Monday, May 15, 2017

Ristorante Luka - Simply the Best New Eatery of 2017

Sometimes, it's really tough to get excited about new restaurant openings. New eateries rely too much on marketing and social media, and rarely do they live up to the hype.

Compounded by the fact that very little is accurate from what you read both online and offline. Reviews are too condescending to the establishments, and when you consider that many reviewers have little idea of what good food entails, it takes a rare gem to really stand out.

Ristorante Luka is exactly that sort of gem. Head Chef Takashi hails from L'Operatta, which is one of the few pizzerias that utilise an actual woodfire pizza. And so it is here, with the authentic pizza oven using pain wood from USA to give it that authentic smoky taste.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. The menu here is predominantly Italian, but there is also a great deal of modern touches and being Japanese, Chef Takashi gets most of his seafood from Hokkaido.

Whipped Bottarga Cream

The starters are all superbly executed here. This whipped Bottarga cream is a particular highlight. The emulsion is so smooth and creamy, and full of that savoury and slightly fishy taste that is representative of Bottarga.

It comes with a pretzel but honestly, any bread is good to take a dip in the delicious fishy cream. You can just go on and on with this little plate of deliciousness.

Waygu Wrapped 62 Deg Egg with Uni

This little umami bomb was a little disorientating at first, as I had never had this combination of flavours before. But give it a few moments, and the combined textures of the meaty waygu, the fluffy and creamy yolk and the cushiony sea urchin will leave a delicate, lingering taste. Exquisite and inventive, and it works.

Hoddakido Herring with Fennel

A sashimi dish in an Italian restaurant might seem out of place, but somehow it fits well here. I am not a big fan of herring, but this hokkaido herring is nicely cured to rid it of its fishy aroma. A lovely fennel and radish salad completes the picture. I would have like a bit of diced apple to give it a bit more citrusy punch.

Uni Aglio Olio

I rarely find Italian restaurants here serving simple aglio olio pastas. Instead, they put out fancy, usually unheard of pasta dishes when all I want is a simple dish to showcase the skills of the chef.

Here, the Uni Aglio Olio Linguine is sublime. Trained by Chef Felix, the pasta here has that luxurious finish with a perfect shine that displays a great skill that not many diners are usually aware of.

The ideal emulsion finish is achieved with just pasta water and olive oil at the end with a rigoruous tossing. The flavours are classic Italian, just fresh garlic and cherry tomatoes and lightly perfumed with parsley.

The sea urchin is superfluous to the occasion but it's nevertheless fresh and irresistable.

Margherita Woodfire Pizza

The humble Margherita Pizza is the easiest way to try a pizza. No fancy toppings, just the classic elements of dough, tomato paste, basil and cheese. The Italian flag is well represented here, in taste as well as in colour.

The use of woodfire is clearly the difference when compared to other gas oven pizzas. That smoky aroma and taste is undeniable, as is the blister on the crust that is just not achievable without wood fire.

This is so good, when I had this a few days later, the wood fire flavour is still prominent and just as intoxicating.

Salted Egg Lava Cake

I am not usually a fan of lava cakes, but it is almost seen at every Italian restaurant here, authentic or otherwise. And almost everytime, it is a letdown.

Here, it is almost a revelation. And given a local twist with a clever injection of salted egg yolk gives it an oozy and rich finish. And yes, dark chocolate pairs well with salted egg yolk, but only when taken in moderate doses.

The lava cake is well baked, the pastry nicely judged and a fulfilling way to end the meal here. The prices here are more than friendly. In fact, it is almost half what you get in an Italian restaurant in the heart of town, and the location here is not exactly out of the way either.

I like Chef Takashi's food, I like it a lot. The man himself is also extremely charming and talkative and the best seat in the house is at the counter watching the chef and his team go about their cooking. Nothing pretentious, just solid and clever cooking all the way.

For that reason alone, this eatery excites me more than any other new opening this year.

Ristorante Luka
18 Tanjong Pagar Road

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