Restaurant Review

Huge, hearty American-Italian dishes at restaurant-nightclub Lavo

A meatball the size of a grapefruit is among the huge and hearty American-Italian dishes at the restaurant-bar from New York

If you have been to Sky On 57, the now-defunct modern Asian restaurant on the Marina Bay Sands rooftop, you will be surprised to see how the space has changed.

Occupying the premises now is Lavo, a two-week-old bar, restaurant and nightclub concept from New York.

Sky On 57's elegant, contemporary interiors with soothing pastels are gone, replaced by an eclectic retro look comprising dark wood, raw bricks, patterned tiles and clashing lamps and chandeliers. And covering some walls are white tiles that remind me of the kopitiam of yesteryear.

Depending on your taste, it can be seen as a welcome nod to nostalgia or an example of a decorator who didn't know when to stop. For me, it feels like a restaurant from the 1970s that had more and more elements slapped onto the original design over the years.

The food, too, is a throwback to a time when health consciousness had yet to dictate general eating habits. So if carbohydrates, cream and butter are anathema to you, this is not your kind of restaurant.

I, however, love Lavo's robust American-Italian cooking, where big is beautiful and heavy is heavenly. I wouldn't want to dine there every day - nor should I, for my heart's sake - but when I'm in the mood for a cheat day with hearty, rich food, Lavo is on my list.

  • LAVO ITALIAN RESTAURANT & ROOFTOP BAR

  • "The Meatball" (left) is made with ground Imperial wagyu and Italian sausage and served with whipped ricotta. The 20 Layer Chocolate Cake (above) is a tower of chocolate devil's food cake stacked with peanut butter mascarpone.

    Level 57 Sands Skypark Hotel Tower 1, Marina Bay Sands, 10 Bayfront Avenue, tel: 6688-8591, open: 5pm to 2am daily

    Food: 3.5/5

    Service: 3.5/5

    Ambience: 3/5

    Price: Budget from $120 a person, without drinks

Talking about big, "The Meatball" ($38) is not to be missed. It is gargantuan and you have to order it just to see how big it is - about the size of a grapefruit. Two of us could not finish it.

Made with ground Imperial wagyu (an American product) and Italian sausage, it has a solid feel and enough beefiness to satisfy. It is served with whipped ricotta that makes it even heavier, but also tastier.

The Baked Clams Oreganato ($27) disappoints. With the shellfish topped with toasted breadcrumbs, minced garlic, oregano and white wine, the flavours are good. But the clams are overcooked and have lost their sweet juices, which takes the joy out of eating them.

The Penne Seafood Alfredo ($48) is another dish that can be better. The lobster butter sauce the pasta is tossed in is yummy. My complaint is that the seafood has a frozen quality that I often find in mass-market chain eateries. But with the prices Lavo is charging, I expect better.

Otherwise, it's a hefty serving with a generous amount of prawns and scallops - enough for a main or to be split among the table as a second course. If the chef switches to better produce, I would recommend the dish heartily.

I have no reservations doing that with the Crispy Chicken "Dominick" ($48). The deboned pieces of chicken are cooked perfectly - juicy and tender, with a nicely crisped skin. A sauce with caramelised onions and herbs with a white balsamic glaze, as well as some chilli flakes to give it a hint of spice, complements it perfectly. Chunks of nicely roasted potato complete the dish.

 

The signature dessert is called 20 Layer Chocolate Cake ($24), so you can expect it to be big, too. My dinner companion and I share a serving and we can eat only half of it.

It's described as chocolate devil's food cake with peanut butter mascarpone, in alternate layers that build up to a tower on the plate. The combination of chocolate and peanut butter is a surefire winner, but the cake itself is a tad dry.

So that's Lavo. Some people will love it for its unapologetic celebration of past pleasures, others will be horrified by its old-fashionedness.

It does not do everything right, but there are some very good dishes. One thing is for sure: If you are planning to dine there, go with a big appetite.

• Follow Wong Ah Yoke on Twitter @STahyoke and Instagram @wongahyoke

• The Sunday Times paid for its meals at the eateries reviewed here.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 21, 2018, with the headline 'Have a ball at Lavo'. Print Edition | Subscribe