Dinner @ La Bottega Enoteca

November 21, 2021 in Italian by thywhaleliciousfay

Before Italian restaurant La Bottega Enoteca was born (in Joo Chiat), chef-owner Antonio Miscellaneo started off with his private dining outfit Casa Nostra (in his home at Katong). Oh yes… I had been following his pizza creations since early 2017 when my Instagram feed was taken over by pictures of his paper thin stretched pizza dough. Some even used the word ‘silk’ to describe its beauty. I mean, just check out Casa Nostra geotag on Instagram. It’s truly amazing.

But the thing about private home dining… Securing a reservation is a real challenge. There weren’t many slots to start with at Casa Nostra; Offered only twice a week. And even if one managed to secure a slot, the bookings were for big groups. I gave up the idea of being able to dine at Casa Nostra before leaving for my overseas work stint (in July 2017) because of the difficulty in so many forms.

But luck had it that chef Antonio planned to open a restaurant. It got even better when it’s learnt that his restaurant La Bottega Enoceta would open in August 2021. Such great timing cause it’s the month after I returned from my overseas work stint. Perfecto!!!

But it wasn’t until early November that I finally dined at La Bottega Enoceta. A friend, out of nowhere, mentioned his craving for good pizza. I suggested 3 places, and we eventually decided on La Bottega Enoceta. That’s also when we started stalking their website daily because there wasn’t much information of their reservation system. It was pure luck that one night, my friend visited their website shortly after seats were released for the following week. Yeah! And between the 3 seating options (alfresco, counter and dining room), we booked ourselves for the dining room and first seating at 5.45pm. And when we were making our reservation, it’s mentioned the table was to be returned after 2 hours 15 minutes.

With our dinner happening on a Friday night, I thought I would be winding down from work by 4pm. But it wasn’t so that Friday. Work dragged. I ended up bringing my work laptop from home, onto the taxi, and to the restaurant to continue a work discussion. Well… To be exact, I stood outside the restaurant and trusted my friend to make good food choices for our dinner! And I’m intentionally mentioning my pre-dinner hiccup because that made me better appreciate restaurants that spared no effort in decorating their spaces to create authentic ambience. No thanks to work, it’s no surprise that my mind was ‘everywhere but ready to feast’. But the physical act of stepping into La Bottega Enoceta which exuded rustic Italian street vibes, I left my work worries at the door. My mind switched from ‘work mode’ to ‘holiday mode’ as I felt I was teleported to Italy. And yes, we were told chef Antonio imported most of the furniture and decor pieces from Italy. Impressive.

While there’s 2 menus (fixed & a-la carte), everyone had to order the fixed menu. So we commenced our dinner (fixed menu), $139 with:-

(A) Dish #1 – L’Antipasto (above) – 3 options to choose from, we were to select 1 for the entire table. Among beef bresaola, pan fried cheese and porchetta, my friend and I went with the ‘Dolomitic pan fried cheese’.

  

(B) Dish #2 – SuperCrunch (above) – And for this, we could choose one flavour per diner from the 4 flavours. We went with ‘mortadella, ricotta, parmigiano reggiano’ (left) and ‘homemade anchovy, smoked burrata, tomato, aromatic herbs’ (right). But do read the menu properly as it would indicate if one’s given a slice or a bite for the respective flavour. And with my first bite, what struck me immediately was the crust. It was nothing like what I had before. Though I too admit my knowledge of pizza is (very) limited. Quoting what’s shared on Casa Notre website… “SuperCrunch is a one of a kind crust that delivers a unique lightness and crunch. The secret lies in the use of ancient grains such as “Grano del Miracolo”, high hydration, and a fermentation of over 48 hours, including pre-fermentation.” Indeed, the crust was light and crunchy.


  

(C) Dish #3 – Newpolitan Pizza (above) – Similarly, there were options for us. And for the half-half pizza, we went with ‘sardine & shallots / pachino tomato & parmigiano reggiano’. And the crust of Newoplitan was distinctly different from SuperCrunch’s. I really enjoyed this!!! Still light, this was chewier and less oily. Less oil also meant it wasn’t meant to be crunchy like SuperCrunch. And again quoting what’s shared on Casa Notre website… “My signature crust inspired by the Neapolitan tradition, but with my own techniques applied to it, for a completely different feel of airiness and lightness. The secret lies in “Tipo 0/1″ flours sourced from artisan mills, and my very own fermentation technique spanning across 72 hours end to end.”

