Restaurant Review: La Cucina
With unbeatable views and great classic offerings, La Cucina is the place to be if you're in the mood to go Italian, says Michael Gomes
Among an impressive list of restaurants at the La Vista Mare stretch on Palm Jumeirah is the new Italian ristorante La Cucina (the kitchen, in Italian) which showcases traditional recipes from different regions of the country. If you've never dined here before, we recommend a seat on the terrace that overlooks the sea. It offers a fabulous view of The Palm coastline dotted with ornate skyscrapers. With its brick walls, orange chairs and an open kitchen, La Cucina's interior has a typical Italian gastropub feel. Even with all the loud noise blaring from the speakers of adjoining eateries, the restaurant has managed to squeeze in a roving, saxophonist who comes across as a soothing leveler in the cacophony of pop beats.
Food-wise, expect a delectable range of Cicchetti (small portions of antipasti), pizzas (Italian tapas), pastas, steaks, seafood and desserts. Our meal started with Parmigiana (baked eggplant with mozzarella and tomato) and Apulian Burrata, followed by Filetto Bagna Couda or 120-day grain-fed tenderloin, and Rombo Salsa Limone, Rissotto Al Funghi (poached halibut with wild mushroom risotto). Being steak lovers, we can safely give the succulent Filetto Bagna Couda top marks. For a change, the steak wasn't grilled but finished in an oven which gave it a dual texture - grilled and roasted. It went down well with the anchovy sauce and crisply baked potatoes.
If you're seeking a fine dining experience in an alfresco setting that's casual with a whiff of fresh sea breeze, La Cucina is the place to hit.
Taste: While we found some dishes wanting, the grain-fed Filetto Bagna Couda - with its seared sides and flavour-enhancing anchovy sauce on the side - is highly recommended. A special mention must be made of the Tiramisu. Each bite of the moist finger biscuit layered with mascarpone cream was delicious. We couldn't ask for more.
Ambience: Every time we walk into an Italian gastropub, images of dimly-lit restos from The Godfather flash past us. La Cucina's rustic settings could be a great backdrop for such scenes, but it's the alfresco, terrace seating that we found enticing. With music blasting from all sides, it felt a beach carnival.
Service: It was no-fuss service throughout the evening. Prompt and professional. We would have liked some more interaction. Some personnel were found lost for responses when queried. However, the chef in-charge kept us amused and engrossed with his food tales.
Presentation: The garnishes were apt and the plating just right. The presentation was functional, portioning adequate and each accompaniment was fitting. For instance, the steak came with a bowl of sauce, a serving of roast potato and fresh leaves. And that's all you'd need to make a meal. No more, no less!
Value for money: Considering there's no dearth of Italian places in town, we'd say traditional Italian food recipes that taste as though they've come 'straight from mamma's kitchen' sure comes at a price. La Cucina has kept its prices attractive. At Dh180 for a fillet steak or Dh90 for a plate of spaghetti with Angus strips, it is not bad at all.