fantastic italian execution (not the head sort) at this packed restaurant in chinatown. reservations much required – tables run out quickly, and the place is well popular even on weekdays. it’s been lauded as a great place to grab some italian and lives up to that reputation (living up to reputation seems to be a problem these days), with good service and reasonably prices.
it spans that rather comfortable spectrum of cosy enough for date night but bright enough for family night, and the good food helps conversations flow.
I’m not a huge fan of the mostly carb-heavy cuisine, but this side of it is right up my alley. lots of fresh seafood and ingredients simply done up and plated without too much fuss, enough to show detail and attention, but not enough that my food gets cold.
it’s also a fair portion size (barring the fish, which we’ll talk about later), and I’ve realised recently how important this is for me. I’ve grown rather tired of poncy food in small dabs and dibs on a spartan place (unless it’s truly meant to be that way – and what does that even mean?), and I want very much to feel satisfied and happy at the end of a meal.
it was a meal of three starters and one main – and for good reason. the starters sounded more interesting and more creative than the mains (which were mostly plates of some seared meat-or-other), and were also cheaper (perhaps two or three starters were equivalent to one entree) – and they turned out that way too.
we started with insalata mediterranea di verdure alla griglia, a warm salad of grilled grins topped with a light creamy cheese sauce and caramelized walnuts. I loved the sweet tender pumpkin with the crunchy nuts – and even though I usually eschew rich sauces, this was very tasty.
and then the rather transcendental calamari alla griglia, or grilled squid coils with a lovely chop of garlic and herbs. delicious, plain delicious. seafood sweet and tender, these were salted just right and utterly fantastic.
we had to round off the starters with some bruschette (it does, after all, take up a fair half page in the menu), and ended up with the etna, which had a slice each topped with chopped tomatoes, a grilled eggplant slice, parma ham and a slab of mozzarella. alright – but perhaps the most average dish we had. it was just a bit of toast with stuff, and not wholly inspiring (though the cheese was good).
our nominal main was the day’s special of salt-roasted fish, a slim specimen of a white type simply roasted with large grains of salt and served alongside a small salad. it was well cooked (and I don’t mean doneness), with the flesh flaking off with a slight push – but it was also the most expensive dish at more-than-sixty for a slip of a fish, and not quite worth it considering what we had got as starters.
it’s definite that we had to finish with something sweet, and this time we had two. a tiramisu al pistacchio di bronte was a green layered rich concoction, with a very mild pistachio flavor – but at least it wasn’t too sweet. a delizia al ciccolato was less interesting, and not flowy so much as moist – but it came with some delicious pistachio ice cream.
I haven’t mentioned service, and it was pretty good: just friendly enough without being unobtrusive, and they knew how to handle the crowds and seat people efficiently. price are very reasonable for the quality of food, though that statement holds truer for everything but the mains – and I’ll be back to give some of their lauded pizzas a go.
Etna Italian Restaurant
49-50 Duxton Road
tel +65 6220 5513
$$.5: averagely 55/60 plus-plus