Mission: To respond thoughtfully and responsibly to my experiences of drinking and dining at restaurants with regard to the quality, service, preparation, presentation and overall experience received thereat. The standpoint is one who respects the crafts of the chef and sommelier and who seeks to understand their choices in the kitchen and cellar and grow in knowledge. In this, I will seek to be fair, reasoned, direct and constructive and aim to keep my ego in check on our mutual journeys through the worlds of food and wine.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015


Window of the Neroteca

September 23rd 2015

Following on from two events in August at the Bottega and the Kampachi, the IWFS decided to go Italian for its September bash and try out the cuisine in An Evening of "La Dolce Vita!" at the Neroteca. 

Neroteca has been a popular destination for lovers of Italian cuisine in Kuala Lumpur for a number of years. I have memories of pretty good food at an outlet in the Jalan Ceylon area, which presently looks to be in the process of renovation. They were also legend at the Nero Vivo in the Somerset Building around the corner with their prosciutto and salami platters. Seems Neroteca also operates the Bottega where IWFS had their lunch affair in the August, whilst our IWFS dinner would take place at their recently opened outlet in Plaza Damansara. Chef Riccardo has clearly built quite an empire around the city. 

Neroteca interior
The Neroteca blurb I got to share with the members (I am IWFS Secretary at this time) said the Restaurant prides itself on the degree of authenticity it achieves when compared to a trattoria and enoteca in the home land. It seeks to transport diners to a rustic destination in the Tuscan countryside where the food is superb and the wines are delicious. The "vibrant restaurant has a unique concept where very inch of wall space is taken up with shelves of Italian kitchen staples like olive oils, pastas, and herbs (with) a deli case bursting with Italian meats and cheeses, and a sweet little bar fronting an authentically macho espresso machine." 

Lots of dark wood ambience
The blurb continued "With warm timber flooring, smoked sausages hanging from ceiling hooks and an entire wall filled with bottles of tomato sauce, olives, artichokes and tartufo, Neroteca is the closest thing to an enoteca this side of Florence.  It’s easy to feel a sense of dislocation on entering the place!"

Actually, it was quite a good piece of marketing copy, evoking all the senses of taste and ambience and excellent "vibrant" service and the quality of food and wine. In the end, we got a turnout of 49 and all clearly keen to get transported to this utopian Italian trattoria. As is was, the Indonesian haze brought us all back to reality, though it wasn't too bad on our evening thanks to a good downpour earlier in the day.   

We pretty much had taken over the place, though there were a few diners braving the remains of the haze outside (to which contributions were apparently being made by some of the smoker members). Inside proved a bit cramped with all of us supping the fizz in the narrow bar area at the Neroteca entrance, though no-one seemed too uncomfortable for comment. Made for a good convivial start to the evening. The staff behind the bar were being very generous with the Prosecco which was quaffing well - standard sweetly crisp and uncomplicated bubbles with just enough sparkle to generate interest and taste to keep asking for more. Went very nicely with the assorted mushroom or tomato Bruschetta that was making the rounds. The mushroom seemed to disappear quite quickly - either that or they had overloaded with tomato. Both were quite tasty, with the tomato juice softening the stale-ish bread very nicely.

Ajeet, Rajan and Lenglui
Bit slow in getting to the seat after the call to dinner due to the Gaffer engaging me in conversation, so a bit rude barging into the seat during President David's welcome address.  Happily we were not the last to get seated - some others taking a final puff made a later entrance to the table. May said a few things about the whites and we were off.

First out was the Carpaccio of Trout with Sicilian dressing and paired with the Planeta, also from Sicily. Naturally a few Godfather lines made the rounds of the tables, though none sufficiently seared the memory to get recorded here. Everyone was happy eating the fishes rather than entertaining any thoughts of sleeping with them. The Planeta was lively, full of fruit and cheer, though perhaps a shade light in texture to pair sufficiently well with the trout. A hint of oiliness helped, but in truth the trout needed very little in the way of accompaniment - it was delightful on its own and pretty much melted into fish vapour on contact with the mouth. There seemed to be a lot of it on the plate, which was deceptive as it had been sliced razor thin. Very good job by the chef here. 

