April 18, 2016

Da Luca Italian Restaurant @ Goldhill Plaza, Novena ~ One Of My Best Meals Of The Year! Highly Recommended!

My first visit to Da Luca Italian Restaurant was made out of curiosity and… necessity?

Necessity because I was working on a guide to feature the Best Angel Hair Pasta in Singapore when research on Instagram brought me to Da Luca's page where pictures of the chilled pasta dominates. The dish's popularity is unquestionable, and overall reviews have been positive for this restaurant which has been serving up Italian fare since October 2010. Yet it seems to remain largely under the radar among my discerning foodie friends.

Da Luca? What? Where? Will it “WOW” us?

My interest was piqued. It was imperative to check out this Italian joint located at Goldhill Plaza (next to United Square, nearest mrt station: NS20 Novena)

And….. Oh my goodness, this is a G.E.M. found!

The al-dente bite of the cold angel hair pasta, the well-balanced flavors enhanced with scent of truffle oil, the fastidious care of serving it on a chilled plate, every detail was faultless! There was a sense of familiarity as I was relishing in every delicious moment. Turns out that chef-owner Luca Pucciani used to work in Gunther's for 3 years before setting up his eponymous restaurant. Ahh.... no wonder!

Da Luca was running almost full-house even on a weekday evening which is a coveted position to be in for any F&B establishment. (The above photos are a misrepresentation as I was early and took it before rest of the guests came in.)

Hui, the wife of Chef Luca who also manages the operations, shared enthusiastically: “80% of our guests are regulars, 20% are new patrons like yourself, but very soon you will be one of the 80% too!”

Before you think she’s being presumptuous, it only shows the amount of confidence she has in Da Luca. Indeed, she was right about me being a regular soon. I had returned to Da Luca twice after my initial visit within a month, one of which is to celebrate a dear friend’s birthday.

A flip through Da Luca’s menu revealed it to be rather typical. You get well-loved antipastis such as Parma Ham with Rock Melon ($25), pastas including Lasagne Bolognese ($22), Squid Ink Linguine ($25) and Spaghetti Vongole ($25), mains of Grilled Fresh Chicken ($30) and Braised Veal Shank ($40), as well as desserts like Tiramisu ($12) and Panna Cotta ($11).

3-course Weekday Set Lunch is a value deal at $22++.

Degustation Menu starts at $98++ per person. If there are requests like caviar, uni (sea urchin), live lobster and Wagyu Miyazaki to be included, price will be correspondingly higher too.

Ehh, but why no pizza? Isn’t that an Italian staple?

Actually Da Luca had pizzas for close to 5 years, but about 9 months ago, Chef Luca removed them from the menu to focus on his arsenal of specials such as Salted-baked Italian Seabass, Burrata Ravioli, and Uni Pasta (just to name a few). It was a hard decision but he had to do it to balance chef integrity and also clientele demand.

My advice would be, take the adventurous route and go for the Chef’s Specials which Hui will personally recommend at the table.

That was what we did. We ordered mostly dishes which are created based on availability of seasonal and fresh ingredients, but first thing first, I must have my friends try the Chilled Angel Hair Pasta before anything else because it is so awesome haha!

This time round, besides Hokkaido scallops, the truffle emulsion-infused pasta is also topped with fresh uni. Such indulgence but its loveliness was beyond gratification. If you do not like your scallops raw, you can request for it to be lightly seared. Besides uni, you can further fancify it with caviar and freshly shaved truffles. But do note that more toppings = higher price.

Each of our big plate (serves 2 pax) was $85, and the restaurant is flexible to portion it out for us as we're sharing the food.

We all love this pasta starter!

All the other starters were fabulous too! There was an initial hesitance to order Carpaccio of Wagyu Miyazaki ($38) as not everyone takes raw meat, but we went ahead anyway at the wishes of the birthday girl. The medley of thinly-sliced Japanese beef with Parmigiano-Reggiano (Italian parmesan cheese), rocket leaves and focaccia crisps in zesty cocktail sauce tasted a tad salty, but was spot-on in terms of flavors as well as textural combination. So glad that we gave this a go!

The Pan-seared Spanish Octopus ($40) was also brilliantly executed and wonderfully appetizing with Sauvignon Blanc-infused tomato salsa and Sicilian tomato confit.

We cackled a laugh as Hui described the utterly delicious Slow-cooked Egg ($48) luxuriating with fresh burrata, morel mushrooms, white asparagus and shaved black summer truffles to be "Ya Kun eggs version 5.0" haha! (She may be married to an Italian but is still very much a local girl I think).

Pastas were enjoyable too as we loaded ourselves with some carbs from the regular menu.

We changed the penne to pappardelle for Penne Al Granchio ($24) and wondered if it would have been better if we stick to the original combination, but this is not to say the dish was no good. The crab meat in light tomato-chilli cream sauce was delightful, the ribbons of homemade broad egg pasta were faultlessly al-dente, but somehow the two felt separated. Lesson learnt: The pairing is paired for a reason. What is meant to be together, should be together.

As for the Mushroom Risotto ($26), it was everything we want in an Italian rice dish. Using vialone nano, an Italian medium-grain rice, it was cooked to the ideal firmness, creamy, and superbly infused with earthly flavors of porcini mushrooms. No remnant on the plate was left untouched! Lol!

Next, another highlight!!!

There is a menu option of Wagyu Beef Shortloin ($15.80 per 100gm) done Fiorentina-style, but we decided to go ahead with the more premium Wagyu Miyazaki A5 Ribeye ($48 per 100gm). The above picture shows a 250gm cut.

Moo... that certainly must be a highly-pampered cow rendering such tender meat and well-marbled fats! The steak was prepared to the right donenesss, decadently luscious and hits the (G)astronomic spot in every bite.

Even the accompanying side dishes were exceptional in their simplicity!

Tiramisu ($12), the perennial favorite of mascarpone cheese with coffee-soaked ladyfingers and topped with cocoa is also not to be missed.

By the time we got to the special request of Apple Tartlette with Vanilla Bean Gelato ($16), similar to the version I first enjoyed at Gunther's, I felt a little guilty for being quick to label Chef Luca as "the chef from Gunther's".

No doubt he has benefited from his tenure at Gunther's, but his 15+ years of culinary experience and the glorious food he has cooked up at Da Luca has more than proved that he has since established himself as an outstanding chef in his own rights.

Well done, Chef Luca!

Thanks to Da Luca for the complimentary Chocolate Lava Cake for the birthday girl.

Blessed Birthday, Doris!

Da Luca Italian Restaurant
Address: 1 Goldhill Plaza #01-19/21, Singapore 308899
Contact: +65 6258 4846
Website: http://daluca.com.sg/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Da-Luca-Italian-Restaurant/148564715190972
Opening Hours: Mon-Sun (except Tue) Lunch 12pm-3pm & Dinner 6.30pm-11pm

Prices stated are in Singapore dollars and subject to 10% service charge & 7% GST.

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