Thursday, June 18, 2009

Il Centro Restaurant and Bar

Il Centro Restaurant and Bar

Cruising around the riverside, it's pretty hard to miss Il Centro. I have been to Cha Cha Char and because they're direct neighbors, it was instinctive for me to have a peak at what Il Centro had on offer. One thing I noticed from a while back is that they put a lot of emphasis on their pastry chef. Now, I LOVE desserts and when I read that, Il Centro instantly got a place on my list of 'restaurants to visit'.

This was a couple of years ago... the fact is, I have MANY restaurants I want to try and when an occasion comes about, I tend to blank out and stick with what I know and love. Yesterday marked the end of my exams for semester 1. In recognition of my current 'Italian craze', I thought that it would be the perfect time to FINALLY try Il Centro.

Il Centro makes modern Italian food. It's located on Eagle St Pier and we had a hell of a time finding parking (not because it's sparse but because we're idiots). The restaurant itself has a very 'mature' and 'business' vibe. Most of the clientele were suited up. I was easily the youngest person eating there.

The menu at Il Centro is seasonal with daily specials. We ordered a sourdough loaf to start with. For mains, I chose Il Centro's signature dish: sand crab lasagne. Charlie selected the veal scaloppine with a fettuccine carbonara.

Pane di Lievitata - sourdough loaf for two with extra virgin olive oil, cultured butter with Parmesan and truffle pesto and kalamata olive tepenade

Bread arrived quite quickly. The loaf is suggested for 2 people to share and I think it was a good amount. It came with 3 accompaniments: olive oil with balsamic vinegar, truffle butter with Parmesan and a black olive tapenade. I loved the warm bread with the truffle butter - absolutely divine. It's food like this that makes me think of how wonderful something as basic as bread and butter can be.

There was a hilarious service lapse in that our mains came before our bread plates were even cleared away. It 'could' have been intentional to get us to eat faster but my gut instinct is that they made an honest mistake. We had a booking (as opposed to being walk-ins) so it was unreasonable to shoe us out. I suppose as a whole, I prefer food coming too quickly rather than too slowly (or not at all) but it would have been nice to have a 'break' between bread and mains.

Lasagne Alla Granseola - Il Centro's famous sand crab lasagne with creamed crustacean sauce

The sand crab lasagne is STUNNING. Perhaps (and this is a HUGE call), one of the most amazingly rich flavors I've ever experienced. It's very creamy, absolutely luxurious. The lasagne itself is generously layered with crab meat. The top layer is kind of like a seafood jelly. The sauce is mind-boggling.

Beautiful layers of goodness

I loved this dish. My only qualm is that it was huge. Because it was so creamy and heavy, the entree size would have been enough for me. Although I say this now, I did end up finishing the main size because a) it was too delicious to waste and b) I can be SUCH a pig.

Scaloppine di Vitello con Fettucine Carbonara - Parmesan crumbed veal scaloppine with fettucine carbonara and wilted spinach

Unfortunately, the same praise cannot be given to the veal scaloppine. It came with 2 huge pieces of veal and a little bit of pasta. Given that the veal is the 'main event', I expected it to really stand out. I hate being rude about restaurant food but Charlie and I agreed that the veal was way under par. Comments like "RSL standard" and "my mum could do better" were exchanged. Harsh, I know but... we paid good money for this dish.

To be fair, the pasta component wasn't bad. The pasta was cooked well and the flavors were good but it wasn't the main part of the dish. Charlie thought it could stand to be a bit 'saucier' too but I was OK with the consistency. Maybe he was mad because I munched through most of his pasta and he was left with the veal...

I couldn't end this experience without trying some dessert; after all, it's what got me interested in this restaurant in the first place.

After much deliberation over several items that sounded equally enticing (lime souffle, apple and rosemary tart), I chose the pastry chef's dessert of the day which was a chocolate opera cake with a warm chocolate tart on the side. Charlie went for the Italian classic of tiramisu.

Pastry chef's dessert of the day - chocolate opera cake with a warm chocolate tart, caramel sauce and pistachio ice-cream

Desserts arrived... I was already packed to the throat with good food but dessert is a MUST for me. They looked gorgeous. My opera cake had perfect layers and tasted awesome. What stood out the most for me was the mini warm chocolate tart. Charlie commented that if the whole dessert was a larger version of that tart, he'd lap it up. As a bonus, there was also a scoop of pistachio ice-cream on the plate. Coincidentally, this is perhaps my favorite ice-cream flavor.

Tiramisu del Centro con Salsa di Mocca - Il Centro's own tiramisu with mocha sauce

My first impression of the tiramisu was THIS IS HUGE. It tasted huge :). There was loads of creamy marscapone which I admit is my favorite part of the tiramisu. It was sitting in a bed of mocha sauce. I tipped the tower over into the sauce so that the sponge layers soaked up the flavors... mmm...
Now why am I describing how I was eating this, even thought it was Charlie's dessert pick? Because I'm insatiable. Sugar and cream are my best friends.

Il Centro was a reasonable experience. The service was 'iffy'. Our personal waitress was sweet but some others just plopped food on the table and walked off. We waited so long for our bill that we just got up and walked to the cashier ourselves. And lets not forget that our mains were forced upon us before we were even really finished with the bread. The veal scalloppine was a huge disappointment but the sand crab lasagne was everything I expected and much much more. Desserts were also pretty good.

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