Saturday, 31 May 2014

Interview with Nicolas Fraile, Pisco Bar, Changkat Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur

Pisco Bar, Jalan Mesui, Changkat Bukit Bintang
Nicolas Fraile

Nicolas Fraile, co-owner of Pisco Bar, shares with The Yum List how he personally got into the industry and some funny behind-the-scenes stories.

What do you do and how did you get into the industry? 
Getting into Food and Beverage was quite random. Indeed, my academic and professional background are quite distant from the industry. I am an industrial engineer converted into a business consultant for a big corporation back in Spain. I was a bit tired of that and decided to travel around the world on a sabbatical year until I ended up in the remote Irian Jaya (Papua, Indonesia) for a trek in the jungle. My endless summer finished there, when I met my then future wife on a plane and she happens to be Malaysian. 

Yvonne was, at the time, the co-owner of an Italian restaurant but we decided to open Pisco Bar as we had the conviction that Peruvian cuisine - being a unique blend of indigenous and colonial cookery traditions such as Spanish, Japanese, Chinese and Italian – could perfectly suit the taste buds of Malaysians and expats. 

Also, there was the opportunity of being a pioneer for introducing this “new” cuisine in Malaysia while playing with my Spanish heritage and presenting the dishes in a tapas style together with some of my favourite Spanish ones. But on top of that we wanted to concentrate on the bar side, and create an eclectic urban chic atmosphere that attracts yuppie expats, trendy locals and international travellers for socializing, music performances, drinking (the range of cocktails features the traditional Pisco Sour) and dancing. 

What's the best/ worst part of your job? 
The best part is definitely, the social aspect of the bar. Since we’ve opened Pisco Bar, we’ve met so many new people and each of them with a different background, story and personality, so spending our afternoons and evening with them makes our life more fun. 

On the other side, I have converted myself into a event organizer (which requires me to explore what’s going on in KL in terms of live music and nightlife and source for the best DJs, bands and entertainment acts in town) and I am really enjoying it since music has always been one of my passions and the cause of failing so many exams back in Uni.

The worst part are the working hours of course, and not being able to take as many holidays as I used to.

What's your personal favorite meal/ drink at Pisco Bar? 
We have both Spanish and Peruvian dishes, so to be fair I would need to choose one of each: As per Peruvian dishes, I would choose the Tuna Cebiche, fresh tuna, quick marinated in lime juice, onions, and chili peppers. Totally addictive and I can’t stop drinking the tiger's milk, the liquid that comes from the marination process.

As for Spanish specialities, I would recommend the Pork Belly with Ibérico Ham and Prawns, a well-loved traditional tender and juicy dish served with cauliflower puree and tomato marmalade

Tell us a story about one of the cocktails you prepare at Pisco Bar.
Pisco Sour is probably our signature cocktail but there are more cocktails based on Pisco. My favourite is the Chilcano de Pisco. A refreshing chilcano— made with pisco, ginger ale, a few drops of lime juice and a dash of bitters— is one of Peru’s favorite cocktails and a source of national pride. 

Its origins, however, can probably be traced back to distant lands. In the late nineteenth century, there was a large wave of Italian immigration to Peru. These immigrants brought, along with their old culinary habits, their cocktail recipes to Peru, and one of their favorites was the “buon giorno,” made with grappa, ginger ale and a twist of lime. Upon arriving to Peru, these immigrants substituted their old grape brandy, grappa, for the local grape brandy, pisco, thus creating the cocktail we know today. The buon giorno was ascribed various restorative properties by the immigrants. It is said to be a great hangover cure, much as Peruvians ascribed restorative properties to a fish soup they called the chilcano. That explains how the buon giorno lost its name and gained the strange name chilcano de pisco. 

What's one of the funniest things you've seen behind the scenes? 
Someone sleeping in the ice box by the kitchen. I don’t want to give more details so as to avoid embarrassing that person. But he first walked in as a customer and has since become a very good friend. 

The perfect day off would be... 
... waking up early in the morning!!! Surprised? But yes, early, so I can go for a walk or a trek or better a weekend in a remote island or climbing a volcano in Indonesia. Anywhere, but away from the big city and the shopping malls.  

