La Mamma Restaurant
Time Out Says
We ask to be seated in the non-smoking section of the restaurant (we’re already surprised and a little disappointed that this restaurant has a smoking section in the first place) which means being seated in the airy circular space at the back of the dining room. We have to walk through the restaurant’s smoking section and take a deep breathe of stale air to get there, however, which isn’t pleasant. But thankfully the smell doesn’t permeate over to our table, so once we’re seated we’re much more comfortable.
We browse the menu, and the first thing that catches our eye is an array of unusual dishes on the menu. We weren’t expecting experimental cuisine here, but some of the dishes and flavour combinations are ones we haven’t ever seen before. Seared tuna medallions served with zucchini cream, gorgonzola and mullet roe is an interesting appetiser, and the homemade busiate pasta with cauliflower, raisins, pine nuts and pecorino is more than a little intriguing. Feeling somewhat more conservative though, we opt for the more traditional burrata, served with grilled asparagus, and the more adventurous grilled octopus served with potato fondue, capers, cherry tomatoes and a balsamic reduction.
Both dishes are promptly bought to the table and are very pleasing on the eye to say the least, so we’re eager to tuck in and see if they taste as good as they look.
The burrata is a good portion and has a good flavour, but unfortunately is freezing cold. It isn’t a particularly pleasant experience putting anything akin to a block of ice in our mouths, but the temperature has the dual effect of solidifying what should be creamy, almost runny cheese. We nibble around the edges where the cheese is warmest, but leave most of the burrata’s icy centre. The asparagus is well-cooked and is a simple but effective flavour and texture combination to pair with the cheese.
For our other appetiser, tentacles of grilled octopus are served on a hill of capers alongside what appears to be a purée side. The octopus is well flavoured and cooked, it isn’t tough or chewy. The capers are fresh and have a powerful taste that contrasts well with the balsamic reduction, giving the dish a welcomed kick. The potato fondue is a bit more hit and miss, though. The flavour of cheese comes through well but the purée is a little grainy and a starchy taste is fairly prominent. Overall, although the dish is well-conceived and elements are superb, the fondue leaves you with the impression that the plate as a whole is a little rough around the edges.
For mains we’re tempted by the Rossini beef tenderloin served with spinach, seared foie gras and mushroom pâté which sounds delicious, but instead elect to order to the fresh parppadelle pasta served with a duck, Tuscan beans and broccoli ragout and the four cheese gnocchi.
The duck ragout has plenty of depth, it’s a comforting rather than refined sauce but one that’s undeniably tasty, so we clear the plate quickly and are more than satisfied with what we’ve eaten. Our only reservation with declaring the dish an unquestionable triumph is the fact that the pasta is slightly undercooked for us, although this doesn’t bother us as much as it might do for other guests.
The gnocchi is light and airy, the potato dumplings are perfect. The four cheese sauce thick and intensely rich, the first mouthful has us waxing lyrical but two or three spoons in and we’re hit full in the face by a cheese wall the likes of which we haven’t come across in a while. Cheese addicts will happily devour the hearty portion comfortably, but if you’re only a casual dairy fan getting through the second half of the dish won’t be as joyful as the those first few delectable mouthfuls.
Full to the eyeballs, we steer away from the warm chocolate dessert we had our eye on and instead head for the exit, electing to walk home to kick off the digestion process after what has been a heavy meal. We take away something positive from everything we’ve eaten at La Mamma, but would have liked to see some refinement in each dish the next time we visit. The ideas coming from the kitchen here are very good, but the little details that are so important are letting the restaurant down.
The bill (for two)
Grilled octopus Dhs68
Pappardelle with duck ragout Dhs72
Four cheese gnocchi Dhs68
Total (excluding service) Dhs276
By Time Out Abu Dhabi staff | 29 Jul 2014
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