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The Amelioration of a'Roma Dinings

Marv.7 Tuesday, July 9, 2019 , , ,
One foggy night in PJ, Hah!
I remember this establishment very fondly and with good reason. I first debuted into the blogging scene back in May 2016, to the surprise and interest of many in the community. Who was this middle-aged scoundrel of a gentleman gallivanting about the food scene as if he owned the place Did I not, well it felt like I did? A chance meeting with the beautiful and passionate Angeline Ong, who is the owner of this blog and of which I am an Associate Writer and Editor, led me into the fascinating world of Food Blogging. I visited a'Roma Dinings as my 18th foray in that same year, the older write-up of which is still accessible here. And like me and this blog, a'Roma Dinings has certainly matured well as a business and as an establishment offering authentic Italian fare and more. Step inside with me dear reader, and allow me to unfetter your inhibitions about this world famous cuisine.

My formal return visit to a'Roma Dinings on a Tuesday evening as a member of the media, was to observe an important milestone since the opening of the establishment. Recent renovation works has given the place a facelift, and the place feels wider and more open than before. But their crowning achievement has got to be the successful collaboration of the family-run business with the renowned Italian Chef Riccardo Milone, who has over 30 years of experience in the F&B industry. The proud owner of two restaurants in Italy and France, the good Chef has also worked halfway around the globe on projects in Brussels, Washington DC, Richmond and New York.

 


 03-7865 9829


Operating Hours
Monday Closed
Tuesday - Thurs 4.00pm - 11.30pm
Friday and Saturday 11.45am - 12.00 midnight
Sunday 11.45am - 11.30pm
   
“The first step to a good restaurant is undoubtedly its food. Introducing the concept of ‘zero kilometer’ food here in a’Roma dinings is my aim to show Malaysia that even though the ingredients may differ from what can be found in Italy, the underlying principles of cooking Italian food does not. The next step in ensuring that the restaurant does well is with a strong team at the helm.” - Chef Riccardo Milone.
Chef Riccardo Milone uses the term "Zero Kilometer" in the preparations of his food. It is something I have since had some time to ponder and research on, and the closest thing to an official disambiguation of the term can be found here at the Sustainability Network. In a nutshell, Zero Kilometer Cooking @ Zero KM Food champions the farm-to-table concept of cooking, without the middlemen that are the global importers and exporters of farm grown food and by-passing the keeping of these foods in supermarkets where their qualities steadily decline with prolonged storage. That's right. a'Roma Dinings sources it's ingredients used for it's cooking directly from the local farmers and wet markets as much as possible, to re-create Italian Cuisine, right here in PJ! I sat down with both Ken Wong and Chef Riccardo after dinner and we chatted a great deal about what makes their Italian Cuisine special. Their incredible tale of getting up at 4am each day, and heading down to a wet market to buy meats, fish, poultry, vegetables and other things needed in a kitchen, which is then followed by the attention and care taken to ensure the quality of the ingredients is maximised by the cooking, rather than badly cooked and diminished by an inexperienced cook, is but an example of their dedication in bringing the best they can to the table. 

“Continuous improvement has always been our motto and after four years in operation, we felt it was time for an upgrade. Aside from the new signage and design of the restaurant, we have increased the size of our kitchen and dining area to better serve our discerning customers. Our regulars will find that we’ve injected a touch of modernity to a’Roma while maintaining the rustic charm of the original premises that we hope new customers will take note of.... Customer service is one of our utmost priorities here at a’Roma and we pride ourselves on having attentive waitstaff that make you feel welcome the moment you sit at the table. We constantly challenge ourselves to learn new things and continue improving here at a’Roma and I believe that we can open the community’s mind and palate to the many wonders that Italian cuisine has to offer.” - Ken Wong.
 
I am quite fond of this little area in Petaling Jaya, as it marked the place where I first stayed after moving here a couple of decades ago. a'Roma Dinings today is a beautiful restaurant, with a seating capacity of 120 guests and plenty of floor space to cater to corporate events and/or private dinners. The dedicated staff are attentive and polite, and my favourite space, the alfresco dining area is still there by the window with the view of Taman Paramount leading to Seapark outside.  And as you read this, their new a la carte menu is almost here! Not a spoiler alert. Let us see what Chef Riccardo and Ken Wong has in store for you.