What's something you'd like guests to know about the cuisine/ drinks prepared at Pisco Bar? 
By visiting Pisco Bar you will be able to taste some of the most popular dishes from the World's Leading Culinary Destination: Peru. Peru is the winner of the World Travel Awards 2013 (considered the Oscars of the Travel and Tourism Sectors) 

How do you select your ingredients and why? 
We select our suppliers very carefully based on quality and service level. As for special ingredients, we need to source for suppliers who can source for Spanish products directly from Spain and Peruvian ones from Japan and Spain. 

What can guests look forward to in the upcoming months? 
We are introducing a significant variety of Spanish tapas. Promising a distinctively novel culinary experience, diners can now look forward to a contemporary, yet traditional, tapas menu curated by our new Chef, Basilio Martin. 
Born in Mallorca (Spain), Basilio has just recently joined us and already he's been whipping up a storm in Pisco's kitchen, introducing some new dishes that exhibit the techniques and finesse of a culinary art honed at several award-winning establishments and that are bound to widen your perspective of Spanish food.

Friday, 30 May 2014

Makan Kitchen, DoubleTree by Hilton, Kuala Lumpur

The Man With Six Signatures
Bold New Reinventions at Makan Kitchen, DoubleTree by Hilton

Text by Craig J Selby
Images courtesy of Makan Kitchen

Sitting with the Executive Chef in one of my favourite, relaxed buffet spaces in town, it is clearly evident the mans’ passion for food. Whether discussing his own bold creations, or lesser-known but quirky street-food places in Kuala Lumpur, the Chef is a great conversationalist, and really knows his stuff.

It was great to be invited back to Makan Kitchen to try their latest creations, and of course, re-experience their delightful buffet offerings. Set high in DoubleTree by Hilton, overlooking busy Jalan Ampang and Jalan Tun Razak, it’s a lovely eclectic spot to enjoy dinner with friends, or perhaps a productive business meeting with great food. For me, it’s the new friends and the conversation, which comes in only second to the splendid food on offer.

Makan Kitchen's Awesome Ambience

Makan Kitchen’s Chef has created six bold new reinventions, celebrating the traditions of all cultures Malaysian. Familiarity with a twist, it wasn’t hard to recognize most of the new items, but a couple needed explaining. You will see them in hawker centres, in neighbourhood restaurants, and even at night markets, but I assure you that you will never have experienced them at this level of intricacy, flavour, and presentation.

Otak-otak is a popular dish available just about anywhere. In fact, I can’t recall going to a food court or night market and not seeing it on the open grill, awaiting eager attention by hungry passers-by. But, forget the mundane fish paste that makes up the street version; at Makan Kitchen quality is the rule. Served inside bamboo rods (rather than bamboo leaves), Makan Kitchen’s otak-otak uses fresh mackerel, combined with a delicious assortment of spices, and succulent Alaskan king crab meat, all steam-baked. Usually I glance over otak-otak, but the wafting aromas (and my intense curiousity) got the better of me. This was one delicious dish.

Otak-otak with Alaskan King Crab meat

Another twist was the tandoori prawns – jumbo tiger prawns cooked in the tandoori oven, after being marinated in a special mix of toasted spices, mustard oil, and homemade yoghurt. The simple flavours of tandoori, lifted by the marination, create an exciting taste combination for any palate. My dinner companion went back for seconds, and thirds, as he enjoyed the fleshy prawns.

Freshly baked tandoori prawns
Taking the delicious prawns out of the oven

I on the other hand made a bee-line for the Long Rib Beef Rendang. Sitting at the table, with Chef asking how it tasted, words failed me. Now, a few days later, the words are in my head. Simply sumptuous! Extremely tender, clearly slow cooked for maximum attention, beef-that-slides-off-the-bone; need I say more? A delightful light rending flavour and texture infused into the beef, and served with an almost western-fusion plating. Yes, I only needed to eat this dish tonight to be a very happy man.

