A Bistro Story

What makes you go back to an eatery has to do with good food and enchanting ambience, and La Ro combines these elements with mastery. OHLALA’s editor went there to check what this brand-new venue has to offer.

What comes to your mind when you hear the word bistro? A charming spot with comforting and extraordinary food, right? A place that offers a lovely ambience and a menu that plays with your taste buds but at the same time gives a familiar feeling. Well, to be honest, La Ro is exactly that and a little more.

The new dining destination is located in Hamala Hills, and the first thing that caught my attention was the impeccable décor. At the entrance, wood panels and stage-like curtains welcome you, and it feels as if you have stepped inside a portal that takes you into a cosy French café, evoking a sense of European elegance. The walls are covered in beautiful contemporary wallpaper and French posters. The furniture mixes red velvet armchairs and modern grey and golden seating in geometric patterns. The space is divided into four areas. The first is where the red velvet armchairs are; you’ll also find bar stools where you can wait comfortably to be seated. Moving forward, marbled tables and booths give the space a casual flair, accompanied by a terraced area with outdoor furniture for the ultimate laid-back vibe. My favourite area, though, was the upstairs room. Square tables with red and white cloths illuminated by the natural light coming from the big window created the atmosphere I was looking for.

Our table was upstairs, and the little table lamps and ceramic decorations shaped like friendly chickens added extra charm to the whole space. Chef Hussain Abusaqer came to talk to us and explain the menu and restaurant concept. Trained in France, he told us everything is prepared from scratch: sauces (and there are many), ice cream and pasta. They also have a special oven to deliver the best rotisserie chicken on the island. I guess attention to detail makes a huge difference when offering a concept that doesn’t want to give off a snobbish flair but rather allows the complexity of techniques, dish choices and quality of products to speak for themselves.

The menu is the perfect size, offering delectable dishes with something for everyone and there is nothing pretentious about La Ro. It’s a well-resolved eatery that knows exactly what it is here for: to be a go-to, feel-good restaurant. We started with a selection of entrées. A traditional pick and my go-to when in France is the Soupe à l’Oignon, or onion soup. I absolutely love it; however, it is difficult to find places that prepare it well or at least the way I like it. At La Ro, as you can imagine, it was perfect: creamy with caramelised small pieces of onion full of flavour, topped with crunchy croutons and delicious Gruyere cheese – I am definitely going back for that (lucky me, I live in the same neighbourhood). The other starter that was a stunner was the Salade de Lentilles, a filling dish made with around 16 ingredients, such as quinoa, butternut squash, green apples, raisins, leeks, mint, parsley and so much more, all cut into small pieces along with all-dente lentils, absolutely fantastic.

The Petit Burger is composed of two sliders made with short rib and Gruyère cheese with a touch of caramelised onions. The chunk of fatty, tender meat made this dish simple yet flavoursome. The Salade de Canard is presented as a pleasant surprise. Under a mountain of rocket leaves, micro greens, grapefruit and almond flakes lies a duck confit glazed with Ras el Hanout, a spice mix found mainly in Morocco and that in Arabic means the head of the shop, which refers to the best spices the seller has to offer. The waiter served us by chopping the duck into pieces and mixing it with the green concoction, while the sweet and tangy dressing gave the right acidity, complementing this dish beautifully.

For Les Plats (main courses), we had two types of Angus beef: Steak Frites made with thin slices of Angus sirloin, lean cut with a rich, meaty flavour and a red centre accompanied by a to-die-for butter and herb sauce, and Steak au Poivre, made with Angus tenderloin dressed in peppercorn sauce accompanied by thin chips. The first was my dining companion’s favourite dish by far; she kept going back for more, and the fries that accompanied it were skinny and crispy – pure perfection! The tenderloin was extremely tender, with a mild meaty flavour that was elevated by the peppercorn sauce.

We also had the Confit de Canard, a staple in French cuisine made with duck leg and accompanied by the best version of potatoes that we had that day, Pommes Anna. A classic French way to prepare potatoes where they are thinly sliced and cooked in a large amount of butter. The texture plays a big role here, with melt-in-your-mouth bites and crispy parts – it was yummy. The Linguini Pistou was fresh pasta cooked to perfection with pesto and Gruyère cheese, with comforting and balanced flavours.

And, last but not least, we tried the restaurant’s star dish: Poulet Rôti, the rotisserie chicken that can be accompanied by house, spicy, maple or truffle jus. We had the first option, and we couldn’t get enough of it as it was cooked to perfection. The meat retained all the juices and was super tender. If you are a chicken fan, this is definitely the place for you.

A separate menu carries the mocktails and desserts. The drinks we had were Moulin Rouge, a berry concoction with ginger ale; French Kiss, made with red grapes and hibiscus; Seine Sunrise, a tropical pineapple, mango and coconut foam; and Before Sunset, a refreshing iced tea, green apple, peach and lemongrass mix. They were all unique and invigorating.

To satisfy our sweet tooth, we had the Mille-Feuille Minute that at La Ro has a very thin and flaky salted caramel pastry with two thick layers of pastry cream. It was not too sweet, and the dough’s crunchiness and the filling’s thick consistency gave it a lovely texture and delicate flavour. But our favourite dessert was the Gateau Laro, a soft, warm brioche with a crunchy, sugary crust teamed up with vanilla ice cream. It’s difficult to find words to describe such a comforting and perfect dessert; I can only say that even after so much food, we managed to finish it – it’s worth the trip! But you have to order with your main course as it takes around 25 minutes to prepare.

La Ro is not just a want-to-be French bistro; it is that casual yet elegant neighbourhood restaurant that you keep coming back to. I certainly will!

For more information or to make a reservation,
please call La Ro at 3883 8230.
@larobistro

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