Increasingly, I find very little reason to venture into Orchard Road. The profusion of concrete, glass and human throngs invariably means that it's one of the hottest places in this country, and, unless I have some reason to buy something from them, window-shopping at mall after mall seems rather soulless. Additionally, I have always felt that the Orchard Road district suffers from a disproportionate lack of good food, despite the crowds and spending power it attracts.
That is not, perhaps, quite true of Scotts Road, which has four restaurants owned by the Les Amis Group in a row. Of these, one of the cheapest is La Strada, a contemporary Italian restaurant that is Les Amis' way of expanding its market share out of high-end, refined food of the sort offered by its flagship restaurant as well as FiftyThree.
With its glass frontage, La Strada is brightly lit during the day, an advantage that is fully exploited by the white tablecloths and the wooden furniture. A good balance of starkness and naturalness - neither too uptight nor too casual.
As I spent some time waiting for my lunch companions, I had plenty of opportunity to sample the bread basket, which was fairly generous. In addition to grissini, the restaurant offers a number of varieties of bread, from foccacia to mini-baguettes. You risk, of course, eating too much bread, but that is your own affair.
Three course set lunches at La Strada aren't too expensive at $36, and you are given a wide selection at every course (although not a few of these come with a price supplement). The garden salad was a melange of ingredients, both exotic and quotidian: radish, red cabbage, tomatoes, pomegranate seeds and fresh greens. Laced with a tart dressing, it was both healthy and enjoyable.
My linguine al granchio was packed with flavour from the fresh mud crab flesh. The tomato sauce was not creamy, being white wine-based, and was therefore quite enlivening and piquant, given the chilli that had been added.
La Strada's linguine vongole was also deftly handled, which is rare for many restaurants, because the level of turnover is not always sufficient to ensure that the clams are fresh, and the white wine sauce is often watery and thin. At La Strada, however, not only were the clams scrupulously fresh and clean, they were also fairly numerous, and the white wine sauce had just the right balance between clam juice and white wine, properly reduced, so that it was rich and tasty, but also fresh and piquant.
My mother also enjoyed her main course of pan-fried fillet of barramundi with salsa verde and aceto balsamico, which was unsurprising, as the generous slab of fish, although simply presented, looked like it had been cooked perfectly.
La Strada has been around for a while, and under the stewardship of the Les Amis Group, it's easy to see why. It may not be the cheapest place to eat in Orchard Road, but it is probably one of the better ones. Service is friendly and well-trained, the set menu offers a considerable amount of variety, and the food itself is of a fairly high quality. So the next time you're out shopping in Orchard Road, why not plan an enjoyable meal at La Strada?
1 Scotts Road
Te: +65 6737 2555