Posts tagged pasta
Sorry, La Veranda Does Not Make "Authentic Italian"
 

To start, populism and Twitter advice should have no place in the decision-making process for restaurant-goers because I’ve been led astray… again. Probably appeased by the pinkness of the Blowfish Hotel and the merry expats swimming downstairs in the background, people have labelled La Veranda as “one of the best Italian restaurants in Lagos” or “authentic Italian”, but my question to them is, what is the benchmark? 

La Veranda, Bruschetta Rustica

Also, after reading the original review on La Veranda from 2014, I was somewhat excited to visit Lagos-Italy but to my surprise, the mighty have fallen.

Anyway, on to my experience. Alex and I’s evening at La Veranda kicked off with some Bruschetta Rustica and red wine - a decent start to an underwhelming dinner.

For those that don’t know, ‘bruschetta’ actually refers to the crusty bread slice (ciabatta or baguette) and not the entire crusty bread topped with chopped tomatoes and basil, so don’t be surprised when you order bruschetta and what you’re served looks different. The Bruschetta Rustica was olive tapenade on a toasted baguette slice, and it was just… okay.

Besides the bread answering it’s father’s name and coming as it should have, the olive tapenade lacked personality, with no seeming uniqueness to the La Veranda chef - almost like it was just olive puree out of a tin, spread on bread, the same way a rookie would make it.

Trying to not be dampened by the starter, we went on to order our mains, Penne Al Pesto and the Tagliatelle All'Aragosta - the “Chef’s Special”. Before I go on, I’d like to mention that the whole point of visiting casual-fine dining restaurants and opposing the rice-at-home movement is for quality food, ambience and service; and by ‘quality food’, I mean both the presentation and taste of the food.

The chef might have gone a little overboard with the presentation on this because the pesto pasta dish looked Nigerian flag green… hulk green… like the pesto OD’d during photosynthesis green or something.

Just imagine the La Veranda chef as Professor when he was making Powerpuff Girls and then excess Chemical X (pesto in this case) pouring into the pot. But really, it was green green and food colouring was most likely used, which is an overkill since pesto is already green. There were some positives however; the pasta selection, Penne, and pasta texture were satisfactory… and that’s it with the positives.

All four prawns (which I had to order additionally, by the way, because the pasta doesn’t come with proteins) tasted bland, like they hadn’t been spiced or seasoned before being tossed in the pesto.

Pesto Pasta, La Veranda
Tagliatelle All'Aragosta, La Veranda

 Unfortunately, the chef may have lost steam as he was preparing his special, the Tagliatelle All'Aragosta. ‘Aragosta’ simply means lobster, so, what was ordered was a lobster pasta, with the chef’s twist being a tomato base with garlic and mushrooms, topped with parmesan cheese. The photo speaks for itself and addresses all comments on presentation - the dish looked like some faux-Italian concoction I’d whip up at home.

Still on presentation, there’s a trend I’ve noticed with restaurants that serve ornamental lobster claws, heads or tails with their seafood pasta dishes - the dishes are ALWAYS underwhelming. Moving on to how it tasted, the salt was quite overbearing to all other spices but the garlic helped a bit.

Mmm, I love garlic.

Overall, the special was in fact, not special.


POSTSCRIPT

I really shouldn’t be feeling like I can go head-to-head with a whole restaurant’s chef after I order his “Special”, because there really is a kitchen at home with pasta and rice and everything (almost) I need to make these dishes.

VERDICT

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DAMAGE

Bruschetta Rustica - N3500

Penne Al Pesto - N6000 (+N3900 for prawns) 

Tagliatelle All’Aragosta - N13500

 

PARKING

Decent

12 cars inside and a whole not-so-busy street to park on outside 

Black Olive and Criminally Soft Pasta
 

FOLLY: Welcome to 2019!

It’s our first review for the year and it’s coming on January 7 because we took a break after #EatDrinkFestival5. This was my favourite festival to date after the first one in 2014. The first one will always be my favourite because I was completely blown away that we pulled it off and then we were on CNN African Voices for it the month after. Horn tooting aside, we have a lot planned for content this year and we look forward to making some big announcement towards the end of the week but until then let’s explore the pasta-abilities of Black Olive.

NOSA: Do Nigerians like their spaghetti cooked past al dente?

Like, noodle soft?

FOLLY: They do. The spaghetti was so overcooked that some strings split and appeared flat - almost like linguini. I think most people also prefer their rice to err on the side of soft and fluffy as opposed to firm. I ordered the Spaghetti & Meatballs at Black Olive and the pasta was “baby food soft”.

