Restaurant review: Lavo at Marina Bay Sands is the place for Italian-American cuisine and ladies' night
If the likes of Jamie Foxx bothered to come all the way down to Singapore for LAVO's New Year's Eve party last year, it definitely has to get some things right. A collaboration between Las Vegas Sands-owned Marina Bay Sands and Tao Group, the restaurant and bar is the latter's first venture into Asia. Taking up the space on the 57th floor of the hotel where Justin Quek's Sky on 57 used to be, the restaurant is another celebrity-endorsed establishment that MBS often gravitates towards — they've partnered with the likes of Gordon Ramsay with Bread Street Kitchen, Mario Batali with Mozza and Spago with Wolfgang Puck. This time, partner and chef of Tao Group Ralph Scamardella joins the brigade. While LAVO's reputation precedes itself, at the heart of it lies something pleasantly humble: Hearty, unpretentious Italian-American cuisine, one which Brooklyn native Scamardella's all too familiar with.
Setting the stage: Split into three distinct spaces (a bar, restaurant and terrace), LAVO has tried its best to make you feel like you're not in Singapore. Manhattan-based firm ICrave has designed the wraparound space to be as faithful as possible to the brand, flying in reclaimed subway tiles and terracotta elements from New York City. These mingle with exposed bricks, antique mirrors and round leather booths, along with what looks like an out-of-place chandelier at the centre of the main dining area.
Nosh on this: Dinner's a heavy affair, with American-sized generosity that's meant to be shared — but even the most indulgent of eaters will struggle with their large portions. We recommend starting with the tuna tartare, skipping the nondescript eggplant parmigiano for the classic combo of yellow fin tuna and avocado. It's light, creamy and preps the palate for a taste of things to come. Pasta-wise, we'd go for the truffle gnocchi and seafood alfredo, two well-balanced dishes that bring both umami and briny flavours to sumptuous satisfaction. The former's pillowy dumplings of potato pleasures are tossed in a wild mushroom and veal demi ragu, topped with herb cream and finished with truffle oil and shaved black truffles. The alfredo isn't your regular cream-based carb. The kitchen has laboured over the dish by roasting butter, rosemary, thyme and garlic with cream, taking half a day to reduce it down with lobster before tossing it with penne, seared scallops and shrimps.
Stick around for the 45-day dry aged porterhouse steak, simply seasoned with salt, pepper and olive oil — all that a good chunk of Aussie beef needs. It's good enough on its own, or slathered with roasted garlic. While LAVO prides itself in its steak sauce that comprises of 30 different ingredients, we could do without it. If you're avoiding meat, the roasted black cod — exclusive to Singapore due to its huge popularity with diners here — is a buttery highlight.
Drinks situation: Try the playfully-named Frozé with Ketel One Vodka, Rosé Wine and Raspberry — an alkie-lover's slushie, if you will. In case you forget that you're in a New Yorker's joint, there's a Coney Island Express with Plantation Age Rum and Amaro CioCiaro, while the 58th Street Negroni upgrades the original with their use of the summery Amaro Montenegro. On Saturdays, Hendrick's cocktails are free-flowing for ladies from 10-11pm.
Seen and heard: It's top 40 hits and remixes from the past two decades, with the likes of Calvin Harris' 'How Deep Is Your Love' and Usher's 'U Remind Me' pulsing through the night, getting louder as lights dim by the hour. Thank God for some good old Michael Jackson though — 'Pretty Young Thing' came on by the time our first mains were served. If you're into lookers (let's face it, who isn't?), you'll do well with a survey of fellow diners. We spotted well-heeled glamazons on their cheat days, banker types trying to let loose and even families who've brought along their young 'uns — think Regina George's "I'm not like a regular mom" territory.
Bragging rights: The 20 layer chocolate peanut butter cake is one to rule all cakes. Peanut butter mascarpone and chocolate race each other to top this enormous dessert, which is equal parts creamy and airy. It's considered to be LAVO's magnum opus and a highly popular choice — which proves that no matter how tight your bandage dress is, there's always room for cake.
LAVO Italian Restaurant & Bar is located at Level 57, Sands Skypark Hotel Tower 1. Tel: 6688 8591