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Monday, December 3, 2012

La Festa: Party Pooper

Ever since the news broke in the middle of last year that Grand Victoria Hotel invited the Michelin one-star chef, Igor Macchia, to collaborate on the Italian restaurant, I was curious to try. I am not sure why I waited over a year to finally go to the restaurant, La Festa, but recently my wife, Maria, and I took our two kids for a family dinner on a Sunday night. We had high hopes for the restaurant, but in short the dinner was thoroughly disappointing.

The restaurant is inside a long rectangular space on the second floor of the hotel. The are two rows of tables and one row of booths. The tables are large and spacious, but the booths were a little tight and not too comfortable. Overall the decor was okay though I wasn't too impressed with the ceiling mural depicting the horse race in Siena.

We ordered two starters: the Uovo Morbido, a slow cooked egg with porcini mushroom sauce and the Minestrone soup. The egg was cooked to a nice temperature, I am guessing around 62°C. However, the dish was severely under seasoned and didn't have much flavor. The same can be said about the soup. The vegetables in the soup were chunky and more abundant than the soup itself. The dish was not refined and felt more like a home-cooked meal but without the heartiness.

For our main course, we went with a pizza and a calzone for the kids and two pastas for the adults. The 8-inch pizza (NT$500) with fresh mozzarella and tomatoes was awful: little flavor and undercooked crust. The calzone with Bolognese sauce was a little better but not by much. Frankly, Pizzeria Zoca on the other side of the town does both things better. My spaghetti (NT$780) with sea urchin and a tiny dusting of bottarga was under seasoned, lacking in flavor, and very little aroma. The spaghetti was cooked to the right texture, but frankly that's not too hard. The pasta was served with snap peas that didn't quite go with the rest of the ingredients. Maria had the Agnolotti del Plin, which were served on a napkin. The little dumplings were too dry and without much flavor either.

We ordered a gelato for the kids to share and I skipped dessert and asked for an espresso, which was pretty good. The service was pleasant throughout the night and was probably the only positive aspect of the meal. I do have one issue: I ordered a glass of wine and would have preferred for the wine bottle to be shown and for the wine to be poured in front of me.

We did not leave La Festa in a festive mood. I don't know how much involvement the Michelin-starred chef has with the restaurant. However, if I am the Michelin inspector and La Festa is an acceptable standard by the chef, I would take away his star. The food didn't have much flavor and didn't even smell good. Unless some changes are made, I am not going back.

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