In the same vein as Esquina, Lolla is a tiny little tapas bar that seats about 13 at the counter, and a few more outdoors. They too don’t take reservations, and the first time we tried to go at about 8.30 pm on a Wednesday, we were told that it was a 45 minute wait. We returned at 6 pm on a Thursday, to an empty restaurant. It only started filling up after 7, and we were later told that there had been an event that Wednesday, hence the longer than usual wait on a weekday night.
An empty restaurant meant that the kitchen was still pretty relaxed, and we were able to chat to head chef Ming, who explained his dishes in a very professional yet friendly way.
One of their signature dishes is the urchin pudding – a squid ink custard topped with a generous helping of uni. This was very good, but also very intense. You have to really like the briny, almost funky flavours of both uni and squid ink to appreciate this dish, otherwise it could get a tad overwhelming.
The scrambled eggs with Bottarga di Muggine was divine – a classic pairing of creamy scrambled eggs with bottarga (mullet roe) shaved very liberally on top. Most places that feature bottarga on their pastas or other dishes use it so sparingly that the flavours of the roe are all but lost. Not here though – the flavour of the bottarga is definitely at the forefront and you can really appreciate it as a result.
Another winning dish was the beef tongue escalopes – thin slices of beef tongue served with a pickled red cabbage to cut through the richness. The tongue was beautifully seared so that the insides were still creamy but the outsides were nice and crisp.
We ordered a couple of dishes that were on the Specials board – razor clams with garlic and chorizo, and roasted Brittany baby artichokes. These were a bit less stellar compared to the other dishes, perhaps because their flavours were a bit predictable.
The lamb shortribs were a bit disappointing. It was seasoned quite liberally with a cumin-heavy marinade, probably to reduce the gamey flavour of the lamb ribs, but I found it a bit excessive. The ribs weren’t very meaty, and even though we were encouraged to use our fingers instead, it was still quite a challenge getting the rather chewy meat off the bones. Most certainly not date food.
We ended off with a fairly light dessert – doughnuts with lemon curd. They sound heavy, but the doughnuts were actually made of choux pastry so they were really light and fluffy. The lemon curd also helped to make it a lighter, more refreshing dessert.
If I were to be purely objective, the food was very good. Looking at it with a slightly more critical eye though, and a die-hard allegiance to Esquina, I would say that the food lacks an overall impact – one that leaves me craving for a return visit before I’ve even left the place.
Pretty good. Excellent service. Some standout dishes. But overall, for the same price, I’d much rather go to Esquina.
22 Ann Siang Road
Mon to Sat: 5 pm – midnight
Closed Sun & PH