(D) Dish #4 – Piatto Principale (above) – And among options of pork ragu pappardelle, sardines linguine and pork ribs, we went with ‘linguine “Pastificio Graziani”, wild fennel, sardines’. It was a clear choice for us to skip the pork ribs because we were ordering another meat dish from the a-la carte menu. Would have loved to try the pappardelle but I tend to steer away from ragu. Just a personal choice.

(E) Dish #5 – Il Dolce with options of:

i) Tiramisu (above) – Be careful with this! I scooped a really big piece with my spoon and ended up inhaling a large amount of the cocoa powder as I attempted to consume it. I ended up coughing. But luckily I had the sense to suppress it by coughing with my mouth closed. Else it would have been disastrous… That said, I had better tiramisu elsewhere.

ii) Pistachio semifreddo (above)

It’s unfortunate one could only order items from the a-la carte menu in addition to the fixed menu. That wouldn’t have been a problem if we didn’t have the COVID restriction of maximum 2 diners. There were a handful of dishes I would loved to try, but my friend and I had to practise much restraint as we were also pre-warned by friends that it would be a very filling meal. “Carbs overload”, they said. And from the a-la carte menu, we (only) ordered:


1) La Focaccia di Recco, $48 (above) – Stracchino cheese, olio extra vergine “stoica”. I really enjoyed how we were exposed to so many different types of pizza in 1 meal. And the taste of this somewhat reminded me of prata cause of its savoury (and oily) pastry.

2) Pluma e Capperi, $42 (above) – Iberico pork loin end grilled on the charcoal and served with Sicilian capers. They were certainly too generous with the capers. Judging by the amount given, I thought each slice of pork was to be paired with 4 to 5 capers. But that made everything too salty. Stick to 1, or maximum 2 capers. That would allow a beautiful burst of flavours in the mouth.


3) Il Tartufo della Bottega, $12 (above) – 2x chocolate truffles with Casa Gheller prosecco.

My friend and I left the restaurant very happy. It’s no surprise we were blown away by the food. Particularly the pizzas. And the service? It was top notch! We had so much fun. Thank you Summer!!! Summer certainly made our dining experience memorable; She brought to the table her high level of bubbliness and her undeniably joy and passion for La Bottega Enoteca’s food and beverages (Ask her for wines recommendation)!

So while the move from private home dining to restaurant meant more people had access to chef Antonio’s food, it also meant one could no longer experience the ‘personal touch’ that only a private home dining would bring. Although my friend and I were seated at the dining area, our table was just beside the counter. So we had full sight of the open kitchen. We noticed chef Antonio was running around the restaurant. That made us wonder if any of the pizzas we had were personally made by him especially since we specially came to try his creations. But! To give benefit of doubt, since my friend and I don’t have our eyes on the open kitchen all the time, chef Antonio might have been stretching his dough when we were busy eating. I guess to have a definite answer to that, booking counter seats for our next visit is a must!

And yes, I recommend La Bottega Enoteca. I got to admit my eyes popped when I received the bill as it was on the high side. But I say it’s worth it. How should I put this….. One could find a good pizzeria in Singapore. But to find one that offered so many types of crusts to enjoy in 1 sitting, that’s hard to come by. My friend and I were also lucky to have great staff attending to us which made our entire dining experience so enjoyable! Chef Antonio also came by our table towards the end of our meal, and that’s when my friend and him got into a very technical discussion. Yes, about pizza dough! They lost me with the ‘pizza language’ but it was definitely nice to witness chef Antonio’s passion. I only managed to catch some pizzas were baked at really high temperature. As high as 550 degrees!

Also heard La Bottega Enoteca will be changing their menu soon. Am definitely keen to know what’s in store! And a little more information of their reservation system… Please sign up for their newsletter. The staff shared it’s through the newsletter that they announce when they’ll be accepting reservation for the following week, with at least 1 day’s notice given.

LA BOTTEGA ENOTECA
346 Joo Chiat Road, Singapore
Overall: 8
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Tues – Sat : 18:00 – 22:30
Ambience: 8
Sun : 11:30 – 15:00
Value: 7
Service: 8
* Closed on Mon

Dinner @ Nido Bar & Pasta (Adelaide, Australia)

January 7, 2021 in Italian by thywhaleliciousfay

For my second trip to Adelaide (in October ’20), my line up of restaurants included Magill Estate Restaurant, Nido Bar & Pasta, Botanic Gardens Restaurant and Topiary. I was really keen in checking out Nido because of ‘MasterChef Australia: Back To Win (2020)’. A program which I faithfully followed (while in Australia). My curiosity was piqued because the judges would often rain praises on Laura Sharrad’s pasta dishes.

