It has been a while since I last visited a new restaurant for the sake of trying something new. My younger sister suggested Da Luca for dinner and these days, as long as the eatery has baby chairs, I'm quite happy to hop along for the ride.
With its maroon-checkered tablecloths, brick feature wall and clunky wooden chairs, Da Luca reminds me of the days when people rarely used words "artisanal", "farm-to-table" and "industrial chic".
The food is hearty, tastes authentic enough for someone whose last trip to Italy was seven years ago and ideal for sharing if you like your dining companions.
A basket of warm, toasty homemade foccacia swiftly made it to our table after our orders were taken. With bloody sugar levels running low, we quickly polished it off, making way for a second basket. Clearly, the love for bread is hereditary.
Without my sister around, we would not have ordered a salad or soup and that would have been a pity because the bean soup was rather unique and tasty. It had a stew slash chowder-like consistency that clung onto the crusty walls of the bread like a couple of Wildlings hanging onto a 700-foot vertical ice wall for dear life.
The burrata was sheer delightful. Did you know burrata means "butter" in Italian? You had me at "butter" indeed. Smooth, creamy and stringy, the lovely burrata was rightfully accompanied with sauteed spinach and sweet tomatoes
The idea of eating rubbery beef stomach might make one's stomach turn but if you love tripe, the stewed tripe here is well worth loosening up your pants' button for. After hours of simmering, the honeycomb tripe gloriously soaked up the light but creamy tomato sauce, resulting in a soft but intensely flavored starter. Cue the bread service.
The seafood squid ink spaghetti veered towards the salty side and I'm starting to think too much ink has been spilled over this overrated ingredient. That or I'm just not a squid ink person.
The spaghetti vongole with its al dente pasta and aromatic white wine sauce was another winning dish.
I must say, the Chef's Selection of grilled meats platter was a real surprise. Every component from the lamb chops to pork chops retained its meaty tenderness with impeccable char; even the mushrooms, corn and potatoes dutifully performed supporting roles.
It's hard to enjoy a cakey dessert after such a heavy meal but the apple tart was rather enjoyable.
The chocolate lava cake is a dessert I might not think of ordering as it is ever ubiquitous but serve me a good one and I'll be all over it from start to finish. Da Luca's chocolate lava cake was the Jay Z of desserts - rich, decadent and unabashedly so.
This was one of the best chocolate cakes I've had in a loooong while. I do, however, feel that chocolate lava cakes should be accompanied by good ol' vanilla bean ice cream A pistachio ice cream, flavourful as it was, competed with the chocolate for flavor dominance.
Towards the end of the meal, we were given a bowl of chiacchiere - deep-fried ribbons that reminded me of a less crispy wanton skin. For someone who loves curry puff crusts, this was a little too mellow and limp for my liking. Still, complementary sweet treats are often a good way to end the meal.