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La Scala Restaurant

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by Samantha Singer (subscribe)
A marketing coordinator that enjoys reviewing in her spare time. Living in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney - on the brink of something fabulous!
Published September 2nd 2011
"One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well", or so says Virginia Woolf. This quote is printed on the top of La Scala's menu. From the beginning, you know that at La Scala, you're in for a fine dining experience.

The restaurant sits atop of the Light Brigade Hotel and after a hike up the stairs ('La Scala' translates to 'the staircase'), we walk inside the restaurant, the walls are freshly painted and there is a warm glow coming from the lights. There's a bar to the left, and a long wooden table with young people sipping drinks and nibbling on plates of things to the right. Walking further into the restaurant we reach the main dining area filled with white clothed tables and a more mature crowd. "Well this is nice" my grandmother exclaims, and it is. Very.

Menus are presented in a brown snakeskin folder, with a red matching folder for the wine list and there's a pretty class bowl of chestnuts sitting on the table. The restaurant manages to be stylishly elegant and quirky at the same time. With a table next to a wall, our seating choices are between a leather couch and armed wooden chairs. I choose a chair, and I later regret it as I shift around at various times throughout the meal, feeling quite uncomfortable.

The service at La Scala is efficient, polite and very friendly. Throughout the meal we got a chance to get to know Andy, our humorous waiter and I believe he played a big part in enriching our night.

The table beside us is sharing entrees and we decide to do the same, ordering Carpaccio Cipriani ($17), Fritto misto, made up of deep fried Hawkesbury squid, tiger prawns, zucchini blossoms, herb mayonnaise and lemon ($22) and Salumi misti – a selection of Italian cured meats, pickled fennel and gherkins ($ 19). The zucchini flower on the Fritto Misto was crisp and fresh, the crab was fleshy and full of flavour (but not fishy). The small prawns however left some to be desired.

The Carpaccio was cool, served with a creamy sauce and tasted rather good with lemon. I was however expecting the meat to be thinner – it was quite thick in some sections. The cured meats, including salami and prosciutto, ranged in levels of salt and some were a bit smokey. Overall, the entree portions were generous, but sharing is probably a good idea as it gives you more variety and you don't have to succumb to an entire plate of cured meats, raw meat or tempura.

Between entree and main, we got chatting with Andy who recognised my grandmother from when he was waiting at Bilson's. Andy was entirely pleasant and charming. I'd say he was a truly great waiter but that's evident from his past work at the likes of Bilson's and Aria.

I was curious as to why each waiter had a different number embroidered on the back of his waistcoat. Andy explained that at La Scala, they were all part of a team. The jersey numbers are reminiscent of that. Also, Chef Darren Simpson has an Irish background – so perhaps the jersey numbers (No play on Jersey Road here) are indicative of a love of football.

My main course was a special, swordfish done with eggplant and olives ($34). The fish was firm and moist and the eggplant complemented the flavour well. The olives however were a little bitter but the dish, which also included pine nuts, was wonderfully light. When ordering I couldn't decide between the swordfish and the Scampi, done with parsley, garlic and almond butter ($39), so my grandmother and I shared both dishes.

The Scampi had a nutty flavour and wasn't too greasy at all, nor did it have an overpowering garlicky taste. It was however slightly fidgety to get out of the shell, but well worth the battle. As the Scampi doesn't come with any sides we ordered a serving of Tuscan fries with herbs, garlic, olives and chilli ($8). Unfortunately not many of the chips picked up the flavour from the herbs and chilli.

After two courses we were satisfied and not really considering dessert. Andy encouraged us not to pass up the Chocolate Nemesis ($14) though and it's honestly never that hard to talk me into ordering chocolate. We were all glad (including my grandmother who usually avoids chocolate desserts) that we took Andy's advice as the flourless chocolate cake was sinfully delicious. Very rich and moist, and served lukewarm with Crème fraiche (which I ate it without), the Nemesis was a smooth dark chocolate piece of ecstasy. Unless you're a true chocoholic though, it would be better to share it and leave wanting more than to have a chocolate overload.

Done for the night, we were ready to leave but I remembered Andy telling us that the best room in La Scala was the little girl's powder room. So, up the celebrity stairs I trotted to the large pink room with arm chairs a plenty. On either side of the room were doors that lead to bathrooms full of stalls and sinks. I did say La Scala was quirky.

La Scala plays on the name of Simpson's previous restaurant, La Sala and offers sophisticated food in a lovely restaurant with vivacious staff.

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Why? Fantastic food and charming service
When: Tuesday – Saturday 6pm – 11pm
Where: Above the Light Brigade Hotel
Cost: Around $70 a head for three courses
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