle butter, shaven parmesan and a nicely done confit egg. I rank this rich rendition as one of the better pastas I've had

I generally don't do much chicken in a western dining place and I definitely know nothing about French baby chickens, however this roasted baby chicken was indeed as tasty as the server had recommended. I found the roasted crisp of the exterior well endowed with char fragrance and to my pleasant surprise, juicy and tender meat inside. With little excessive grease and condiments apart from its own roasting jus, this was definitely not your regular chicken chop.

La Strada, tiramisu
I wouldn't say that the tiramisu was bad. It was far from being bad. It just lacked the edge from sufficient marsala wine and the mascarpone cream probably didn't have enough body to be served in anything else but a container. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but I generally prefer mine with a bit more alcohol. The molten chocolate tart was also a little better that what I had imagined. It was good, but for me, it didn't quite wow. I actually enjoyed the accompanying bitter-ish orange sorbet better.

By the way, La Strada serves a mean brew of beans of a brand of roast which they claim exclusively for their own. If you're in town, love good strong coffee and are looking for a cuppa, forget Starbucks. Forget Cedele. Come here. It's only $5.


D said...

I never really got the whole Les Amis thing. Maybe I'll give them a shot when I'm next back.

red fir said...

d: You really should! These people are not the hoity toity type you may associate them with. In fact, they are the last people on earth to be called snooty. My dining experiences at Les Amis itself have always been superlative. Food of coz unparalleled, but what's most admirable is the gracious service. The people are all so warm and even top management works at the floor to serve you personally.