Saturday, September 28, 2013

ITALIAN VA VA VOOM


Chefs are truly a special breed of people. They have to be if they willingly subject themselves to the searing heat in the kitchen day in, day out; cooking up a storm just to satisfy our need to be fed.
They are such a passionate, (well most of those I've met anyway) committed and resolute bunch that some paying diners invariably take them for granted; quite forgetting that chefs are human too and not immune to unjust criticisms and catty remarks. While constructive comments are well and good, thoughtlessly spewed statements can really break their spirit and rice bowl.
Despite these hazards of the job, Nero Group Chef Michele Cuozzo remains the warm, welcoming host of Nerovivo restaurant; a prime KL landmark that promises diners an exceptional Italian casual dining experience. Not one to mince words, Chef Michele makes no bones about his opinion about bloggers and reviewers. Coming from a country with a rich culinary history that goes back some 2000 years, some of his views are justified.
 
A native of Sala Consilina from the Italian province Salerno, Chef Michele acquired his love for food and cooking through mama. When you dine at Nerovivo, you're not just eating another plate of pasta or pizza -- you're sampling the chef's soulful roots and palettes of his country's cultural and traditional heritage.
The restauant itself is an oasis of cool tranquility; its striking lilac walls adorned with Sandra Knuyt's artworks, interspersed by several floor-to-ceiling wine displays. There's also an al fresco section on the side for those who prefer a more outdoorsy ambiance. 
For the Kuala Lumpur Restaurant Week 2013 (4 - 11 October), Nerovivo is enticing Italian food lovers with two incredibly great value menus: RM38 nett per person for lunch and RM78 nett per person for dinner. These special deals are available only via online reservations so you'd better reserve a seat or two before the deadline tomorrow (29 September).

The chef's infectious enthusiasm was evident when he insisted on serving us two starters: Seafood Salad and Pizza Tartufata from the menu. Fyi, this latter costs RM48++ as an a la carte order so the KLRW dinner menu at RM78 is a real steal!
We thoroughly relished the refreshing seafood salad - a glistening heap of mixed salad leaves with chunks of scallop, fish, clams, mussel and prawn that's simply accented with olives, garlic, capers, lemon juice, olive oil and sea salt. Just the right dish to get our gustatory juices flowing.
Our appetite was further whetted by the pizza's distinct truffle-scented aroma when it arrived piping hot to our table. The dough base is crisp without being too thin; just sturdy enough to hold its irresistible toppings of porcini, smoked cheese, parmesan shavings, truffle cream and oil, and mozzarella. Bursting with deliciously rustic, musky and smoky accents, it's as authentic as any you'd get in Italy.
Other scrumptious starter options that you can select include Bresaola (air-dried cured beef) with Rocket Salad, Buffala Mozarella Caprese, Mixed Seasonal Green Salad, Pizza Capricciosa or Pizza Margherita.

Since I'm a newbie to Nerovivo, Chef Michele very generously gave me an insight into his hometown specialities such as bread, pasta and risotto which use squid ink as a key ingredient. For the uninitiated, squid ink has been found to contain many health benefits and is effacacious against cancer. However, one has to be wary of artificial squid ink-imbued dishes but I digress. 
After tickling our palate with his squid ink bruschetta topped with oven-dried cherry tomato, extra virgin olive oil and sea salt, we were treated to his speciality of Calamari Nerovivo (RM36++). Now this dish is NOT part of the promo menu but you can always order it a la carte if you wish to try it. 
"It's inspired by a traditional dish from Palermo where freshly caught squid is cooked with squid ink and a little tomato paste in a claypot," says Chef Michele. "Similarly, my dish has sliced calamari cooked in my own blend of squid ink sauce with red, orange and green pepper, onion, and chilli padi-infused olive oil to give it some oomph."

According to him, the sauce takes 3-4 hours to concoct using naturally extracted squid ink, extra virgin olive oil, roasted garlic, vegetable stock and capsicum. The result is a full-bodied, unctuous sauce with a discernible umami nuance to it.
For the main, the chef rustled up his Fettuccine Norcina - tender homemade flat pasta tossed in a gritty, meaty sauce that clings to the thin, chewy ribbons. I particularly like the simple albeit big flavours that spread across our palate; a tasty hodge-podge of minced chicken, ground walnuts, fennel seeds, paprika and salt all rolled into one. Definitely a welcome breakaway from the usual arrabiata and aglio olio preparations.

Those preferring to play it safe may want to consider alternative main course choices such as
Risotto al Nero di Seppia (squid ink risotto), Pollo alla Diavola (Italian-style roast chicken) or Lamb Chop Scottadito.
 
Sweet endings come in the form of Limoncello Cake, Almond Chocolate Cake, Tiramisú or
Chocolate Mousse. Heeding the chef's recommendation, we settled for the Limoncello Cake and had no regrets whatsoever. It's my kind of old-school cake; buttery soft with that slightly crumbly texture. Every mouthful is a delightful symphony of eggy and nutty richness, its cheery citrusy overtone enhanced by the attendant scoop of limoncello-flavoured ice cream.

Those looking for a hearty, satisfying lunch at Nerovivo will have 5 different Starters: Beef Carpaccio (paper-thin sliced raw beef), Eggplant Parmigiana (baked eggplant with cheese), Mixed Seasonal Green Salad, Pizza Margherita (an evergreen classic) or Pizza Marinara to choose from.

Main Course temptations range from Spaghetti Nero di Seppia, Lasagna Bolognese, Roasted Chicken Diavola & roasted potato or Seared Baramundi in Guazzetto & sautéed vegetable. Dessert to sweeten you up is a choice of Almond Chocolate Cake or the signature Tiramisú.

Both menus are splendid deals that no Italian cuisine fans should miss out on. Remember to make your reservations by tomorrow via  http://www.klrestaurantweek.com/

Nerovivo, 3A Jalan Ceylon, Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur. Tel: 03-2070 3120

3 comments:

Ken said...

Would love to try the Calamari Nerovivo, never had such dish before, wonder how it tastes. Hope they are coming up with Penang restaurant week soon :p

Ciki said...

ooo.. i like the sound of squid cooked in squid ink and a little tomato paste !! interesting color - bet it tastes awesome~

Alice Yong said...

@Ken - keep your fingers crossed :) In the meantime, pop into the resto n try the dish next time you're in KL.

@Ciki - you'd love it m sure. Like they say once you're black, there's no going back ;D