Blades of glory

Name: Locanda Italian Steakhouse
Address: At Rydges Lakeside Canberra, London Circuit Canberra City ACT 2600
Ph: 02 6247 1488
Web: http://www.rydges.com/
Chefs: Paolo Milanesi
Hours: Breakfast 6.30am – 10am (Open until 10:30am on Sundays), Lunch 12 pm – 2.30pm, Taverna Menu 2.30pm – 6pm (Light menu), Dinner 6pm – Late (Kitchen closes at approximately 10pm)

I am not what most people would call particularly rough or hard. Always having had an easy life, and thriving on the instant gratification that defines Generation Y, I have grown up to be soft both physically and culturally. I know that I am never going to be played by Stalone in a film, and honestly, I am ok with that.

But sometimes, just sometimes, even I want to bring out my inner Rambo. And nothing does that like a big piece of meat and an even bigger knife.

Locanda Italian Steakhouse, the new restaurant nestled inside Rydges Lakeside, delivers their steak with a knife that could skin a cow. Huge, heavy, and glinting under the low lighting, it would have been more at home in an armoury than a hotel restaurant. But it was certainly exciting

Walking into Locanda, it was hard to not be instantly impressed. The design was simple, but elegant. A classically stylish bar and properly spaced tables showed an understanding that is too often lacking, and having focus drawn to a well-lit alter to cheese and bread suggested a real appreciation of ingredients.

The wine list was one of the most impressive I have seen in Canberra. An excellent mix of Italians and Australians, including the best from the Canberra region, it also balanced well between old favourites and unknowns. We decided to drink Italian, starting with an A.MANO Rosato IGT, 2007, a rose that cleverly walked the tightrope between sweet and tannin.

Entrees read very well, but were underwhelming. The black pig ragu filled arincini ($16) were a little dry, but were saved by a rich, spicy tomato sauce containing smoky speck. A dish of fried goats cheese ($19) was almost there, with a tangy brick of cheese covered in crisp breadcrumbs, paired with not enough of the wonderfully piquant green pepper confit. The bruschetta was unnecessary, though.

The most disappointing dish of the night was an interesting sounding seared duck carpaccio with house made green pear mustard ($20). What we got was not at all what we expected, with a fan of overcooked duck slices next to a lackluster pear sauce. Flavours were bland, and the presentation was appalling, including a redundant pile of roquette plonked pointlessly on the side. A dish far better on paper than on the plate. Next time, I think either antipasti or pasta will be the way to go.

Thankfully, then arrived our mains, and a big hunk of meat that would make any carnivore excited. Not to mention, an opportunity to use our knife. My friend and I both had steaks, mine a rib eye ($44), his a T-bone ($36). Both beautifully tender, cut from a grass fed yearling and dry aged for 40 days, and both cooked to perfection.

My rib eye came out charred on the outside, and lusciously pink on the inside. Beefy and powerful in the way that only well sourced, grass fed beef can be.
Each steak is served with a sauce and a side. While my horseradish cream leant to far to the cream side than the horseradish, it was nicely cooling with the meat. A pungent porcini béarnaise brings more flavour, but is not for everyone.

For sides, my fried gnocchi (semolina, not potato) was pleasant, but more like little discs of pastry than anything. Ideal for a bar snack, but not quite right here. However, the Jerusalem Artichoke puree with black truffle was delightful. Rich and smooth, the artichoke was perfect with the meat, though they should refrain from truffle unless they go fresh.

Almost more exciting than the meat itself was the whole head of roasted garlic delivered with every steak. I adore roast garlic, and devoured every clove, savouring the hot sweetness. All of this was washed down by a punchy Pala Triente Cannonau di Sardegna DOC 2007.

Desserts were solid, but overshadowed by the main. The tiramisu ($15) was an unexpected version of the classic, softer and lacking the real hit of coffee that you expect. However, after the steak and the wine, I wasn’t complaining.

Overall, Locanda still has room to improve, but it isn’t far off. A bit more thought on entrees would turn this into a hotel restaurant that you would be happy to find anywhere in the world. I will definitely be coming back, for the wine, the meat, and the knife.

Because you can never be too Rambo.

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About freehugstommy

Food, films and politics are my triumvirate of passions.
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