Carpaccio of Trout
Next out was the Seafood Brodetto, a combo of mixed shellfish and fish bits in a light seasoned broth. Ours had wonderfully fresh prawn, clam, mussels and sotong along with some chives for garnish. The broth also had hints of tomato which is apparently a constant among the various recipes that exist for the dish. It was nicely underseasoned, taking much of its body from the shellfish, and there must have been a generous splash of white wine in it as well since it went down with a firm kick. Booze knows booze. The Planeto was a good enough accompaniment, though neither food nor wine did either any real favours. Wine was not made to pair with liquid dishes. 

Seafood Brodetto
The Ravioli was wonderful - light ricotta filling full of taste with a firm coat of pasta made for a full bite and delightful chew. Very authentic and very well made and a perfect match for the somewhat oily yet crisp Gavi that had been paired with it. A little pepper on the nose set off the truffle whilst the tropical fruits in the mouth set nicely against the wheat and flour of the pasta whilst the little green ball of spinach lent good vegetal crunch. Great dish. One of the table partners felt unable to touch the spinach ball - it did look like a disgustingly healthy Ferrero Rocher chocolate - so I obliged by relieving him of it. And also one ravioli that had got left on the plate. 

The mains seemed to be coming out a bit slow, but with so many people it couldn't really be avoided. I had opted for the Lamb Rack as main which proved very good in an all solid hearty peasant fare kind of way, with creamy mash and what tasted like a mushroom style gravy. The mains came with both Chianti and Barolo. The Chianti proved a great quaffer; nicely balanced, smooth, crisp and fruity with medium acidity and a short sleek finish. Nice dark cherries came through with the meat. In contrast, the Barolo felt a bit lacking in body and most unlike the hugely masculine styles tasted at previous dinners. Some said it was a very feminine Barolo - I might go so far as to say perhaps a bit gender confused. It is of course possible that the wines got confused in the glasses, so maybe better to reserve judgement until a retaste can take place. It just didn't match the expectation. Perhaps it was still young, but it felt definitely feminine in character. Finished well, though, and matched the lamb very well. I had a quick taste of Lenglui's leftover pork - not bad. Would come back for either lamb or pork. Dessert got swallowed quickly, so presumably it was very good - no notes as usual. 

Seabass Alla Puttanesca
[sidenote - indeed we were back there two days later for a friend's birthday. We arrived late and nibbled on some well made pizza and salami and cheese bits while sipping some Cordon Blue brandy. Was very pleasant. The food here is very tasty and filling. The staff also remembered me - was impressed enough to leave a tip!]

People were swallowing the remains of the reds pretty quickly and someone presented me with a full topup of the Barolo. I decided to pass it to one of our table guests who had been abstaining from the whites on preference. Consequently, I felt it necessary to drink his share of the remaining white. In this, I found a fairly full bottle of the Gavi in one of the ice buckets and poured a generous slug for myself which lasted till leaving time. Manager Riccardo then came out with some Grappa for everyone as a farewell digestif. I've never quite got grappa or schnapps or all of the eau-de-vie styles - it seems pretty much like drinking raw alcohol and I never got the point - but tonight it made a bit more sense. After the first throat numbing sip, the remaining went most pleasantly and warmingly. Lovely top off for the night.

Lamb Rack
I thoroughly enjoyed this evening. Great food, tasty wines of character, great ambience in Neroteco and very convivial all round. Staff were excellent. Was good to see everyone in good spirits and mixing around. 

Seems there were mixed thoughts about the wines. Whilst our table enjoyed all, others felt only one of the reds was of standard - possibly the "expensive" one as it was termed. There you go. The Chianti was most palatable, with a cherry zip on top of a mildly spicy mouthpinch and a sour fruit gluggy kind of finish.  The Barolo felt quite feminine on both nose and mouth, though it hit the finish like a stallion - all gallop and romping home to a clear win. On the night, I prefered the whites - better character and bodies, crisp and good fruit with some hints of deeper levels.

