Met up with my old cooking school pal for one of our catch-up dinners last night at A Tavola ("to the table"), a new-ish Italian place in the neighbourhood. Will leave the proper reviews to the experts here and here but here's what we ate:-
- Bread with a chilli-infused dipping oil: The complimentary focaccia was nicely herby and the oil had a good bitey heat. An "appetite-opener", the Chinese would say.
- Baked olives: Not what we thought it'd be - I don't know what we had expected but certainly not just some plain warmed-up olives in a bowl. However, the good quality olives they used saved the day.
- Fig salad: Quartered figs with Taleggio (one of my favourite cheeses!) melted over, a sprinkle of walnuts and a generous drizzle of honey. A classic combo done very well.
-Treviso, asparagus, parmesan & lemon salad: I like the bitter red leaves of treviso but my pal didn't. The asparagus was shaved and somehow made it taste more fibrous compared to eating the spears whole. The lemon dressing didn't really complement the other ingredients. My tastebuds were calling out for something a bit sweeter. Maybe we should have ordered the red cabbage, raisins, dolce latte, walnuts and balsamic salad instead.
- Parpadelle with slow-cooked wagyu beef knuckles: My pal's main dish. She was worried about having to "gnaw" the meat off the bone but the bowl of tomato sauce-based pasta came with chunks of meat stewed so long that they have have left the bone in the pot.
- Fettucine with brussel sprouts and buffalo mozzarella: My main dish. I eat only fish and chicken (nothing with four legs) and there wasn't much to choose from last night - only a spaghetti vongole on the menu and another seafood-y thing on the "specials" blackboard, and no chicken dish on both - but I was very happy with my vegetarian option. The pasta and brussel sprouts were tossed in a light creamy sauce laced with just enough truffle oil and topped with a generous heap of grated buffalo mozzarella (another cheese that I love).
- Trifle: One food critic said the desserts he had were disappointing but the one we shared was lovely! Served in a martini glass, it had a base layer of vanilla sponge, followed by a layer of silky chocolate custard (that I think had yummy malt added) and topped with a final layer of custard that's flavoured with Noilly Prat.
The wine list is all-Italian ranging from $39 a bottle to $259. However, you can bring-you-own and pay a corkage charge of $12 per bottle.
Service was great. We had the sweetest waitress who translated everything on the chalkboard (all written in Italian) for us and was able to answer all our little foodie questions about ingredients, cooking methods and all. Call me impressionable but besides the food served at an establishment, a patient and knowledgeable waitstaff who has pride in his/her work really makes a difference to the whole experience.
With the colder months just round the corner, I think the boyfriend (I can already see him ordering things with offals in them and the terrines) and I will be back at A Tavola for more of their simple but oomphy comfort-food and their warm hospitality.