Among the many Italian restaurants in the Klang Valley, only a handful produce their own pasta in the pursuit of culinary authenticity, eschewing the off-the-shelf, dried pasta in packets. This week, we look at a couple of them.
a’Roma Dinings is unusually located in an unfashionable housing area that is in some danger of becoming chic. This neighbourhood restaurant has a fairly complete, sophisticated menu with appetisers, mains, desserts, a wine list and a spacious dining area.
Opened at the end of 2015, it produces pasta in-house, combining Italian Semolina flour, “00” flour and free-range kampong eggs. (“00” refers to the most refined grade of wheat flour used specifically for pasta.) Usually, only six or seven types are produced daily or every two days, depending on consumption. The pasta-making machine occupies a corner of the dining area.
I tried the classic Spaghettini Alla Vongole (RM32) with fresh clams. The pasta has a distinctive quality — lively, firm, fresh and absorbing the flavours of the sauce. Eggs add body and richness, making for a characterful pasta dish, with chili flakes and fresh parsley enhancing the sterling qualities of the spaghettini.
Similarly, Casarecce, (short twists of thick pasta) delivered Puttanesca-style with slow-cooked pork cheeks (RM40), was pliable and yielding without veering into softness. The distinctive S-twist in the pasta was ideal for carrying the savoury tomato-based sauce. Thicker and shorter than spaghetti, it is a more substantial pasta without being coarse, the fresh flour mixture endowing it with backbone without a trace of doughiness. As an aside, if you like Chinese roast pork (siew yoke) do yourself a favour and try the Porchetta (RM65).
Although well-established, the restaurant maintains a high standard for the food and a friendly atmosphere. The excellent pasta, well paired with several preparation styles, rewards the discerning diner who can appreciate fresh, well-made pasta for what it is.
The recently opened Grano Pasta Bar specialises in pasta, and the menu comprises a few appetisers, a variety of pasta dishes and wine. Housed in the trendy APW complex, it occupies a narrow, double-storey space next to Proof Pizza + Wine (same owner), with a minimalist approach to décor.
The pasta is produced in-house with an industrial Italian-made pasta machine. Freshly made pasta, produced from Italian wheat and eggs, are showcased in a display case in the kitchen, where a window allows diners to see the food being prepared. The restaurant produces a number of regional and unusual types of pasta that are not often encountered.
With a square instead of a round cross-section, Spaghetti Alla Chittara (RM38) was sautéed in a white wine and seafood sauce with smoked salmon, baby octopus, prawns and herbs. The freshly made egg pasta had a rich mouth feel and good body and lustre, with the dish taking on a lively, wholesome personality. The pairing was elegant, with a thick sauce coating the pasta, for an awesome seafood pasta.
Reginette (RM34), a wavy-edged kuey teow-type pasta, was sautéed in a chicken and white wine broth with bits of pancetta adding a little spice to the mix. The pasta had character, a good bite and absorbed the rich broth mixture, making for a buttery, full-flavoured blend to showcase the qualities of the pasta.
Little-known Gnochetti Sardi originates from Sardinia and was presented vegetarian style (RM29) in a rich, thick mix of herb pesto, mushrooms, capers and sun-dried tomatoes, flavoured with shaved cheese and chili flakes. The seashell-shaped pasta were little pearls — firm, precious and overflowing with flavour — that paid tribute to the kitchen’s creativity and pairing.
Trendy and stylish, the pasta is interesting and excellent and likely to spoil you the next time you step into a lesser Italian restaurant and encounter the store-bought, dried pasta, which is vapid and dull by comparison.
a’Roma Dinings, 1 Jalan 20/14, Paramount Garden, PJ. 03 7865 9829. Tues-Thurs, 4-11pm; Fri-Sun, 12noon-11.30pm.
Grano Pasta Bar, Lot 29-2, APW Bangsar, Jalan Riong, KL. 03 2788 3595. Tue-Sun, 12.15pm-2.30pm; 6-10pm.
This article first appeared on July 16, 2018 in The Edge Malaysia.