Not quite Puccini

Name: La Scala

Address: Garema Place, Canberra City 2601

Ph: 02 6248 8338

Hours: Lunch, Monday to Friday: 12pm – 2pm; Dinner, 7 Days: 6pm – 10pm

I like opera.

With people standing on lush, beautiful sets singing soaring melodies about love and loss, it can be quite amazing. Some people see it as pretentious, but really there are few things in the entertainment world that can really overwhelm like a great operatic performance.

While it is named after one of the world’s top opera houses, the dining experience you get at La Scala is not quite on an operatic scale. It is, perhaps, an operetta. Like one of the lesser Gilbert and Sullivan pieces. Performed by a high school.

As with high school G&S, I walked into La Scala with fairly low expectations, only to find that it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought.

You walk in to a fairly dark room, replete with a wooden bar and white tablecloths. Every member of the floor staff is friendly and efficient. I should know, as all four served me at some point during the meal. But despite this apparent lack of organization, the night ran smoothly.

The food was all perfectly pleasant, and completely forgettable, starting with two very simple slices of bruschetta romana, toast rubbed with fresh garlic. It was classic and delicious, but presented in the plainest way possible.

An entrée of egg pappardelle with a venison and pork ragu was a case of a reasonable sauce on almost unnoticed pasta. Some of the pork had an almost sweet, lemony taste, there seemed to only be one piece of venison, but the flavour was decent.

The main course definitely didn’t sing, basically consisting of a chili cream sauce with veal and bacon seemingly just for texture. I think, theoretically, the veal was meant to be the main flavour, but it was completely overpowered by the sauce. The only thing that came through against the chili was a crisp bean salad, giving some freshness to the plate.

Interestingly, both of these dishes, and a lot of the menu, has cream. It’s not something that I would expect from Italian cuisine, and doesn’t really fit with the way we eat in Australia. One of the big attractions of Italian food in Australia has been the perceived lightness from the use of olive oil rather than cream, which we see as more French. Maybe I am mistaken, but this abundance of cream sauces felt out of place to me.

With dessert, I really find it hard to go past tiramisu. La Scala do a really quite good version with a rich coffee taste, although there was absolutely no texture to it at all. It made for a good end to the meal.

The dinner is assisted by a solid list of Australian and Italian wines, including some excellent options by the glass, although it is strangely presented in two separate folders.

Overall, just like a 16 year old singing the lead in The Gondoliers, La Scala is not that bad, but it’s unlikely to be something that sticks in your mind. It’s good, not great. At around $100 per person, that’s probably not good enough.

Even still, if for some reason I couldn’t get into Italian & Sons or Dieci e Mezzo, I would consider going back. Maybe.

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About freehugstommy

Food, films and politics are my triumvirate of passions.
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