House of the Rising Waistline
Casa Mia offers a sumptuous rendition of Italian classics
YOUR brave reviewer felt battered and at his wits end trying to formulate interesting places to correspond with you, the reader, about, for this week’s food review. Last week’s cheap and cheery adventure hadn’t quite gone to plan, leaving your writer staggering, cursing and gripping his belly in a rare state of gastronomic distress.
So, there your reporter sat staring blankly at a wall trying to pull names out of the ether for this week’s review. Finally, with a faint sigh, under pressure from his editor, your reporter decided he would break one of his cardinal rules in order to bring you something interesting to digest in this weekend’s issue; he was going to eat in a mall.
Casa Mia resides inside Sule Square and has been there since the mall opened. Your reporter had visited twice before and found the food agreeable, if slightly expensive for a casual lunch. This time around, the visit would be for dinner and we were going to pull out all the stops. At 7pm sharp your reviewer and his partner for the evening sat down inside Casa Mia and were greeted by warm and friendly staff who plied us with menus and a bread basket. We requested one bottle of Pellegrino sparkling and yours truly decided it would be worth sampling the house red – a merlot.
The atmosphere is quite pleasant inside the restaurant, it boasts soft, even lighting, smart tables settings and a bookshelf at the entrance partially obscuring the fact that you’re inside a cathedral of the bourgeoisie. Your reviewer and his partner nibbled at some breadsticks as we watched the chintzy, dazzling showcases in the Mont Blanc and Rolex stores spin on their trundles. Now of course, there is nothing inherently bad about those brands - it’s the culture of calling attention to the fact that one possess luxury brand items which is so gauche, so inescapably nouveau riche. One digresses.
The house wine is fine. It has decent legs on it, carries an attractive, fruity bouquet and balances well between its boldness, sweet notes and tannin. It’s an all-rounder that your reviewer would put to one side to wait for the mains. Our starter would be a Caesar salad, shared, to follow the olive oil and balsamic vinegar we had poured from the table to dip our bread into (a lovely bitter treat you can readily create using the complimentary bread basket).
The menu at Casa Mia actually attempts to replicate the courses of traditional Italian dining with bites and salads being followed by pasta dishes, then big mains and finishing with sweets and coffee. Ultimately we would find that this system is not entirely functional as the plates in the pasta and mains sections are both served large. We decided to try sharing a spaghetti carbonara and for mains we ordered an attractive dish of chicken in thick tomato dressing served with thinly sliced mushroom. The name of this fine fish escapes your reviewer now but it was perfectly enunciated by our server.
The Caesar salad arrived in short order and immediately impressed us with its simplicity and depth of flavour. This Caesar eshews chicken in favour of being light and springy – it’s made up of piled lettuce, spared pieces of crispy bacon and some thin cuts of Parmesan, all tossed through with the classic cream sauce. True, as far as salads go, Caesar’s are at the heavy end, but this rendition was fully appreciated. The sauce is simply delicious; creamy, but with just enough salt to give it pep and a slight sour twist. It also is served with a perfectly poached egg inside, ready to break apart and run under the slightest pressure. It would be fair to say it, on its own, should be called balanced for its sparing use of cheese and bacon, though the crispy pork pieces were also quite delectable.
Then, the spaghetti carbonara arrived and the fear of heart burn set in. Casa Mia’s carbonara is thankfully mostly void of cream (in that ceaseless debate, no cream wins) but still manages to pack a punch. It’s heavily laden with cheese and some more bacon pieces. For its calorific value, it actually turned out to be somewhat bland. It’s possible that the sauce too closely resembled the Caesar and that is why we didn’t enjoy it as much – but ultimately your reviewer feels it needs something to give it some life, something like thinly sliced garlic for taste and texture or a little chilli. A fine rendition, but nothing to write home about, we turned our attention to the new arrival; the chicken and mushroom.
This dish was thoroughly satisfying comfort food. Moist, lovely chicken under a bed of punchy, well crafted tomato base sauce, served surrounded by thinly sliced, strong tasting mushroom slices that had evidently keen kept in oil. This dish too is rich, make no mistake, but offers such a pleasing variety and depth of flavour as to really overtaken the carbonara completely. It’s a big recommend. A fork full of chicken flesh with a good smattering of sauce and mushroom on the spokes will deliver a mouth watering hit of deep and luscious tomato goodness. It’s balance is commendable and it was exactly the dish your reviewer had hoped to enjoy his merlot with. It was simply decadent, the sort of meal that leaves one gasping, “why do bad things happen to good people?”. Both writer and partner were stuffed.
Yet still, desert is an important element to any good review, and so we soldiered on to order a ‘truffle’ ice cream treat, the chocolate volcano and your stuffed reviewer ordered himself an espresso.
The truffle ice cream is simply charming – a member of the kitchen staff emerged with an item wrapped in smart brown parcel paper and unwrapped it to reveal a chunky frozen nugget of vanilla ice cream that been rolled in chocolate dust. With a knife, she pierced its heart to reveal an oozing, almost black liquid chocolate heart than began spilling out onto the plate. It’s almost a race against time to consume the truffle ice cream before it begins to melt away (a classic sign of quality, high dairy content ice cream) and your reviewer and his partner got stuck in with gusto. In just a couple of minutes we had defeated the nugget and rolled back into our chairs, gleaming grins of satisfaction. And yet, the worst was not over yet.
Shortly after this, the chocolate volcano arrived. The chocolate volcano is a small, rather humble looking black cake that bends and jiggles to the touch of a spoon. It’s properties seem odd, that is until you pierce its thick outer crust and the molten, baked liquid chocolate begins to hemorrhage. Much like the truffle ice cream, this is a dish that needs to be scooped quickly, but do make sure to hold the sweet, silky chocolate in your mouth long enough to fully explore its depth of flavour and velvety texture with your tongue. This dish is a showstopper. Pure liquid chocolate with a smidgen of ice cream served on the side to lend it the devilish juxtaposition of cold, sobering ice against the onslaught of body temperature melted bliss that will pour across the plate. Consuming this dish with a work partner will remain a platonic experience, but only barely.
When the coffee arrived, it was a fantastic cap on the whole event. Lots of fantastic crema and a deeply pleasing well rounded bitterness. Everybody left the meal feeling somehow elated but also drained by this fine dinner which amounted to nearly K80,000. Your reviewer did end up with heartburn around midnight, but such are the perils.
Visit when you can. ................................................ Casa Mia is located inside Sule Square near to the interior hallway entrance to the Sule-shangrila Hotel. Bookings: 0996 434 8881
Welcome to Casa Mia.