When I heard that LUKA serves uni (sea urchin) and wagyu beef for only $10, I knew that this place will take precedence in my ‘MUST-VISIT’ list.
Located at the bustling Tanjong Pagar, this Italian ristorante attracts a lot of white-collar folks and Japanese clientele, thanks to chef Okuno Takeshi and his wonderful food creations.
Designed with an industrial-chic interior and a well-equipped bar at the side, LUKA serves hearty Italian cuisine with a Japanese twist.
Since the restaurant brought in a customised Stefano Ferrara Neapolitan handmade brick oven, I was definitely anticipating for a perfect pizza crust.
We started off with Whipped Bottarga Cream & Pretzel ($10), a classic representation of Mediterranean food. I had absolutely no idea what was Bottarga and thought that it was lemon rind, but no, it’s grated cured mullet roe.
The briny Bottarga is something that you’ll either love or hate, and for my case it’s the former as the cream tasted lovely with the sesame-dusted bagel.
If you like trying a little bit of this and that, you’ll have to go for the off-menu Tasting Platter ($32 for two pax, five different items were included), which meant it’s only $16/pax!
Included in the affordable platter were Hokkaido oysters, ikura (salmon roe), wagyu beef and uni.
Look at the glistening ikura laying on top of the Fresh Japanese Oyster ($5 per pc, $8 with Ikura), that totally made the aesthetics of the platter.
It was also dressed in shallot vinegarette and was probably one of the best combination of toppings I’ve had on an oyster.
Luka Housemade Wagyu Bresaola ($12 for 30g) was on the platter as well, and to be honest, I was a little disappointed because the cream cheese wrapped within resulted in a mushy bite.
I would totally prefer it to be paired with a slice of granny smith for some acidity and a nicer crunch.
Smoked Egg, Wagyu, Uni (middle, $10 for 2pcs). Garnished with salted konbu (kelp) and spring onions, this $5 pop is extremely value for money.
For the high-quality ingredients used (look at the marbled wagyu beef slice), the price was unbeatable and taste wise, the combination was almost heavenly. ‘Almost’ because I felt that it could use more salt, but hey, feel free to add them yourself.
The olive oil drizzled Burrata ($15) came with San Daniele ham, fresh tomatoes and rockets. While I had to transform into #saltbae to give this creamy cheese a lift on its savoury aspect, this classic combination is worth a try.
It is a pretty affordable price tag for the cheese that you’re getting, as most restaurants serve its less creamy counterparts for above $20, just saying.
The Crab Arancini ($10 for 4pcs) was crispy and cheesy, ideal to pair with an ice cold beer.
For mains, we tried the signature Plin Agnolotti ($18), made with Piedmontese veal.
For those who are unfamiliar, the Piedmontese cattle breed originates from North-West Italy and has a higher lean-to-fat ratio due to having copies of inactive myostatin gene. Without getting too sciencey, it’s basically a priced breed that is comparable to wagyu.
Made from scratch every morning, this dish tasted very meaty, soft and cheesy. The flavour was spot on but a pity was that the pasta itself was quite overcooked and wasn’t al dente.
My ultimate favourite was Uni Aglio E olio ($26), a dish that was perfectly al dente and made with Hokkaido sea urchin.
The bavette pasta dish was garlicky, yet well-balanced by the zesty tomatoes and parsley. While the aglio olio based pasta was great itself, the uni elevated the dish with a touch of creaminess and sweetness.
Last but not least, the highly anticipated wood-fired Mare ($22), a margherita pizza topped with squid, prawn and shellfish.
I was impressed that LUKA used fresh mozzerella cheese that was broken up by hand, and of course, the pizza’s distinctive wood-fired smokiness and crispy charred edges won me over.
What’s Italian without a good glass of wine? I ended my meal with Puglia’s 2014 La Marchesana Primitivo ($65), a pleasant red that reminded me of raspberry jam.
For someone that embraces everything Italian and Japanese, LUKA is a place that combined the best of both worlds, utilising all my favourite ingredients. A huge plus would be the affordable price tag, hence it is obviously a place that I will not hesitate to return.
To those who have put off the idea of trying sea urchin and wagyu beef because of its hefty price tag, say no more fam, I’ve got you.
Expected Damage: $25 – $40 per pax