Long Rib Beef Rendang - sublime!
In preparation - Long Rib Beef Rendang 

Now, a quick teaser for everyone; are you familiar with “Pansoh Manok”? Nor was I, but thanks to my host for the speedy introduction. A popular Sarawakian dish, not often found on the mainland, except in the homes of friends, Pansoh Manok is a delightful chicken dish, cooked, and served in, giant bamboo. Utterly delicious, and a treat for the taste buds. Tender chicken pieces, spices, and a slurpy gravy make this dish instantly appealing. But delve further, and enjoy the theatrics of how it is served too.

Pansoh Manok anyone?
Just got to love how they serve this dish!

Next in the lineup are Peking Duck Rolls. The traditional Chinese dish of serving roasted duck skin, spring onion, cucumber juliennes, and a drizzling of sweet sauce, is made even more perfect with the tableside slicing and service, direct from the “duck trolley”. Bringing back memoirs of living in Nanjing where this was the norm, it was a great sensation to get the Peking Duck carved in front of my eyes, and then to devour every succulent bite.

Peking Duck
Fresh from the oven - yuuuuuuum!

The final signature creation was the Braised Spicy Venison Ribs. A creation straight from the kitchen, with hidden inspiration from Chef’s travels, the venison is braised until tender, slow cooked for eight hours in a selection of aromatic herbs. Not for the faint of heart, this dish packs a rich flavour punch, but for venison lovers, it’s a great twist on the flavour.

Braised Spicy Venison Ribs

Reasons to visit: These six signature reinventions are well worth a visit. And remember these six are in addition to their tremendous buffet spread covering Chinese, Indian, and Malay cuisine – with even a touch of western in there too. Personally, great flavours, great environment, and a place I love coming back to.

The 'Taste of Malaysia' experience is priced at RM108++ per person for dinner, daily.
Lunch at Makan Kitchen is offered Monday to Friday at RM68++ per person.
Malaysian High Tea, with over 60 favourites is available Saturday lunch for RM62++ per person or Sunday for RM68++ per person.

Makan Kitchen
Doubletree by Hilton Kuala Lumpur
The Intermark
348 Jalan Tun Razak
50400 Kuala Lumpur
+6 03 2172 7272

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Get High on Sugar, THIRTY8, Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Get High on Sugar, THIRTY8, Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur,
Macarons with a View - Get High on Sugar, THIRTY8, Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur

On Top of the World at the Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur

Words by Han Sen Hau
Photos by The Yum List (Monica Tindall)

Afternoon tea parties might not share the Mad Hatter’s penchant for whimsy but they’ve definitely inherited Disney’s adaptation’s riot of colours, be it through coquettish pastries or florid accoutrements. Though THIRTY8 evinces a flourish of colours in its vibrant assortment of saccharine treats, much of the restaurant is not dominated by a prismatic flamboyance espoused by these sugary offerings, opting instead for a more refined and streamlined appearance. 

Get High on Sugar, THIRTY8, Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur,
Get High on Sugar, THIRTY8, Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur,
Lemon Slice
The walk from the hotel’s entrance to THIRTY8 itself feels ceremonious, passing an imposing staircase in a sea of reflective marble, zooming up to the thirty-ninth floor in an elevator that opens up to an unobstructed view of the Petronas Twin Towers, before descending glass stairs to the dining area engulfed in natural sunlight thanks to an uninterrupted sequence of two-tiered windows wrapping the restaurant. The “Grand” Hyatt, is not an overstatement, and its claim to grandiose is backed by a “because we can” design aesthetic that embraces prodigious ornamental motifs whilst retaining a clean, swanky simplicity, evident in the incorporation of unembellished colossal columns and capacious spaces.

Get High on Sugar, THIRTY8, Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur
Get High on Sugar, THIRTY8
Get High on Sugar, THIRTY8, Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur,
Lemon Meringue - with KL Tower in the background
I’m here today to experience THIRTY8’s High On Sugar afternoon tea promotion (RM88++ per person) and as I settle at my seat, I become cognizant of the sense of infinite space generated by the large windows. There are no Imperial-era silk draperies filtering warm sunlight, no Savonnerie carpets blanketing the floor, no Regency crystal chandeliers gleaming from the ceiling and thank goodness for the lack of such sumptuous garnishments, for they are all compensated by the simple use of windows which, I imagine, allows patrons to luxuriate in the incandescence of a city at dusk as they clink glasses of champagne with their loved ones. The restaurant ostensibly doubles as an observation deck, and I highly recommend the place simply for the sweeping views it affords its patrons.

