Review: The Italian Answer To Tapas Is Cicchetti & It's Just As Delicious
1/12Cicchetti di Zenzero
The latest venture by the same folks over at St Mary Residences' Zenzero, Cicchetti di Zenzero takes a popular Venetian dining concept and introduces it to downtown KL over at Menara Amplewest.
Spanish tapas may have carved a name in the local dining scene for years now but it now faces a new contender. Cicchetti is its Italian equivalent, taking small plates of eats and pairing with them with wine to allow diners to sample a wider range of dishes across a broader spectrum of flavours.
Cicchetti di Zenzero sports a relaxed and casual vibe despite being situated in the bustling heart of the city, with the kitchen being helmed by chef Paolo Petris, a jovial and passionate chef. The menu features a healthy selection of Italian treats on the menu that are authentic yet affordable.
We highly recommend starting your meal with a selection of lightly flavoured cicchetti before moving on to heartier dishes, starting with something like octopus salad and a glass of white wine.
Diners will typically start their meal with breads, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and pickled vegetables at Cicchetti di Zenzero, a selection that manages to whet the appetite with just a tease of the flavours to come.
The salad on the other hand, is a great starter. The mix of greens, pickles, chunky seasoned octopus and cherry tomatoes dressed in an acidic vinegar base really gets the palate going. Opt for a fruitier wine that will help to refresh and bring out the flavours of the dish.
It doesn't get any more Italian than this, the classic tomato bruschetta. Grilled bread acts as a crunchy base to the juicy and deliciously seasoned and sweet tomatoes that pop at the fore in the mouth when eaten, highlighted by the presence of peppers and basil to round out the dish. So simple, yet so good.
4/12Buffalo Mozzarella & Leek
Another palate pleaser, the mozzarella is grilled in the pan to produce a smoky and slightly sharp taste to accompany its mildly chewy texture. When eaten with the charred leek and balsamic vinegar reduction, the mild sharp taste of the cheese is complemented with additional smokiness, crunch and a tinge of acidity to balance it out. Take a sip of wine to refresh the palate and you've got another must-have at the restaurant.
5/12Spanish Beef Ham With Manchego
Spanish beef and cheese aren't Italian ingredients but are nonetheless welcoming additions. The ultra-thin cuts of beef may be a bit on the salty side but the cheese softens the blow on the tongue when taken together. The pillowy texture of the mildly flavoured cheese is also delicious on its own, and needless to say, the dish goes great with a glass of red.
Translated to "fried mix", this seafood bounty may appear like your typical fry-'em-up, but the restaurant's implementations to improve this easy-to-like dish cannot be seen by the naked eye. Chef Petris uses only fresh oil to deep fry a selection of baby crabs, mini white prawns, calamari rings and zucchini to avoid that undesirable lingering oily aftertaste. The dish is also served with homemade tartar sauce that's lighter than our average variant. Because the oil used is fresh, you can actually tell the difference when you sink your teeth into each fried morsel with a crunchy and light mouth feel. The sauce is also delicious, with the zucchini and baby crabs being standouts for us.
7/12Polenta & Gorgonzola Ravioli
Cooked in a butter sauce with white truffle pasta and served with thin shavings of grana padano cheese and beef ham. Sink your teeth into these dumplings and you'll just the right amount of chew that will quickly give way to the creamy and cheesy filling inside. Sharpness from the cheese mixed with the light corn flavour from the polenta makes each ravioli a subtle yet effective flavour bomb. Add a dash of black pepper for additional flavour and aroma.
While this may not be on the official menu, we urge you to order it to experience what an authentic carbonara should taste like, sans cream. With only a handful of ingredients used – smoked duck, pecorino cheese, egg and truffle paste – this is one for the fans. Rigatoni is chosen to soak in the sauce, which has a lovely balance of egg and the faint nuances of truffles lingering in the background. The smoked duck adds bursts of saltiness to the dish while the cheese softens to the overall delivery, a needed quality to balance out the thickness of the sauce and the chew of the pasta. This is what a carbonara should taste like.
Taking a page from the French cookbook, duck confit is also an off-the-menu item at the moment. Salty, tender and slightly crispy, the duck itself is substantial but when paired with potato gratin, makes for a truly hearty meal. Take the duck with dabs of mustard to add a little spice into the mix. This dish isn't really meant for sharing but instead should act as a filler if one isn't full this far into the meal.
10/12Pizza di Zenzero
Recognisable, iconic and shareable, the restaurant has recently introduced pizzas on the menu. Their epynomous pizza takes a margherita and adds salmon, crisp lettuce and bottarga (salted cured fish roe) into the mix for an uncommon menu item, even for dedicated pizza joints. The dough was crispy and light, as it should be, while the toppings tasted like a caesar salad with bursts of saltiness intermingled into the flavour profile.
11/12Cicchetti Dolci Temptations
Taking the principle of small plates even through to desserts, diners can opt for a dessert platter and choose four options from the menu to share with the table. We had the panna cotta, tiramisu, guanaja molten chocolate cake and the chocolate tart with mascarpone cream and strawberry sorbet.
The tiramisu was soft, fluffy and without the presence of alcohol, gave way to a more prominent coffee flavour. The panna cotta was soft, milky and sour thanks to the passionfruit, while the molten cake was sinful and rich. The tart on the other hand, proved to be less sweet but still had a strong chocolate presence on the palate.
End your meal with a housemade classic Italian digestif – limoncello. The Zenzero group of restaurants make their own lemon liqueur and even sells it by the bottle for those interested. Although unassuming in a glass, the limoncello provides quite a kick, with a strong lemon taste that is thankfully not too sweet. The bitter taste cleanses the palate while the beverage aids digestion, making for a win-win that shouldn't be overlooked.