With that… Reservation was made for dinner, 2 weeks in advanced via Nido’s website. And one could say I was excited for my meal. I even went to their website to check out the online (sample) menu. Trying to anticipate what pasta dishes would be on the actual menu when I reach the restaurant.

And I was really hoping for cacio e pepe to be on the menu, but was slightly disappointed to see it’s not. Sob. But the real disappointment came when the staff said the tasting menu (AUD52 or AUD78) was not available for solo diner as the dishes on the tasting menu were meant to be shared. SOB!

And from the menu (pages 1, 2), I ordered:-


1) Sicilian anchovy finger, AUD7 (above) – With fermented chilli, ricotta and basil. I knew I ordered anchovy, but nothing prepared me for what was to come. It was too salty for my liking! I couldn’t. There were two flavours on the menu for this finger food/morsel; Anchovy and crab. I probably should have stuck to blue swimmer crab.

2) Market fish crudo, AUD24 (above) – With lemon mascarpone, pickled fennel. And I really enjoyed this dish. The tangy sauce and pickled fennel ribbons went really well with the kingfish.


3) Gnocchi, AUD30 (above) – With spiced pork ragu, pecorino. With no cacio e pepe on the menu, my next choice of pasta was gnocchi. Gnocchi was also one of the pastas which Laura made on MasterChef, but with ricotta, peas, apple caramel and mint. And now… I am not who would crave for Italian cuisine. And even if I do have Italian cuisine with my friends, we would be sticking to the spaghetti, linguine, angle hair pasta or ravioli. So this gnocchi dish was honestly a first for me, as far as I could remember. And to be honest, I always thought gnocchi was the size of our pinky finger. But boy was I wrong. They were huge. And they were cooked to perfection! The texture of the gnocchi… It was light, soft (not to be mistaken as mushy), and… Airy. If we could eat clouds, this would be it. And I would say the gnocchi was adequately sized such that one could feel its texture as one chewed. Oddly addictive! And pork ragu was a good match; In terms of texture, the pork ragu was more chewy than the pasta. So beside nailing the flavour, I honestly felt it was a good balance in the textures too. Am really glad to have my proper taste of gnocchi at Nido.

4) Yoghurt gelato, AUD10 (above) – With bay leaf oil. This looked deceivingly simple, but it was so good! This was also a dish which Laura pulled out on MasterChef! Just that the restaurant’s rendition was without the snow-like salted white chocolate.

5) Tiramisu, AUD16 (above) – Creamy, with a very wet sponge. Just the way I like my tiramisu, though I nearly choked on the generous amount of cocoa powder. Ha.

Out of the 5 dishes, 3 were brought out by Laura. And it was pretty cool to see her up close and personal! And the thing was… When I was enjoying my meal, I wondered if the dishes (especially the pasta ones) were personally cooked by Laura. It was later from my conversation with her that I learnt they had been looking for a manager. And in the absence of one, she had been temporarily filling that role while her husband Max Sharrad (who is also a chef) took charge of the kitchen.

And now… When I was making my reservation, I was given the option to choose my seating. Between standard (table), outdoor and counter, I opted for counter. Was expecting to be seated facing the kitchen, but was assigned to a table that was smacked right beside the entrance instead. And because it was pushed against the closed bi-fold door, I was basically sitting with my back facing the restaurant and looking out. And what annoyed me was that whenever someone entered, my table would rattle when they closed the entrance door since it’s all part of the same bi-fold door system.

But that aside, I enjoyed my meal at Nido Bar & Pasta. Worth a visit, especially if one is a fan of Laura because of MasterChef.

NIDO BAR & PASTA
2/160 King William Road, Hyde Park, Adelaide, SA, Australia
+61 8 8373 2044, Website
Overall: 7
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Mon – Sun : 12:00 – 22:30
Ambience: 7
Value: 7
Service: 7
* Hours are post-COVID lockdown, and may change when normality resumes.

Lunch @ LuMi Dining (Sydney, Australia)

September 5, 2020 in Italian, Italian Japanese by thywhaleliciousfay

So after my arrival in Sydney for my overseas work stint, my first fine dining meal was at LuMi Dining which had 2 hats in the Australia Good Food Guide (2020). Why LuMi Dining? Well… I guess I was attracted by the water views it offered. Keke.