Get High on Sugar, THIRTY8, Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur,
Banana Nut Muffin
The variety of desserts displayed salaciously on sideboards is impressive, and I begin by indulging myself with a thick and luscious slice of the Flourless Chocolate Cake, which is an intensely satisfying experience. The Lemon Meringue is a little too sweet for my liking, though the texture is heavenly and evokes memories of the numerous pies I’ve had over Thanksgiving while a student in the US. Anything powerful enough to conjure such mouth-watering imagery from my past gets a thumbs-up from me.

Get High on Sugar, THIRTY8, Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur,
Flourless Chocolate Cake
The macarons are a visual delight, and the strawberry jam that comes with the scones tickles the tongue with a salubrious zest. The Opera slice also deserves special mention for its well-balanced flavour (I’m getting notes of hazelnut at each bite) and meticulous presentation. The intricate layers make it seem heavy, but the slice is marvellously airy and pampers the palate with a taste that never cloys. The Cheesecake trumps the rest of the delightful morsels with a texture that betrays its consistency: it’s incredibly dense, and yet it evanesces precipitately, teasing and tempting the hedonist in me to savour another voluptuous slice…

Get High on Sugar, THIRTY8, Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur,
Opera Cake
Get High on Sugar, THIRTY8, Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur,
Scones with Jam and Cream
But I need to slow down a little… I’m simply a teacake away from ejecting off my seat. Although the flavoured coffees seem inviting, I dread at what the additional buzz would do to me so I opt for the caffeine-free JING Hibiscus tea instead. The herbal infusion and the faint fragrance of hibiscus is exactly what I need, having gorged on so much cream and sugar. Incidentally, I enjoy the tea as it is, allowing its lightweight bouquet to tranquilise me, a soothing interlude before the final treacly treat.

Get High on Sugar, THIRTY8, Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur,
Cheesecake and Jing Tea
Get High on Sugar, THIRTY8, Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur,
Endless Array of Desserts
Get High on Sugar, THIRTY8, Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur,
And there's more...
My last confection of the day ends with a fruity concoction, Strawberry Soup doused in liquid nitrogen. The dessert comes in four other options: Melted Chocolate Cake topped with Gold Leaf, Raspberry Lemonade with Mint Leaf, Mango Compote with Chocolate Cigar, and Iced Coffee with Chantilly Cream and Popping Candy. The dessert is served in a wine glass and simply watching my waiter decanting liquid nitrogen to enshroud the syrupy mixture with a wispy vapour is entertainment enough. I feel like an easily impressed child who’s just been given a toy kaleidoscope at a circus: everything’s so swirly and colourful.
Get High on Sugar, THIRTY8, Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur,
Liquid Nitrogen Strawberry Soup
A visit to the Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur's signature restaurant, THIRTY8, is an opportunity not to be missed with its panoramic vistas and scrumptious delicacies. As I exit this vitrified chamber, I find myself incredibly chirpy, uncertain if the cause of my sudden exuberance is attributed to the wonderful experience I’ve had, or the excess of sugar flowing in my veins. Notwithstanding, come up to the thirty-eighth floor of the Grand Hyatt sometime soon, and feast like the gods of antiquity in an empyrean tower nestled in the heart of KLCC.

Get High on Sugar, THIRTY8, Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur,
Roast Beef Sandwich - a little something savoury to break up the sweets
THIRTY8’s High On Sugar afternoon tea promotion is priced at RM88++ per person.

Reasons to visit: Spectacular views of the city that’s unrivalled by many; brilliant execution of space and a triumph in interior design; never out of options with the choice of desserts.

Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur 
12 Jalan Pinang
50450 Kuala Lumpur
+603 2182 1234

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Heli Lounge Bar, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Heli Lounge Bar, Kuala Lumpur,
Where Do These Steps Lead?

rooftop bars, kuala lumpur, heli pad
Heli Lounge Bar

Heli Lounge Bar

Words by Araceli Barrera Arismendi
Photos by The Yum List (Monica Tindall)

Immersed in an expatriate bubble in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where people from all over the world mix and mingle and participate in small and quick conversations about where to dine, drink, or take visitors, the word on the street echoes boisterously, Heli Lounge Bar, the place to be for a mind blowing treat!  

