Sherman's Food Adventures: Carlino Restaurant & Lounge

Carlino Restaurant & Lounge

Well that didn't last very long did it?  Miantiao came and went in less than a year.  Part of the Kitchen Table Restaurant group, the quirky Asian-Italian menu at Miantiao never really caught on.  As I stated in my post, Miantiao was fine as a concept, but not a fit to be located in the ritzy Shangri-La Hotel.  Now we have something that is more mainstream in Carlino Restaurant and Lounge offering up Northern Italian share-plates.  As such, I gathered up the whole family including my parents to try as many dishes as we could stomach.

We were tempted to do their "Fai Tu" family-style tasting menu for $85.00 per person, but we ultimately went a la carte to ensure the exact dishes we wanted to try.  I had my eye on the Grilled Octopus with new potatoes, salsa verde and grilled orange.  I thought this was well-balanced texturally and in taste.  The octopus was tender with an appealing chewiness while the tender potatoes were almost creamy without sacrificing its structure.  Salsa verde was bright, tangy and garlicky.  One squeeze of the orange yielded natural sweetness to the dish.

Beautiful to the eye, the Swimming Scallops were almost like escargots.  Baked in the shell with butter, parsley and garlic, it certainly had a similar flavour profile.  However, I personally enjoyed this more due to the natural sweetness of the scallops as well as the buttery texture.  A wedge of lemon was available on the plate if one wanted some acidity to cut through the fat.  Hey, I merely soaked all that buttery goodness up with the bread!

Up next was a dish that had the same ingredients as one of the items on Miantiao's menu, but of course not remotely close in preparation.  The Warm Chicories were tossed in a dressing of prosciutto and pancetta, topped with walnuts and sitting atop a walnut puree.  I enjoyed this very much as the chicories maintained a crunch while the oils from the pancetta offered up aroma and saltiness.  The puree underneath was smooth and mild (which accepted the dressing well).

Now for more chicories (well in this case endives), it accompanied the Venison Crudo with fermented chili and golden yolk.  One would think that employing venison, the tartare might be gamy and tough.  Well, this wasn't the case at all as the meat was nicely prepared being buttery and tender.  Furthermore, the seasoning was on point with noticeable spice from the chili.  The silkiness of the egg yolk afforded a luxurious texture.  

Okay, I don't normally order much charcuterie when there are so many other choices on the menu.  But the kids love it, hence we added the Prosciutto Duo with alpine butter, gherkins and spiced rye crisp. Gotta say though, never a bad thing snacking on some buttery San Daniele prosciutto...  But that wasn't all, the rye crisps were light and indeed crispy.  Great to go with the rich alpine butter.

Onto the pastas, we ordered 4 of them including the Tagliatelle with ragu della casa first.  This featured a rich meat sauce that, as you can clearly see, not short on the meat.  Hence, it was full of body and natural meat flavours.  It was also balanced with sweetness and a minor hit of tomato.  The pasta itself was perfectly al dente and coated evenly with the delicious sauce.

Definitely German-inspired (the cuisine in the Friuli region has many influences), we also had the Spaetzle with ragu bianco and cabbage.  I honestly didn't think I would like this, but it worked.  First of all, the spaetzle had the right texture of being tender with an elasticity.  It was nicely seared with butter and also properly seasoned.  The plethora of tender meaty morsels made for a hearty dish, yet the shredded cabbage broke up the heaviness to a degree.

The Francobolli or little postage stamp was another winner of a dish.  Those cute little raviolis were texturally a delight with a mild chewiness yet being delicate at the same time.  They were filled with roasted game (combination of meats) which was a bit different. Yet, it was ultimately meaty and tender with the definite hit of rosemary.  The use of the reduced game juices and red wine (with butter) ensured there was some depth and silkiness to the dish.

Our last pasta dish was also very good in the Potato Gnocchi with sausage and sage.  Those large gnocchi were pillowy soft while still offering up some chew.  Some of the best gnocchi I've had in a while in terms of texture.  The large chunks of sausage were meaty and chewy (in a good way).  It was full-strength in terms of flavour and I couldn't put my finger on it.  It tasted rather sharp, almost like blue cheese.  The lemon butter sauce helped keep things bright.

Over to the meats, we had many of them starting with the Whole Roast Butterflied Trout with meyer lemon & caper butter sauce.  This was very good where the trout was perfectly prepared being moist and flaky.  The simplicity of the sauce provided fat, saltiness and acidity.  It was not overpowering which meant that the fish could be the star.   Would eat this again.

For the next dish, we tried the Pork Cutlet Milanese with sweet & sour cabbage.  Reminiscent of schnitzel, this was beautifully browned and crisped up in butter.  There was a certain richness to the crunchy breading while the meat was on the stiffer side.  The classic squeeze of lemon helped cut the heaviness.  Further more, the cabbage was another item that brightened things up.  Loved the plump raisins hidden within.

We also went for the 6oz Holstein Dairy Cow Tagliata Steak with miner's lettuce, cabbage, balsamic and grana padano.  Now the quality of the steak itself was excellent as it was super tender and moist.  However, it turned out medium rather than the medium rare we requested.  With that being said, it was still good where the meat was properly seasoned and the side of greens with balsamic helped balance the meat.

Our last meat dish was the Veal Osso Bucco with saffron risotto and gremolata.  This was a very flavourful dish as the gremolata was pretty much at forefront.  However, at the same time, the saffron risotto was noticeable as well.  I would say the saffron was slightly obscured by the combination of meat juices and tangy brightness of the gremolata.  I found the aborio rice to be still al dente while the veal was mostly fall apart tender.  Yes, the small spoon of bone marrow was a real treat too.

We ended up sharing 3 desserts starting with the Chocolate & Hazelnut Tart with poached pear and vanilla cream.  Silky and rich, the ganache was mildly sweet with the aroma of hazelnuts and the slight bitterness from the chocolate.   I enjoyed the tart shell as it was firm and had a dense crunch (in a good way).  Pears on the side were tender and naturally sweet.  

Also got the Strawberry Crostata with zabaione semifreddo and meringue.  This was also pretty good with a thick and firm buttery crust.  I would've liked more fruit, but it was still impactful and offered up sweet and mildly tangy elements.  I would say the lemon curd did help add more fruitiness to the dessert.  Crispy meringue rosettes provided some crispiness while the sermifreddo was quite nice on its own.

My favourite dessert of the bunch was the Tiramisu.  Yes, it isn't anything new or inventive, but this one was done right.  The ladyfingers were properly soaked so that they were moist and completely flavoured with espresso.  There was just enough moisture around to keep things fluffy and creamy without being too wet.  Sweetness was on point as well as the textures.  Nice finish to a generally solid meal.  If we had to compare to the previous iteration of this restaurant, Carlino is a huge improvement and props to the chef for creating a unique Northern Italian menu.  I feel this restaurant is closer in alignment to the Shangri-La than Miantiao ever was.

The Good:
- Although we have many Italian restaurants in town, there is some uniqueness going on here
- Generally solid eats
- On point service

The Bad:
- Some proteins could've been prepared better
- On the pricier end, but costs are high these days and this is a prime location



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