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NOSA: After looking through the restaurant’s Instagram account, it looks a bit intentional. Something similar happened during our initial visit to BL Restaurant on Sinari Daranijo. When we sent the plate back to the kitchen, the chef insisted that most of the customers liked their spaghetti on the “soft” side. There was no returning of plates at Black Olive, just a perplexed waiter for us. The chef did come out to apologize so I guess that’s fair. 

FOLLY: The waiter was very perceptive because when I requested he remove my plate even though it was less than half eaten and still had a meat ball (I only ate one and Nosa had the second), he asked what I didn’t like because I’d barely touched it. He probably relayed my complaints to the chef who then came out to apologise. No do over of the over cooked pasta though.

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NOSA: The Creamy Penne was a bit better. Not soft enough to offend, but enough for the penne to split in multiple pieces. Again, maybe it’s a Nigerian thing and I’m the one with the problem here.

The pasta sauce was a positive, however. Very rich and creamy with a heavy helping of pepper. There’s definitely a clientele that this menu is built for. 

FOLLY: Nosa’s order was infinitely better than mine but I could only taste it because of the heavy cream and my allergies. Mushroom also makes everything infinitely better, but obviously on a lower scale when you use canned mushrooms. I forgive canned mushrooms on pasta because the sauce coats the mushroom and you can almost forgive the mushroom’s rubbery texture, but I don’t forgive canned mushrooms on pizza.

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NOSA: Our favorite thing on the day was the starter - Tempura Shrimp.

FOLLY: The tempura was great for the simplest of reasons, clean oil and fried at the perfect temperature so it didn’t become soggy or dirty. The batter wasn’t too heavy on the shrimp so we got just the right amount of crisp and crunch.

NOSA: I only wished the portion was larger because I loved it so much. Probably a foreshadowing of what was to come. I don’t mean to take us back, but why was the spaghetti so soft? Just look at it..

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NOSA: Lol, I just can’t get over it. I’m sorry. Anyway, on to positive things - the service was excellent. The restaurant wasn’t packed. Actually, it was just us, but the attention received was commendable. The waiter was patient and attentive. That’s all you can ask for.

Oh, and it’s reasonably priced.

FOLLY: It’s very budget friendly but the food didn’t blow me away.


POSTSCRIPT

NOSA: Good try, good effort. Not for me, however.

FOLLY: They space is very nice. The menu prices are very casual while the space is tastefully upscale.

VERDICT

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DAMAGE

Tempura Shrimp - N3500

Creamy Penne - N4000

Spaghetti & Meatballs - N4000

 

 

PARKING

Pretty good parking situation for a restaurant on Awolowo road

Circa Lagos: Plenty Highs, More Mehs
 

NOSA: This Circa review has taken two visits and a couple of weeks, but it’s finally here. Probably didn't need multiple weeks to draw the conclusion.

FOLLY: But yeah, here we are.

NOSA: On multiple occasions, I’ve talked about restaurants being tucked in a particular location but I don’t think they come close to Circa. It’s literally tucked in the residential side of Lekki.

FOLLY: It doesn't help that the most direct route to Circa has been closed off by an over bearing resident's association that thinks there are too many entries and exits into their private street.

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NOSA: Lekki residents are so fake uppity. They don't know the place has already become FESTAC, a once residential estate turned to business district.

FOLLY: We started with the asun, calamari & prawn mix, and the naan with smoked chicken

NOSA: The asun was absolutely disappointing.  I can’t believe I’m here complaining about lack of pepper, but here I am. It felt very intentional like Circa made it dull on purpose. Or maybe the chef had an off day. Either way, I’m not a fan.

FOLLY: The asun really did lack character, it was dry and the goat meat was far from tender. 

FOLLY: Thankfully the seafood platter was very well done. The prawn and the calamari were both crispy as they should be. The prawn looks dark an over fried in the pictures but it really wasn't in real life - you have my word.

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NOSA: It's really hard to ruin fried calamari anywhere. You have to make a concerted effort to ruin it and even that is hard to do.

The naan, too, was great. Probably my favorite of all the starters. It’s served like a flatbread pizza, but with naan and smoked chicken. I’m not the biggest fan of smoked chicken and this one didn’t change my mind either

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FOLLY: This isn't the looker - in fact it's actually quite unattractive in pictures but it was more well received than the asun. Again similar to the asun, I found this to be lacking in moisture. I love that when naan is served in Indian restaurants it's brushed with melted butter or ghee. Or maybe Circa should just have added better (and more) cheese.

NOSA: For my first main, I ordered the burger which was not the smartest decision I made in my two visits. While the bun was soft and all sorts of lovely, the patty tasted a bit funky. Not the good type of funky either. As a whole, the burger was near disastrous

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I can usually persevere when faced with the worst of plates, but I couldn’t hack it with the burger. After a couple bites is, I had to call it quits.