After a few visits to this masterpiece of a venue with friends and family, the Heli Lounge Bar brings excitement and a new dimension of entertainment to the capital city of Kuala Lumpur. Convinced that this magical rooftop provides one of the best 360-degree views of the city, The Yum List team and I quickly booked a review in order for us to properly share the entire Heli Lounge Bar experience from the breathtaking sights, to the delicious cocktails, and tasty main selections, with fellow foodie fanatics.  

We set out to the Menara KH building on Jalan Sultan Ismail at exactly 6:30pm, just in time, we hoped, for an incredible sunset. We crossed our fingers and our legs and, chanted positive words that the weather would be in our favor, but unfortunately, dark clouds and thundering sounds filled the gray skies.

Heli Lounge Bar, Kuala Lumpur,
View of Twin Towers from Heli Lounge Bar
The place is great with or without the sun though, so we had not even an inkling of disappointment, as we continued our journey through the doorway and on the elevator up to the 34th floor. Black and white checkered tiles, various aircraft embellishments and dim lights describe the mystery and uniqueness of the aviation themed bar. Creativity and eccentricity sparkle in every crevice with the reuse of distinctive materials used as seating areas, cocktail tables and wall decorations.  

Heli Lounge Bar, Kuala Lumpur,
Table for Two
Heli Lounge Bar, Kuala Lumpur,
Heli Lounge Bar
Heli Lounge Bar, Kuala Lumpur,
Where Does This Lead?
Feeling funky and fresh, we strutted our way up to the helipad where all the hype, laughter, chatter and positive energy dance around the buildings and concrete structures. Climbing two steep flights of stairs, we finally landed by foot on the gigantic and circular helipad.  

Heli Lounge Bar, Kuala Lumpur,
Twin Towers View from Heli Lounge Bar
Right before our eyes, the beauty and gracious concrete jungle, including the KL Tower and iconic Petronas Twin Towers, stood out against the early evening sky.  A typical landing area for helicopters became a platform for people to socialize, all the while sipping their favorite beverage and admiring the spectacular 360-degree landscape. 

Heli Lounge Bar, Kuala Lumpur,
KL Tower View
Casual and simple sitting areas with different foldable chairs and portable tables supply the rooftop helipad area with a friendly and laid back vibe.  Monica (The Yum List) flashed hysterically from all angles capturing the priceless scene, and finally we sat down with the towers behind us to begin sampling some specialty cocktails.

Specialty ‘Gasoline’ Cocktails  (RM25 per glass)

Dine in the air

Ingredients: Rum, Angostura Bitters, and Celery

Comment:  Refreshing and dreamy, Dine in the Air pleasantly surprised our taste buds with crisp chunks of celery. Not overwhelmed with syrup, this drink made an ever-lasting impression.

Heli Lounge Bar, Kuala Lumpur,
Dine in the Air
Star Kiss

Ingredients: Vodka, Vanilla Syrup and Pineapple

Comment: Served in a cold, crisp martini glass, this cocktail looks sweet and lady like. The mix of the vodka and pineapple blended so well together making this cocktail a delight.  

Heli Lounge Bar, Kuala Lumpur,
Star Kiss

Ingredients: Vodka, Apply Syrup, and Green Tea

Comment: My first beverage that contained green tea and vodka, this specialty drink diffused my palate and exhibited ingredients for a perfect summer day.

Heli Lounge Bar, Kuala Lumpur,

Ingredients: Vodka, Coconut Rum, Triple Sec, Pineapple and Lemon Juice

Comment: BLUE in appearance, the coconut rum and the vodka partner up and the splash of pineapple and lemon juice spice this invigorating drink. If you’re looking for FUN and a Thirst Quencher, try this concoction.  

Heli Lounge Bar, Kuala Lumpur,
Fizzy 747

Ingredients: Vodka, Mint, Ginger Ale and Lime Wedges

Comment:  Heli Lounge mixologists take pride in making the authentic Cuban drink. Light, tangy and trendy, the mojito is made well with just the right ingredients and serving of mint.