As I made my way to the restaurant on the day of my lunch, I was surprised to see where LuMi Dining was located in. I was expecting the restaurant to occupy a ground floor unit of a building based on pictures of its interior. But it was located in a standalone container perched on the wharf. Okie, it’s probably not a container. That’s the engineer in me talking with my construction language of my first impression. Others called it a modern glass structure or a lightbox. I guess I walked towards the restaurant from the wrong side.

So yes, the exterior and the interior were very different. It may look dull on the outside, but it was beautifully furnished on the inside. I came for the view and was greeted with a perfect view of water and yachts. Even the light reflected off the water looked like sparkling diamonds!

As I took my seat, the staff asked if it was my first time at LuMi Dining. I nodded. And she went on to explain the menu. Now… When I was made my reservation, I made my selection for the chef’s menu. But there was options to have add-ons. I decided against ordering additional oysters. Instead, I went with the pasta dish with additional truffle. Uh huh. Add-on on top of add-on. Haha.

And with that, I commenced my lunch (chef’s menu, AUD185) with:-


  
  

1) Tuna, tart, Italian gunkan, buckwheat, taco (above) – Started my lunch with assorted snacks which I was told would keep coming one after another. And indeed, it came non-stop. Although I finished my first and was struggling to finish taking picture of the second, the staff placed the fifth snack on my table. Oh my god. Snacks included tuna tartare with shisho leaf which was meant to be eaten like a sandwich, pumpkin tart with glazed pumpkin seeds, Italian gunkan, bckwheat gougère with casera cheese within, and taco with fish tartare and chives. The snacks were amazing. The Italian gunkan, or what one could call an Italian sushi, was sea urchin topped on koshihikari rice and with stracciatella cheese within. But my favourite was the pumpkin tart.


2) Pie (above) – Served with thick chicken sauce gravy on the side. And for the pie, I was only given a knife. Wasn’t sure why but I requested for a fork. It was only later through observing others that I realised one was to slice the pie and pick it up with one’s fingers. Well, I’m eating it the ladylike way. Hahaha. But! I also realised the pie was meant to be shared by the table. I polished the entire pie by myself. Gasp.


3) Red emperor (above) – Red emperor sashimi with kiwi, dashi jelly, herb oil and buffalo cheese. Loved this!


4) Asparagus (above) – Steamed egg (chawanmushi) with white asparagus, caviar and yuzu dressing. And the texture of the steamed egg was very light on the palette. Almost similar to silken tofu!

5) Agnolotti (above) – Served in (clear) mushroom dashi broth. I would normally bite into the ravioli to snap a photograph of the the filling. But I couldn’t because it was liquid within the ravioli. Really interesting! The filling was akin to thick, creamy mushroom soup. Really tasty!


6) Pici scarlet prawns globe artichoke & sesame, AUD22 (+ AUD28, black truffle) (above) – Got this as an add-on to my set menu. Served very al dente, I didn’t really like the noodle texture. I also didn’t like the white sesame seeds. And I felt the truffle did nothing for the dish. This unfortunately didn’t work for me.


7) Murray cod (above)


  

8) Pork (above) – The skin was pretty black, but this was so good! Although the cabbage could do with less butter. I spied other tables and realised their strips were like 25% thicker. But all’s good though. I most likely couldn’t finish a thicker strip than what was served because I was feeling pretty full from finishing an entire pie earlier.

9) White chocolate & sudachi (above) – The sudachi was like a frozen yogurt. And I liked that it was citrus flavoured. A very interesting (form of) palette cleanser.

10) Buffalo (above) – Coffee-infused cream, and popcorn with kombucha.

11) Frangipane (above) – And this was actually a (halved) tart.

There were 3 waiting staff attending to customers on the day of my lunch. One was exceptional. But I was particularly annoyed at another who introduced the dishes by standing behind me, rattled on like a machine gun, and ended his dish introduction immediately with a “welcome”. Ain’t sure if it’s just me that’s picky, but the difference in the service standards stood out when Mr Poor Performing was compared against Ms Exceptional.

Nonetheless, I had an enjoyable meal at LuMi Dining. My meal came up to a total of AUD213. I left the restaurant feeling really full. And was slightly surprised that my lunch lasted 3 hours!

LUMI BAR AND DINING
56 Pirrama Road, Pyrmont, Sydney, NSW, Australia
+61 2 9571 1999, Website
Overall: 7.5
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Fri – Sun : 12:00 – 15:00 (Lunch)
Ambience: 8
Wed – Sun : 18:00 – 22:30 (Dinner)
Value: 7
Service: 7
* Closed on Mon & Tue