A Portsdown Road location in a black-and-white bungalow sounds très chic on paper, but nightclub honcho-turned restaurateur Michel Lu’s newest baby doesn’t quite work in real life. For one thing, bus 191 only runs out here in 40-minute intervals on weekends (20-minute intervals on weekdays), so you’ve either got to splash out for a cab or invite a friend with a car. For another, the food just isn’t that great. When I went two weeks after its opening, Cicada was not just minimalist – it was raw and bare. Wires protruded everywhere, and without mood lighting or anything else aside from a built-in bookcase, and tables and chairs, the place looked skeletal.
Marketed as a French-Californian restaurant in its promotional material, the menu is less French Laundry (i.e. Thomas Keller’s confit of fresh field rhubarb or chocolat pavé with pistachios), and more pizzas, pastas and salads. There was also the much-hyped Cicada Wagyu burger with Gorgonzola cheese, which I wasn’t quite in the mood for. Why I would want my pricey, marbled Wagyu steak minced for a dry burger patty is quite beyond common sense in my mind.
I ordered starters of shellfish bisque with slipper lobster and pan-seared blue fin tuna salad. The former was bland but satisfactory, with just enough meat to add substance to the silky thin broth. The tuna was ordinary seared slices topped with too many salad greens – the bowl was filled to the brim, and the overly generous sweet vinaigrette detracted from the clean taste of the fish. The tenderloin, however, accompanied by moist buttermilk mashed potatoes and sautéed broccolini (a long-stemmed broccoli) proved to be a winner. The thick slab retained its juiciness and crisp meaty texture in the mouth – it was beefy, but not in a barnyard way. The fusilli with portobello mushroom, chicken and champagne cream sauce was ambitious, but poorly seasoned.
As the portions had been heavy thus far, a sweet dessert was called for – and the caramelised apple crumble with honeyand- fig ice cream was just the right way to satisfy our cravings. And oh, the chilled profiteroles. Six spheres were lusciously filled with Frangelico cream and almond nougatine, topped with liberal lashings of melted dark chocolate and pieces of maddeningly delicious thin almond brittle. Did we love this dessert? Well, we loved it as much as we hated getting here.
Main courses $16-$35.
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