Heli Lounge Bar, Kuala Lumpur,
Fizzy 547

Thurz - On every Thursday complimentary drinks for the fairer gender!

White Skirt and Red Baron – sweet concoctions that can disappear all too quickly.

Heli Lounge Bar, Kuala Lumpur,
Ladies' Night Drinks - Red Baron and White Skirt
The Heli Cuisine

It’s was our first time to try out the Heli Lounge cuisine and, thinking we were going to have the typical greasy meals that you usually order at a bar, to our revelation, the food executed and delivered pure deliciousness. The mastermind behind the menu’s creations, Ms. Bavani, demonstrated humbleness and passion for cooking.  She joined the Heli Lounge team when it first opened a couple of years ago previously experimenting in her very own kitchen with fine ingredients. You can order anything from Pastas, Hamburgers and Hotdogs, Steaks, Fish and Desserts. She proudly expresses that NONE of the food items contain MSG (monosodium glutamate).  We began chowing down guilt free!


Heli Wings - RM19.90

Comment:  Buffalo wings served with celery, the salty and spicy meat goes well with a nice, cold beer.

Heli Lounge Bar, Kuala Lumpur,
Heli Wings
Cheesy Jalapeno Wontons - RM9.90

Comment: OH, these screamed EXCELLENCE! Sweet, salty, cheesy and creamy inside a fried wonton wrapper, simply delightful!  

Heli Lounge Bar, Kuala Lumpur,
Cheesy Jalapeno Wontons 

Mushroom Chicken - RM30.90

Ingredients: Grilled chicken topped with sautéed mushrooms

Wine Pairing: House Red Wine - Shiraz 2012- Hardy Mill Cellars

Comment: The house red wine matched with the grilled chicken describes the perfect partner. The fruity and full-bodied wine with the sautéed mushrooms and grilled chicken plays with your senses and delivers a sensible and satisfied feeling.

Heli Lounge Bar, Kuala Lumpur,
Mushroom Chicken

Grilled Salmon - RM34.90

Ingredients: Grilled Salmon fillet served with fries and veggies

Wine Pairing: House White Wine- Chardonnay 2012- Mill Cellars

Comment: Baked in the oven with its natural oils, the fish tastes flavorful, buttery and peppery.  Along with the house white wine, this meal fulfills your savory buds and supports a healthy eating lifestyle.  

Heli Lounge Bar, Kuala Lumpur,
Grilled Salmon
Heli Lounge Bar, Kuala Lumpur,
House Pouring Wine

Triple Chocolate Ice Cream Cake (Slice)

Comment: A chocolate lovers dream! This classic flavor wins all ice-cream hearts with its creaminess, sweetness and deliciousness.  

Heli Lounge Bar, Kuala Lumpur,
Triple Chocolate Ice Cream Cake
The Heli Lounge perfectly captures the views and stimulates the senses with their refreshing potions and mouthwatering bites. We weren’t able to seize the sunset views due to the weather, but from previous visits, their sunsets and dazzling night twinkles will absolutely blow your mind!

Reasons to visit: 360 degree views of Kuala Lumpur; magical sunsets, specialty cocktails (favourites - Dine in the Air & Star Kiss); simple yet meals.

Heli Lounge Bar
34th Floor Menara KH
Jalan Sultan Ismail
Kuala Lumpur
+6 03 2110 5034

Thurz  - Thursday - free drinks for the ladies
DJ  - spins house and funky beats Wednesdays- Saturdays
Live Music on the Helipad Saturday evenings!

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Vineria.IT, Bangsar Shopping Centre, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Vineria It, Bangsar Shopping Centre
Vineria. IT, Bangsar Shopping Centre

Vineria.IT, Italian Hospitality

Words by Han Sen Hau
Photos by The Yum List (Monica Tindall)

My obsession with the Golden Girls is no secret to my colleagues. That timeless classic in television history featuring four women in their golden years… There’s Dorothy, the brains of the quartet, Rose, the naïve Minnesotan farm girl, Blanche, the nymphomaniac, and Sophia, Dorothy’s “little Sicilian monkey” of a mother, whose culinary conjurations are so delicious, the others eat with total euphoric abandon. The renown of Italian cooking had been so established then, the writers of the show agreed that a big part of Sophia had to revolve around Italian food. But what is it about Italian food that makes it so appealing and endearing to an international audience? 

