Da Paolo Ristorante is one of the longest-standing, and more notable, tenants of Club Street. In today's landscape of yet another Italian joint sprouting up every 2 seconds, this fine-dining restaurant of the prolific family-run mini Italian empire has managed to stay relevant. They do this by re-inventing the classics every so often to keep things fresh and regulars coming back for more. Service here is unintrusive, attentive and professional. We like that, for a fine-dining restaurant where most diners speak in hushed tones, this place manages a relaxed and unstuffy vibe. Its calm tranquil ambience is great for unwinding after an intensely crazy day at work.
The Croccantino di Capesante ($24), 3 succulent seared scallops enveloped in a crisp filo tepee, served atop a bed of olive oil-dressed mesclun, with a side of a dollop of creme fraiche and drizzled with aromatic truffle oil, started us off on a high note. The scallops were plump, juicy, and addictive as hell. And so, we promptly ordered another portion of this.
The Paccheri della Brianza ($28), big fat flat tube pasta tossed in a creamy parmesan cheese sauce infused with black truffle oil and chunked with porcini, was so very rich and quickly got cloying. Luckily, Lips and I got to share this because there was no way we could finish it on our own. That said, Xuch practically inhaled his plate in a flash. If you're a cream lover, you'll probably be in heaven. For moderate likers of cream, this may be too much. Here's where copious amounts of pepper may help.
The Guanciale Brasato con Purea di Patate e Crescione ($36) was a meltingly tender braised beef cheek in a pool of red wine reduction, served with mashed potatoes, sauteed watercress, broiled baby carrots, and eggplant chips. Hearty and comforting. The Hubs loved this.
We lingered over the Assortimento di Formaggi Italiani ($28), an assortment of Italian cheeses, crisp toasts, sweet grapes and fruit mustard. The blue cheese here was awfully pungent, and it had a weirdly lavender scent, it was too overwhelmingly strong for me. I felt like I was eating lavender aromatherapy oil. I think only die-hard blue cheese fans will like this. The remaining cheeses ranged between the semi-hard and hard varieties. Lips liked the combination of freshly milled black pepper with the hard cheeses, the salty overtures of the hard cheeses complemented the pepper very nicely. I still prefer hard cheeses on their own and leave the black pepper pairing to the soft cheeses.
Upon being ushered to our seats, we were quickly served the obligatory complimentary Bread Basket. These were fresh out of the oven, warm and soft, with a toasty crusty exterior.
The Caffe Latte ($6) was rich and robust. A little pricey for the quality but it did the job in keeping me awake after the food coma-causing meal.
Da Paolo Il Ristorante
80 Club Street
Tel: 6224 7081
Open from Mondays to Saturdays for lunch from 11.30am to 2.30pm, and dinner from 6.30pm to 10.30pm