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Big stage At La Scala, they're singing the praises of dining large

The first impression you get when you walk into La Scala is that it is big. A former cavernous Greek restaurant has been divided into rooms -- an entrance hall larger than some people's apartments; a bar larger than some people's houses; a dining room; and yet another dining room separated from the first by an impressive constantly flowing wall of water.

The second impression is that the menu is almost as big. Many, many kinds of pasta in one special section -- small orders for around $14; large ones around $19. Then there are the entrees, 11 of them, ranging from Filet Mignon and Stuffed Eggplant to Bouillabaisse and Bracciole.

And if that weren't enough, there's another extensive specials menu.

We had to ask for that one, though. Our server didn't offer the specials menu willingly, which is odd to say the least. But when it finally came, it made interesting reading.

Seven entrees all over $23. Elaborate entrees they were, too. We were told (after asking) that one of the chefs had come from the late lamented restaurant Pranzo.

Since most of the stuff on the regular menu sounded like pretty regular fare, we decided to go the specials route, ordering, to begin with, the featured Antipasto, which featured shrimp cocktail, caramelized Moscovy duck breast, sesame-crusted salmon with ginger soy sauce and Caprese salad, $11 a person.

A nice array of glamorous food, all right, most of it quite good, but I cannot single out one single item that was overwhelmingly brilliant.

Our entrees were better. Especially the Veal Chop Saltimbucca ($38), a triumph indeed. A great thick chop was stuffed with classic Saltimbucca ingredients like proscuitto and fresh sage. Fontina cheese, too, everything served over Fig Risotto.

The Companion's Maple Salmon ($28) was on a cedar plank and was nicely cooked with a half sweet, half tangy taste. On its side stood a creme fraiche-stuffed cucumber, topped with maple syrup.

Sounds weird, but there wasn't that much maple flavor after all, and the whole dish was delicious.

Also on the specials menu that night: Filet of Sole Stuffed with a Crab Cake Mixture over Roasted Red Pepper cream ($28), Cowboy Steak, 20-ounce bone-in ribeye topped with blue cheese and Merlot ($33) and -- a real throwback to the '70s -- a 16-ounce Strip Steak served Oscar Style topped with King Crab and Asparagus ($39). On the regular menu, the entrees tend to be simpler creations and usually run below $20.

Desserts? Again we had to ask. And certainly when we found out, the desserts were tempting. An exceptional Creme Brulee (yes, even in this era of the ubiquitous creme brulee some are definitely better than others) and an interesting creation of a delicate chocolate cup filled with fresh fruit. Not all the fruit, however, possessed the total ripeness such a dish requires.

So it was a slight disappointment.


Review: 3 stars (Out of 4)


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