By Rod Walters
La Sera is an unassuming Italian restaurant on the second floor above a shop on Chifune Dori in central Matsuyama. Unassuming as it may be, once you’ve had the lasagna at La Sera, it becomes the yardstick for every other lasagna you’ll eat ever after, and nothing I’ve had in Japan really comes close. As you climb the stairs to the second floor, you’ll see a hand-drawn chart explaining how lasagna is made for those who don’t really know what it is – a common issue in Japan where there’s a good deal of curiosity about foreign food, but considerable confusion about what it involves. A key element of a good lasagna is béchamel sauce, and it’s so frequently lacking as to be almost heartbreaking. Fortunately, the lasagna at La Sera has béchamel sauce, in exactly the right quantity.
The restaurant presents itself as a purveyor of ‘Southern European home cooking’. Not having been in any Southern European homes myself, I’m not sure what they eat exactly, but La Sera makes it seem like a very good thing. The menu at lunchtime comprises five items. But the top choices are lasagna, either large or small served with a delicious freshly baked bread roll and a tiny salad, or oven baked chicken and vegetables with balsamic vinegar, and the same wonderful roll. We have eaten lunches in all sorts of eateries across Matsuyama, but nothing matches the value and satisfaction of either of these lunches at La Sera.
The evening menu is more extensive, with fishy starters such as salmon carpaccio and stewed octopus, pizzas, spaghetti and other pasta dishes, and deserts including cheesecake and cassis sorbet. The wine list is not the strong point of La Sera, but they have some drinkable house wines. Their cocktails have a strong emphasis on Campari and cassis, as befits the southern European theme.
La Sera is not fine dining by any means, but nor does it pretend to be. It would certainly deserve a place in the French guide Les Routiers for truck drivers who like to eat well, and whose motto is “Good, inexpensive restaurants ... for everyone”.
La Sera has smoking and non-smoking sections, and is well patronized by families.
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I was born in Bristol, England, and I came to Japan in 1991 … which means I’ve lived half my life in this island nation on the other side of the world. The theme of my career in Japan has been communication. I started as an English teacher, and moved into translation as I learned Japanese. I worked at a well-known electronics manufacturer, facilitating their multinational communications before I became a freelance translator. As such, I translated a lot of tourism-related information. It was obvious to me that most of this isn’t sufficient to convey the excitement and wonder of Japan. In 2011, I established Knowledge Travel Partners, an inbound tourism consultancy. After living in several regions of Japan, I settled in Ehime where my wife is from. It’s on the southern island of Shikoku facing the beautiful Seto Inland Sea, Japan’s Mediterranean. The pace of life here is slow and peaceful, but we do like to throw a raucous festival now and again.