Highlight of the night was the Gaffer seemingly, er, gaffe-ing with a proclamation to the effect that all women are stupid. Yes. It was proclaimed after pretty much everyone had left, though those remaining ladies within earshot took immediate umbrage and admonished him profusely. Didn't seem to do much good - it got proclaimed a further twice to my ears. I think I pretended deafness and called it a night. Some things are better left unheard. Cheers!

James and Laura. Or should that be Laura and James?

Amuse Bouche
Assorted Bruschetta
Villa Sandi Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Spumante Extra Dry

Trota Marinara
Petunia Trout Carpaccio served with Sicilian dressing
Planeta Alastro Grecanico DOC Sicilia 2013

Zuppa di Pesce
Seafood Brodetto
Planeta Alastro Grecanico DOC Sicilia 2013

Main Course 1
Ravioli di Ricotta e Spinaci
Homemade Pasta stuffed with Spinach and Ricotta on Truffle Sauce
Banfi Principessa Gavia Gavi DOCG 2013

Main Course 2
Option 1
Agnello e Salsa Marrone
Imported Australian white stripes lamb rack served with fontina mashed potatoes and Italian version of brown sauce

Option 2
Seabass Alla Puttanesca
Pan Seared Seabass with Puttanesca Sauce served with vegetables

Option 3
Porchetta e Lenticchia
Piglet stuffed with vegetables, ham & salsiccia served with lentil and potatoes
Barone Ricasoli Brolio Chianti Classico DOCG 2012
Ascheri Barolo DOCG 2009

Tiramisu della casa
Our version of Tiramisu infused with Caffe Borghetti Liquer

He said THAT????

Villa Sandi Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG Spumante Extra Dry
This uplands wine distinguishes itself from the wide spread notions of Processco developed from larger, lowland sparkling production bearing the region’s name. The cooler climate and viticulture of the designated region of Valdobbiadene leads to wines at the top of the Prosecco pyramid. This finely moussed, lively wine has an interesting nose, brightness, minerality and a drier lingering note.

Planeta Alastro Grecanico DOC Sicilia 2013
This wine of 70%Greciano, 15% Grillo and 15% Sauvignon Blanc is elegant and fresh in a blend which speaks uniquely of sunny Mediterranean isles. The aroma evolves in the glass in an intriguing mix. The acidity is balanced by rounded white stone fruit, citrus notes and a medium weight with a finish which is surprisingly different. The popularity of Greciano has led to a designated IGT area centred on this Sicilian native variety. This blend by the expanding Planeta winery is named after a local wild flower.

Banfi Principessa Gavia Gavi DOCG 2013
Soft pressing of the Cortesse grapes from Banfi’s single estate and stainless style fermentation lets the grapes speak for themselves. This historic grape variety, one of Italy's over 850 documented varieties, has intriguing floral aromas and a lingering citrus core.

Barone Ricasoli Brolio Chianti Classico DOCG 2012
This Tuscan Sangiovese has more than a splash of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon adding intensity. The colour is a typical, Intense ruby red. A fresh and floral bouquet with hints of violets and mimosa, is followed by generous fruit sensations of blackberries and sweet mint leaves. This well regarded example has a plush mouth feel, ripe red fruit with silky tannins and a well-balanced palate. The hot and early picking of 2012 delivers plenty of fruit in this vintage which is accessible now.

Ascheri Barolo DOCG 2009 
We are tacking a big wine early in its life to experience complexity in a classic style. Barolo actually means ‘bitter black’ but there is a lot more than that going on in this prestigious DOCG wine.  Intense tar with a scent of dried flowers and a mineral note in a complex classic nose and more. The rich palate, balance and tannins contribute to its harmony, distinction and intensity and this bold typical style may ask for some patience in the glass. This long weighty pure Nebbiolo has been decanted for your pleasure and we suggest you linger over it.

Lenglui and Sue

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