A 5-minute walk from Clarke Quay MRT, Trattoria La Vita is a homely restaurant that serves Itameshi (Italian-Japanese cuisine), that is, Italian food that sometimes uses Japanese ingredients. Itameshi is rather common in Japan and Itameshi restaurants there are even awarded Michelin stars. Japanese Chef Hide, who trained in Italy for three years, helms the kitchen.
Their menu is quite extensive and dishes are priced slightly above the casual restaurant: pastas and pizzas range from $23.90 to $38.90, mains such as seared fish and Kurobuta pork from $29.90 to $36.90, and grass-fed, hormone-free steaks using Josper Grill from $54.90. But a 3-course lunch goes at an affordable $32.90. We were there for lunch
For a starter, the seared tuna carpaccio salad is extremely pleasing. It has all sorts of flavours that mix well together creating a deep, complex, appetising dish: tangy yuzu, olive oil, sourish vinaigrette, peppery radish, and salty kombu. They are not stingy with the tuna, which makes it very shiok to eat.
I also tried Vicky my friend’s appetiser, Italian beef meatball. She said the meatball was ordinary and tough to chew but I thought the flavours were bright and umami.
For the mains, there are several interesting pastas such as the linguine salmon with zucchini in lemon cream sauce. But most of us picked the pan-fried makajiki (swordfish). My friends said the texture was dry and clunky. Vicky used the word “disappointing.” While I agreed with my friends about the texture, it had nothing to do with the cooking but more to do with the fish itself. I have pan-fried swordfish before, and on several occasions, it turned out to be the same as the restaurant’s. I suspect the swordfish was frozen, not fresh, and that may account for the texture.
But the acidic and colourful toppings of tomato, yellow bell pepper, onion, and vinaigrette add a nicely tart dimension. And the eggplant underneath tastes magically like potato. I liked this dish although Vicky didn’t. Huccalyly remained neutral about the fish.
The default dessert for the lunch set is tiramisu. It doesn’t have strong caffeine nor is it too alcoholic although the thick layers of cream are awesome.
We asked the server if we could switch the tiramisu for another dessert. The server said, “Let me see what I can. I can arrange a platter of desserts.” He forgot to mention that there was an extra charge. He should have told us beforehand. But in general, the service is fantastic. They are friendly and funny and chatty.
Vicky, the critical one, who complained about all three courses, said the desserts were forgettable. Huccalyly said the desserts were good especially the panna cotta with a fermented compote, tasting a little wine-like. I liked the desserts too because they were not too sweet and mild.
In the end, my critical friend said, “I’m worried for their survival.” Huccalyly said she wished that they served free bread. I liked the food but they kept whatsapp-ing me with their promotions that I had to block them. When I make online reservations via Chope, there is a box that says “Would you like the restaurant to contact you regarding their future promotions?” I ALWAYS uncheck the box. But some restaurants still spam me emails. Trattoria La Vita goes a step further by whatsapping me. I cannot take it. Privacy, dudes. Respect your customers’ wishes of not wanting to be contacted.
Still all in all, I enjoyed the experience of dining there. Although my friend didn’t like the food, I loved it. The food is familiar and easy and comforting but also innovative, the flavours bright and balanced. It sates the appetite but also makes you crave for more. There is something signature that runs across the courses. We paid about $216 for four persons.
You may be interested in…
–Monte Risaia, Duxton: New Itameshi (Japanese-Italian) Omakase by Marusaya group
–Caffe B, Club Street: New Location, New Chef, Itameshi Better Than Before
–Terra, Tras Street: Serving Itameshi (Italo-Japanese) Cuisine, Or As the Chef Brands it As “Tokyo-Italian”
–Buko Nero, Tanjong Pagar: A Perfect Italian Meal From Bread to Dessert
Written by Dr. A. Nathanael Ho.