I hope to find some answers at Vineria.IT in Bangsar Shopping Centre, that snazzy looking Italian restaurant bedecked with art deco portraits (I see de Lempicka’s “Young Lady with Gloves” hanging on its walls… bonus points!), and whose edgy contemporary setting is contrasted with the easy-going Caribbean music wafting in the air, blending beautifully with the whiff of hearty Italian fares exiting the kitchen. The only thing in here thicker than the tropical air is the Italian accent of my convivial host, Chef Max, whose eagerness to regale his guests with delectable stories from il bel paese reminded me of Sophia, who always began her anecdotes with “Picture it! Sicily! 1923!”

It is Chef Max’s unfeigned hospitality that I find absolutely entrancing, so much so that it didn’t feel as if I am simply another customer at a restaurant, but a guest at a dinner party where I’m fortunate enough to savour traditional recipes that have been passed down for generations and subsequently improved by my host’s ingenuity with ingredients. Chef Max provides a sense of comfort and an enthusiasm for his dishes (it’s as if each and every one of them has a story attached to it!) absent in many other establishments, and it is precisely this zeal for great food and his warm, personal reception that defines Italian culinary culture for me. 

I begin with the Breakfast Set 3 (RM29), which seems pretty basic with scrambled eggs tossed with French beans, fresh tomatoes and spring onions, but it's the duck sausage that takes me by surprise. Chef Max gloats a little at my inability to trace the meat’s flavour, for it lacks the distinctive aroma I usually find in duck meat. The sausage is far more fragrant and tender than what I’d normally expect from waterfowl. On top of that, chef reveals it is prepared with foie gras, which ostensibly improves the profile of the sausage. The meal also comes accompanied with two slices of toast served with ham and Fontina. 

Vineria It, Bangsar Shopping Centre
Breafast Set 3
What Italian feast would be complete without pizza emerging from the fiery chamber of a wood-fired oven? I have the incredibly decadent and visually attractive Schiacciata Allo Stracchino (RM39), which features goat salami that comes with a most amazing tang, almost citrusy even, rocket, mushrooms, and Stracchino, a voluptuous cheese that derives its name from “tired” cows herded up and down the Alps. Well the extra cardio by our bovine friends definitely paid off as the cheese is absolutely divine, oozing and spreading lusciously on the tongue. 

Vineria It, Bangsar Shopping Centre
Schiacciata Allo Stracchino
Having coated my tongue with so much cheese, the Insalata Portofino (RM26) is a nice intermission with its array of sea catch prawns, smoked ocean trout, asparagus spears, julienned carrots, and assorted lettuce leaves, all dressed in a light vinaigrette. The salad here is twice the size of a regular portion due to the review, which is good news for me as I find the smoked trout lovely. The prawns are a little overseasoned for my liking, despite being a wonderful complement to the salad, but it’s fresh and has a nice firmness at each bite.

The next item is a new entry in the comprehensive menu: the Spaghetti Rustic (RM29). It is by far, I daresay, one of the best spaghettis I’ve ever had. The meal begins with its arrival, marked by its conspicuous and stomach-growl-inducing smell, followed by the colourful assemblage of smoked scamorza chunks, French beans, and dried red chillies tossed in spaghetti prepared perfectly al dente. The combination is incredibly simple, yet effective, and the addition of dried chillies gives the dish a localised piquancy, which I greatly welcome. This is definitely a dish I’ll be returning to.

Vineria It, Bangsar Shopping Centre
Spaghetti Rustic
Vineria.IT also stocks a pretty extensive wine list for an independent restaurant, and I decide to explore two different wines from disparate regions just for variety. The first is a 2012 Konrad Dry Riesling (RM36 per glass) that presents itself with a lovely bouquet. The palate is supple and smooth, and is a little sweeter than expected, tickling the olfactory with the faint fragrance of apple blossoms. The Riesling appeals to me with the elegance of a prima ballerina, setting itself apart from the more vivacious bailaora, a 2006 Azienda Vitivinicola La Collina dei Re Chardonnay (RM36 per glass). The chardonnay is bolder, fruitier, and has a more pervasive bouquet than the Riesling. It’s also a little creamier, velvety, and slides gloriously down the throat, a great option with heavier fares.