FOLLY: This is a fact. Nosa always perseveres with bad orders when I call it quits since we're still going to pay for it anyway but this was the first time I've ever witnessed Nosa just flat out refuse to eat something we ordered. 

NOSA:At its best, this is a burger you get at a cookout. You can let the flaws slide because you didn’t pay for it, but when a price is attached some things become non negotiable. Things like processed cheese become criminal.

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FOLLY: My main dish on our first visit was the seafood marinara. 

NOSA: There was a night and day difference in the quality of pasta we got both times we visited Circa.

NOSA: The first time, while the marinara was delicious the penne was undercooked in parts. Some bites more al dente than the others.

FOLLY: Lol that was so confusing.  Some part of it were perfect while the rest was literally inedible, so you know what I did? I took the leftovers home then baked the pasta for about 3-5 minutes with like a teaspoon of water so it'll steam, threw in some cheese for good measure and it came out perfect.

NOSA: The second time, though, both the pesto and the spaghetti was perfect. Could’ve done with some salt, but you can let that go.

FOLLY: On the marinara, it was great because the chef actually took his time to actually make it - reducing the tomatoes so it wasn't super acidic, thankfully. There was also wine in it. 

NOSA: The pesto isn't "officially" on the menu yet, but they need to get it on there soon. That burger needs to be replaced.


POSTSCRIPT

FOLLY: Honestly, nothing we had really stood out to be as exceptional. It was good enough though.

NOSA: Yeah, the owners seem nice and eager to improve so things will probably get better.

VERDICT

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DAMAGE

Asun - N3000

Prawn Pesto - N7800

Circa Burger - N4800

Seafood Marinara - N6000

Crispy Calamari + Prawn - N4500

Homemade Naan with Smoked Chicken - N3800

 

 

PARKING

Yes but the security guards may not help if your car isn't nice *

*Nosa's car was dirty and they assumed he was a delivery driver

La Pizza is an Italian Deli Transported to Lagos
 

NOSA: We've checked out the place before but our original review saw us sit outside by the pool. On this fine day, we decided to sit inside because of the unbearable heat and I'm glad we did.

It's so cozy

It's so cozy

FOLLY: Honestly, not really sure why we visited again but Nosa said that there were new items (I doubted) but I still went along with it. 

NOSA: A little #NosaFunFact: I lived in Italy (Fano, to be exact) for about a year when I was little. One of the things I vaguely remember about that year was Pandoro, an Italian Christmas staple. Another thing I can't seem to forget are the little cozy deli-style restaurants littered all over Fano and, oh, eating pizza with a fork & knife. Our trip to La Pizza was a memory trigger of sorts. Walking in and seeing the Pandoro on the shelf transported me to a simpler time.

FOLLY: From some angles, the little bungalow  really doesn't look like it's Nigeria

NOSA: See, La Pizza feels just as cozy as those restaurants in Fano. I can't understand why the restaurant isn't a brunch fixture in Lagos. I guess it's a good thing it isn't. It can be our little Lagos hidden gem. Just you and I, my dear reader.

FOLLY: Is it just me or is this is starting to read like Nosa's personal diary?

NOSA: We got some pizza to start, the Calabrese. Onions, Italian Sausage, and Mozzarella. They might have been a bit selfish with the mozzarella, however.

FOLLY: Yeah very stingy with the mozzarella. It didn't look like the picture but then they had a little disclaimer that it might not. The sausage was also the very salty kind - this won't work for the Nigerian palatte mine inclusive I started actively eating aroun the sausage. 

iPhone 7 camera is terrible in low light

iPhone 7 camera is terrible in low light

NOSA: By Lagos standards, this wasn't an elite pizza by any means, but it was better than most. It's right there in that Pizza Marella tier, i.e. significantly better than a Dominos but not quite a Pizze-Riah.

FOLLY: Precisely, pretty good but I still prefer Taverna and Pizze-Riah (never as takeaway though because their pizza cannot sit out more than 10 minutes before becoming gross)

NOSA: Also, they sell pizza by the slice. They might be the only place in Lagos to do so too. You can get a slice of pizza and a drink for N1500 as a weekday lunch special.

NOSA: Because the pizza didn't go a really long way, Folly and I ordered some pasta as well - the Salmon Ravioli. Wale, a good friend of the blog, had some nice things to say about the pasta (and the steak) so I figured we'd give it a go.

