A recent addition to Mandarin Oriental’s longstanding Italian restaurant, Dolce Vita is Marco Manocchio. The chef de cuisine, who hails from Rome, does his take on Italian favourites such as carbonara, lasagna and tiramisu.
It being a candlelit lit dinner, we — Aaron De Silva, digital head, and Daryl Lee, editor of motoring and technology — sampled the restaurant’s latest offerings over some excellent wine, a Lamole di Lamole Chianti Classico 2013 for Lee and a Henri Bourgeois Sancerre Les Baronnes 2015 for De Silva.
After a brief scuffle, mainly about the political correctness of ordering a French wine in an Italian restaurant, we sat down to our first course.
Treccia Campana di bufala
ADS: This caprese salad starter set the tone for the rest of the evening: a very classic menu of familiar favourites. I liked that we had the option of adding anchovies to boost the flavour – not something you get everywhere.
DL: I loved the texture of the bufala, it’s sweeter and denser than most bufala. The texture is somewhere between tofu and cottage cheese, so it’s chewier and more stringy. I thought the anchovies overwhelmed the delicate flavour of the cheese and olive oil, but since I love anchovies, I’m not complaining.
ADS: I was really looking forward to this dish – I love a good carbonara – but unfortunately, was let down. The pasta was too al dente for my liking; the pancetta was not as flavourful or punchy as I had hoped; and the pecorino sabayon was not as rich and satisfying as I had expected.
DL: I agree with Aaron. Dolce Vita’s carbonara doesn’t hit the spot. The noodles felt more undercooked than anything else, a sensation not too unlike eating raw cookie dough. The sauce tasted a bit flat – all I could taste was the cream, something the pecorino, pancetta and pepper did little to lift.
Lasagna Dolce Vita
ADS: Again, I took issue with the fact that the pasta was too al dente, although by this time I realised that chef Manocchio was staying true to his Roman roots by presenting the pasta in that manner. So while I appreciated the intention, I was disappointed by the execution.
DL: I’m beginning to wonder if doughy pasta is consistent across everything at Dolce Vita. That’s a pity, because the ragu and fondue was well executed – rich and flavourful, but crucially without being cloying. The net result was lasagna that had little separation between the layers, with the mouthfeel being that of a meaty, cheesy mush.
Tagliata di manzo
ADS: This was the highlight of the meal for me. The ribeye was as close to perfection as steaks go, with a natural beefy flavour and juicy flesh complemented by the roasting juices. The smooth, creamy texture and savouriness of the mashed potatoes hit the spot as well.
DL: No gimmicks, just a honking great steak, grilled medium-rare and carved up tableside. After the rather disappointing pasta dishes, I had high hopes for the steak and I’m glad to say it didn’t disappoint. The anchovy-caper sauce served with the steak, too, is worthy of mention. I thought it would be overpowering, but it proved surprisingly complementary.
ADS: A classy take on the most typical of Italian desserts. Nothing especially memorable, taste-wise, but a nice sweet ending to the meal nonetheless.
DL: Aside from the deconstructed presentation – the mascarpone encases the sponge and chocolate – the tiramisu wasn’t especially memorable. Well made, no doubt, but unspectacular.
ADS: I’d give top marks for creative presentation – the whimsical toadstool-like confections reminded me of the Smurfs’ village – but the smokiness from the burnt milk ice-cream seemed a little bit too experimental in a menu that was so traditional.
DL: This was the highlight of the meal for me. Brilliant presentation aside, the ice cream’s flavour truly surprised me. It won’t be to everyone’s taste, but the audacity of including this in what is a very traditional menu makes Dolce Vita’s take on pannacotta worthy of mention.
Wine – Henri Bourgeois Sancerre Les Baronnes, 2015
ADS: I chose a Sancerre as I wanted lightness and crispness to balance the weight of the meal. It was a good choice – the herbal-citrusy-mineral quality of this wine did exactly that.
Lamole di Lamole Chianti Classico, 2013
DL: I loved the body and structure of this Chianti, plus the deep aromas of red and stone fruits paired well with the ribeye.
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