da laura, chinatown

just-ok italian food at this new-ish restaurant near the hip-and-happenin’ duxton road area. I really wanted to like this place – it’s meant to be rustic italian, it’s a small restaurant in a converted old shophouse, and it had just the right sort of intimate buzz going about it. but the food was disappointing – and while I would like to chalk it up to teething problems, it doesn’t make for much recommendation.

and it doesn’t have much of a dessert menu, which was terribly disappointing.

.

it’s a small, narrow shophouse – just one large table and a wine cellar-display on the first floor, and they ushered us up to the second to be seated. the lighting is dim, the place is quietly cozy, and the staff are polite enough – though very clinically so, without any of the friendly warmth you expect from italian establishments.

they brought us long grissini wrapped in a lace dolly – a good change from the ol’ bread basket, and moreish. they are surprisingly filling though, so watch out for that. the focaccia squares that followed with the appetisers was alright – but a little too dry.

the small menu is populated with italian classics: we started with beef tartare, thin slices (cured or aged, from the looks of it) sprinkled with macadamias, rocket leaves and slivers of parmesan. a lovely mix of ingredients but very bland – and required a rather heavy hand with salt to get the flavors perky.

and they don’t have salt grinders, mind you – they brought us crazy large salt crystals (which didn’t make sense) or table salt (we stuck with the latter).

the creamy mozzarella was a little more successful, with a prettily arranged bed of vegetables. but again, it needed mroe salt. both appetisers were disappointingly bland – even with a rustic ingredients-as-is ethos, seasoning makes a lot of sense (especially since easy to correct) for drawing out complex flavors.

we decided on a single main to share – the ravioli with cod. tasty, with an intriguingly green sauce – this was a savory dish that was let down once again by under-seasoning. and good god, the portion was paltry. three ravioli pieces, a few tiny slices of fish – that even when combined would barely cover half my palm; yes, the fish was cooked well silky and flaky, the ravioli was al dente and tasty (even despite the lack of salt) – but there wasn’t really much of it on the plate.

they only had cannolis and other bon-bon type sweets for dessert, so we decided to cut our losses and left. I think this place needs quite a bit more work – service could be friendlier, the dishes need a heavier hand with salt, and when will restaurants start realising that we don’t all go for pixie portions of food?

I hope these are teething problems, and not a true indication of their (lack of) prowess – but for now I can’t quite recommend it. if you’re in the area and hankering for a good meal, l’angelus (just a bit of a walk away) would do you well good (for all the reason this place wouldn’t).

Da Laura – Italian Restaurant & Wine Bar
47 Neil Road
Singapore 088827
tel +65 6224 8251
$$.5: two starters + one main = eighty (I think)

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