Salmon Ravioli

Salmon Ravioli

Stuffed pasta is my favorite thing in the world. In college, I used to run through bags frozen tortellini. It took like 5-10 mins to cook al dente. Add some vodka sauce and it was my go-to "Hey! Let me cook for you" move. Ah, good times.

FOLLY: Stuffed pasta is my least favorite usually because they are stuff with soft cheeses which I can't eat or olives or other things I don't like.  I wasn't paying attention when Nosa ordered.

NOSA: The sauce was a bit too salty and the ravioli was cooked a little too much.

 

POSTSCRIPT

NOSA: There were some glaring flaws with our meal, but I'll definitely be back. I mean, they sell their steak by the gram so it has to be good.

FOLLY: If I'm around the area, not one of the top dining experiences I've had recently.

VERDICT

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DAMAGE

Calabrese - N4500

Salmon Ravioli - N6500

 

PARKING

Parking is a bit weird. Can take maybe 6 cars max.

La Mango is Ikeja's Diamond in the Dirt

La Mango

2 Adekunle Fajuyi Street, Ikeja GRA, Lagos

0808 264 6670. 0819 191 4220

FOLLY: A La Mango review has been on the shelf for a while now. 

NOSA: This is my fault, I think.

FOLLY: Honestly, I'm not sure why we put it off for so long.

NOSA: I thought it had to be razz because of the name so I was never keen. In my defense, the decor at La Mango is falling apart. The place needs some major renovation and the pool needs some cleaning because, my god, it is filthy.

FOLLY: Based on what I'd heard, La Mango was really good for shawarma and so I thought that was all there was to it. 

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FOLLY: Oddly enough, of the three things we ordered at La Mango, the shawarma was my least favorite. Initially, I ordered the mixed shawarma but the waitress came to notify me that they were out of beef and asked if I'd like a chicken one instead, I said that was fine. 

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NOSA: I liked the shawarma unlike Folly.

FOLLY: First impressions of the shawarma was that it was quite flat so not a rolly polly kind of shawarma. 

NOSA: The sauce has this maggi thing to it that I really loved.

FOLLY: I was not adequately whelmed on its flavor as there was just too much Maggi.  

NOSA: We're polar opposites on this thing, you know?

FOLLY: It terms of uniqueness, the only thing that stood out as different was that this had finely chopped pieces of pepper (ata rodo) in it.

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FOLLY: After the shawarma, we decided to split a starter and a main. Originally ordered the special hummus but it wasn't available so I settled for the Crispy Chicken Wings and Penne Pesto.

NOSA: The penne pesto absolutely blew my mind. It took forever to come out so I figured the chef was in the kitchen making an abortion of a plate.

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FOLLY: Likewise, the Penne Pesto blew me away. It was extremely well made.  

NOSA: The penne was perfectly al dente, the chicken was full of so much flavor, and the pesto was actually pesto.

FOLLY: You could also tell that this pesto was freshly made. This might seem like an exaggeration but I don't know where I've eaten better at a Lagos restaurant. I found Talindo's to be a little too dry, and Umutu's to be too watery. If this was the story of Goldilocks and the three bears, La Mango's pesto is the perfect bowl of porridge.

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FOLLY: The chicken breast slices weren't too dry. They were flavorful and complemented the pasta well - didn't steal the show. I missed the pine nuts in La Mango's iteration, however, not enough to throw a fit about their absence. 

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FOLLY: A quick word on the chicken wings.

Things La Mango did right:

  • Used soft chicken
  • Split the drummette from the wingette
  • Battered the wings
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FOLLY: Things La Mango could have done better:

  • Used less batter on the wings
  • Been less heavy handed on the curry
  • Serve it with actual chili mayo, as the menu said, instead of mayo and then chili separately.

NOSA: The chicken wings were alright. Great as something to occupy your mouth while you get a post work beer. Beyond that, not really.

 

POSTSCRIPT

FOLLY: Shame I live quite far away that I can't pop in for that pesto more often. However, if I find out they deliver to my office, in there like swimwear. 

NOSA: I really want to visit again because we walked on the safe side with our orders because we feared for the worst.

FOLLY: There are a couple of things I would like to point out, however, that aren't best in class for a restaurant that La Mango did. The service wasn't great as the waitress was always out of sight (we were seated outside), the crockery was mismatched, and the food took longer than 30 minutes to arrive. 

NOSA: That's what made the pesto penne so surprising. Despite the subpar effort on the aesthetics, the actual food was really damn good. It's so confusing.

 

VERDICT

DAMAGE

Star - N500

Penne Pesto - N3200

Chicken Shawarma - N1100

Crispy Chicken Wings - N1700

 

PARKING

You can't tell from outside but they have a small parking lot at the back.