Ξ July 8th, 2008 | → 3 Comments | ∇ A Day at a Time, Restaurant Reviews, Tasting Notes |
La Scala Italian Restaurant
Montecasino Boulevard, Fourways, Johannesburg
My 3rd visit to South Africa in a year saw me again at the Montecasino complex in Fourways, north of Johannesburg. For the weeks sole wine & dine night La Scala came recommended through my friend Caroline who shared a table with me. The restaurant is inside the kitchy faux-Tuscan complex and we got a table on the balcony overlooking the Casino itself. The wine list made for good reading and I’d mentally prepared a few different selections for over the evening, but was then disappointed to find that the by-the-glass selection was limited to a single house white & red not on the menu. We agreed on a bottle of red with the main meal and started with a glass of Chenin Blanc from Basson Family Wines, their 2007 Babylon’s Peak from Swartland . This arrived refreshingly cold, but still providing a rich floral aroma which remained through the first taste. A nice example of a variety South Africa is justifiably famous for, light and refreshing with moderate length, it was a good 3-star start to the evening.
The menu had a wonderful choice and I was already having trouble deciding on what to go for, but then the waitress came by and started to list the specials, and kept on listing! There was at least a dozen and all sounded wonderful enough for us to reconsider our initial choices.
Eventually Caroline went for line-caught fish Carpaccio (sorry, can’t remember what type) and the Langoustine pasta (linguine I think, it tasted wonderful!) while I chose Springbok Carpaccio and a main of seared Tuna.
The Springbok was delicious, a rich flavour similar yet gamier than the likes of a Parma or Serrano ham.
Along with the starters our main bottle had also arrived, and this time round I went for a Pinotage, that much maligned South African variety. Although the Longridge tempted me I had some at home from one of the earlier trips, ditto the Beyerskloof, so the Clos Malverne from Stellenbosch rose to the top of the list. Basket-pressed, this was their Pinotage Reserve, the label referring to 35 year old vines. I had a sip with the Carpaccio and it worked well with it, probably because of its forward acidity. I left the rest to breathe while we chatted and finished off our respective Carpaccio with the Chenin.
My Tuna arrived with a light vegetable selection and a pot of fresh tomato sauce, but the fish was the centrepiece – a generous steak well-seared. The waitress had checked I like rare Tuna, and the inside was a deep pink and juicy, for most people the perfect rare (definitely not overdone) but for me I probably would have had it a bit less cooked, however I do tend towards Sashimi when it comes to Tuna!
So, onto the Pinotage, which had a rough and rustic nose, initially unpromising but there was a sweet vanilla and cherry end which rescued it. Deep inky purple with long legs (14% abv) it had a sharp attack, very acidic initially with tannin at the front of the mouth. Mid-palate it mellowed and lead into a good finish, the tannic aftertaste reminding you it had been there. An excellent food wine in the style of some Italians I’ve had – on their own a little harsh, but with meaty food perfect and it worked really well with the tomato sauce accompanying the seared Tuna. I can’t raise it above a 3-star effort, but, as with other Pinotage I’ve tried, nothing to prevent me coming back for more.
Unusually for me I even had a dessert, Tiramisu (obvious, but tasty nonetheless!) and a glass of Grappa came free at the end, finishing off the meal and almost me – I always forget how evil smelling and potent this stuff can be!
In summary the only real grumble was the lack of choice by-the-glass, still a common concern in a lot of restaurants. Apart from this minor gripe this was a good evening with friendly staff, delicious food and nice wine.