Vineria It, Bangsar Shopping Centre
Wines by the Glass
In spite of our foreign escapades, my family is surprisingly timid when it comes to food we can’t pronounce, though I suppose that tradition ends with me having the Costolette Di Vitello Al Formaggio Caprino E Crema Di Melanzane (RM72). The dish comprises of four grilled lamb rib chops marinated in thyme and vinegar, topped with aubergines, goat cheese, and comes with a potato Parmigiano cake that positively melts in the mouth. The pairing of the chops with the goat cheese is titillatingly gratifying, and none of my teeth cracked from chewing sinewy tendons as the meat is completely free of them. Of course, as with great chops, the best part comes at the end when I French kiss the ribs… Molto bene!

Vineria It, Bangsar Shopping Centre
Costolette Di Vitello Al Formaggio Caprino E Crema Di Melanzane
Dessert arrives daintily in the form of a Tartelette Mascarpone (RM26) crowned with Frutti Di Bosco and served with Baci Di Dama, or “Lady’s kisses” (miniature hazelnut cookies with a dollop of dark chocolate sandwiched between them). The tart is the perfect finishing touch to my meal, and the single mint leaf resting atop the medley of fresh berries brings out the flavour from the rest of the ingredients. I imagine the Baci Di Dama would go great with coffee, but is equally pleasant on its own.

Vineria It, Bangsar Shopping Centre
Tartelette Mascarpone
Vineria It, Bangsar Shopping Centre
Baci di Dama
After dessert, Chef Max presents a rather tame, yet incredibly fragrant drink for me to sample: Sage, Lemon and Honey Tea (RM16). The tea is redolent of an English garden, mainly because of the addition of the sage which perfumes the tea marvellously, and doesn’t irritate the esophagus with a lingering dry aftertaste.

I conclude with two herbal bitters, the Amaro Montenegro (RM26) and Negroni (RM32). A little of the Amaro Montenegro goes a long way, and its bitter-sweet profile is a satisfying juxtaposition that dances on the tongue. The Negroni, available during Happy Hour (Monday to Friday; 5:00PM – 7:30PM; one caraffe of alcohol at the price of one glass), has an incredibly strong aftertaste that bombards the palate. I have to admit that I’m a neophyte when it comes to standard Italian intoxicants, glistening, displayed along shelves above counters in Italian taverns since the nineteenth century, so I wasn’t expecting the Negroni until I was at least thirty when my palate (I hope) is more developed. This isn’t a strong stuff; it’s the strong stuff. As I work through all the gin, vermouth and Campari, I find myself enjoying the drink at each subsequent sip, and have to stop myself from ordering another.

Vineria It, Bangsar Shopping Centre
Amaro Montenegro
Vineria It, Bangsar Shopping Centre
Vineria.IT is a dangerous place to be, especially on an empty stomach since everything seems so tantalisingly delicious. Well, once you get past the elaborate Italian names of the dishes that is; incidentally, don’t let that discourage your sense of adventure in exploring something different off the menu. The great thing about the place is that the recipes are a little unfamiliar, which I find enticing as I never really know what pleasures arrive on the plate. If ever you’re in the mood for Italian when driving around Bangsar, Vineria.IT is the place to be.

Reasons to visit: Schiacciata Allo Stracchino; Spaghetti Rustic (I cannot stress enough how good this is); the Sage, Lemon and Honey Tea; the option to have your pizzas and pastas in classic or whole-wheat; the inventiveness that go into the creation of the dishes (small innovations with choice of ingredients that improves the experience).

G133 Bangsar Shopping Centre, 
289 Jalan Maarof, Bukit Bandaraya
59100 Kuala Lumpur
+603 2287 7889
Monday to Wednesday: 9:00AM – 1:00AM; Thursday to Sunday: 9:00AM – 3:00AM
Happy Hours: 5:00PM – 7:30PM