September's L.A. Lunch was held at Burlamacco Ristorante, a new-ish Italian restaurant that's been making its mark along the dining enclave du jour of Amoy Street. The restaurant boasts distinguished pedigree, with its chef having honed his skills in a couple of Italy's 1-Michellin-starred restaurants, and then in the local kitchens of Senso and Alkaff Mansion, while the matrie d' has headed the front of house at the very prolific Les Amis, Iggy's and Garibaldi.
With pedigree like that, you would think that Burlamacco would be fantabulous right? Thing is, Burlamacco, in its attempt to set itself apart from its haute, stiff upper-lip heritage, has veered in the wrong direction. So anyways, Burlamacco purportedly means "carnival", and it appears that the service consequently adopted an overtly casual and uncomfortably familiar approach. Reactions to the well-meaning but inappropriate approach of the service staff ranged from the mild uncomfortable to the downright offensive. There were a number of stony faces by the second inappropriate joke told by the waiter. The waiter probably thought we lawyers are the sort to appreciate crass but probably forgot that we're first and foremost, Asians, and that Asians are still a pretty conservative lot. The general feedback by my colleagues was for the wait staff to tone down the overt familiarity adopted and keep service unintrusive and professional.
Inappropriate service aside, the food was great. In fact, most of my colleagues had comments along the lines of "service was inappropriate/too bold/offensive/(insert negative remark here), but the food was great/fantastic/flawless/(insert praise here)".
Another upside of this restaurant is that their weekday set lunches are priced very competitively at $26 for 2 courses and $34 for 3 courses. At these prices, they probably have the cheapest set lunch promotions in or around the CBD.
An absolute must-try here is the Uova al Pomodoro ($16), a trio of farm-fresh eggs softly baked in a garlicky tomato puree and garnished with fresh herbs, is like an Italian rendition of my beloved Turkish shashouka. We loved this. It was absolutely superb. The eggs were cooked perfectly, soft and wobbly whites with a semi runny yolk.
The Tomato and Feta Cheese Salad with olives and mesclun (part of the set lunch appetizer option) is simplicity at its finest with the procurement of really sweet and fresh vegetables.
The Crab Bisque (part of the set lunch appetizer option) with peas and white beans had a seafresh sweetness that was balanced with a roasted smokiness.
The Battuta di Tonno e Avocado ($26), with impossibly fresh and naturally sweet chopped red tuna was complemented by the creamy ripened avocadoes. Light, clear flavours that was crisp and refreshing.
The Involtino di Prosciutto e Mozzarella ($24), a couple of chewy mozzarella swaddled in ribbons of gorgeous parma ham and pan-fried for a melty consistency makes for a fail-safe appetizer. Baby spinach and a balsamic reduction balance the richness with a piquant bitterness.
The Pan Fried Foie Gras (premium option top up of $10 to the set lunch), a pleasantly larger than expected portion, is countered with a tartish green tomato relish and fruity pomegranate seeds.
We also liked the Duck Confit (part of the set lunch mains option), thoroughly flavourful with a fork-tender texture and crisp-as-paper skin, served atop roasted baby potatoes, a carrot and white bean stew and drizzled with molten brown jus. A comfortingly homestyled hearty roast.
The Ravioli di Carne in Crema di Funghi ($24), ravioli stuffed with hearty veal and slathered in a luscious porcini mushroom cream sauce was pretty good. Even if it does look a brown gooey mess. This is best shared with friends though, as it can tend towards the cloying.
The Pan-fried Seabass Fillet (part of the set lunch mains option) with a duo of potato and beetroot mash with sauteed zucchini was indeed praise-worthy. Filleted generously, moist, flaky and well-salted, with an incredibly crisp skin, the freshness of the fish was done justice. A great yin-ying balance of flavours with that potato and beetroot mash.
A signature dish here, the Linguine all’Aragosta ($30), soft and chewy homemade flat pasta with huge chunks of lobster tossed in a spicy and garlicky arrabbiata sauce was a big hit. A wonderful confluence of flavours here.
A signature, the Costato di Manzo alla Burlamacco ($38) of slow cooked beef short ribs was meltingly tender and intensely flavoured with a marsala red wine sauce, served atop a bed of mash that was whipped light as air, and poached green beans.
The Pan Roasted Grain-fed Beef Tenderloin (premium option top up of $10 to the set lunch), grilled to a perfect medium rare, was juicy and full-bodied. A rich veal jus provided libation, while truffle scented fries and green beans provided accompaniment.
Another signature here, the Fish Cacciucco alla Burlamacco ($40), a traditional Tuscan fish and seafood soup, utilising the freshest catch stewed in a tomatoey base, was wonderfully rich yet delicate. Crusty garlic bruschetta was brilliant for wiping up every last bit of that luscious soup.
The Gnocchi Agli Scampi ($32) of spinach-infused potato dumplings with gargantuan prawns was tasty, hearty and an explosion of seafresh flavours with every bite.
The Risotto al Nero di Seppia ($28), yet another signature of a traditional Florentine black squid ink risotto was lavishly capped with an edible gold foil. The squid ink lent a moreish flavour that kept the starchy al dente rice light.
For vegetarians, the restaurant was pleasantly obliging in whipping up a special, off-menu order of a Mushroom Risotto ($26) loaded with porcini and tomatoes that cut through the richness.
The Chocolate Crostata with Vanilla Ice-cream (premium top up of $6 to the set lunch), a tart version of a chocolate lava cake, was delicious. Nuanced, with a semi-sweet chocolate in a buttery base heated till oozy, this was one of the more memorable chocolate tarts.
The Tiramisu alla Burlamacco ($14), apparently a heritage recipe, was exquisite. Perfectly moist and heady with lady finger biscuits and mascarpone
Warm crusty mini baguettes, fresh out of the oven, to load up on while waiting for our mains to arrive.
77A Amoy Street
Tel: 6220 1763
Open Mondays to Fridays from 11.30am to 2.30pm for lunch; 6.30pm to 10.30pm for dinner
Saturdays from 6.30pm to 10.30pm for dinner
Sundays from 11.30am to 3pm for brunch