Note: Italian Cuisine is well-noted for its judicious use of cheese as an ingredient or accompaniment. When possible, I will write about the different types of cheeses served at a'Roma Dinings. For this outing, because Angie wasn't available, I brought in a special food tasting guest, Ms. Sze Yean sorry boys and girls, she's taken and not by me and therefore not available.
My foodie companion for the evening, Sze Yean

*****
Focaccia with Tomato Salsa
a'Roma had always made these excellent Focaccia with Tomato Salsa as their appetisers whilst waiting for your order to arrive. I will not say I miss these as I have them quite often, but they are definitely a warm welcome literally! Sze Yean thought it was fun dish, mainly because it was very crispy and the only real way to eat this was with your fingers.
Prosciutto Burrata E Carpione πŸ‘
The highlight of this Hors d'oeuvre has definitely got to be the Burrata cheese. For those of you not in the know, Burrata looks like Mozzarella. They have the same appearance and texture, but that is where the similarity stops. Burrata is actually something like a cheesy pouch of Mozzarella stuffed with fresh cream and soft stringy curd. It is always served fresh and doesn't keep for very long, lasting no more than a day or two at the most. With its rich milky buttery taste, it goes very well with bread, so I was pleasantly surprised it made its way here with the Prosciutto.


If you are a lover ham, then you will like Prosciutto. It is always served thinly sliced because if it is cut thicker, it can be very chewy and a bit tough to eat. The way they serve it here is uncooked, also known as Prosciutto Crudo and it can be a bit salty as the curing is usually done with salt and spices.

Taken as a whole, the Prosciutto and Burrata accompanied by the zucchini was a fun dish with a mild sweet aftertaste, Sze Yean wanted second helpings of this and I had to agree. 
Pepperoni All Estiva
This dish has an interesting teensy salty aftertaste because of the capers and anchovies, unlike the one before it which was sweet, so we could tell that Chef was giving our palettes a good working out. It was nicely balanced by the Roasted Peppers, Red Onions and Black Olives. Grated cheese was used as garnishing for this delightful appetiser.
Insalata Nizzarda Rivisitata πŸ‘
This interesting aperitivo combination sees the French Nicoise Salad combined with our local poultry, Telur Ayam Kampung or Kampung Eggs with Tuna and salty Anchovies. The complex blend of flavours made it an interesting appetiser, which when coupled with the Mustard Vinaigrette made for a very satisfying experience.  Sze Yean said almost the same thing, although I believe her expression was that this dish was very "Hoi Wai" (開胃). I really liked the taste and texture of the Tuna, one could almost be fooled to think that it was actually aged meat but it was not!
Calamari Ripieni Alle Melanzane
Cooked Calamari is stuffed with burned Eggplant sans the skin, and then served on a nice bed of Spicy Cumin Tomato sauce. This is downright real Italian comfort food, where a family on vacation would take the time to buy fresh calamari and have them cleaned at the market before bringing it home, to be cooked Mamma's way in the home or getaway kitchen. The sauce was a nice accompaniment to the calamari, usually Italians would cook this dish with more sauce so that the calamari flavour is infused with the tomato flavour, and then served over separate little helpings of pasta. With that said, this pleasant Hors d'oeuvre is definitely meant for sharing.
Risotto Al Funghi πŸ‘
Now, earlier I mentioned about Italian comfort food. South East Asians have at least one version of a Rice-based dish in their home-cook recipe book. This my friends, is the North Italian version of it. Arborio rice is cooked in a broth until it has a creamy consistency, I could not tell what were the ingredients used in the broth as it was heavily masked by the mushrooms and Grana Padano cheese. Because of the choice of cheese used in this dish, it's pairing with wine is highly recommended. Sze Yean felt this dish was too cheesy, but I decided it was top-rated stuff and ate both our portions.

I'm not greedy, it's comfort food.
DID YOU KNOW? Grana Padano is a type of Parmesan cheese hailing from the Po River Valley in North-Eastern Italy. Some enterprising Cistercian Monks in the 12th century invented this cheese with unpasteurised semi-skimmed cow's milk. It is generally aged for two years in wheels which develops a firm, dark straw-coloured rind with a fragrant, dry and crumbly inside. It has a sweet flavour, which generally becomes more savory as it ages more and develops a very dry flaky texture. 😎
Fettucine Con Ragu Di Salsiccia
a'Roma's handmade Fettucine is served with minced Pork Sausage and Grana Padano Cheese. It did not have a very complex flavour, and was quite light in garnishings. Again, I felt that this is another Italian comfort food, very filling and satisfying as an uncomplicated meal.
Raviolini Di Fonduta Con Uccelleto D'Agnello
This excellent dish is Cheese Ravioli cooked in a sauce of Thyme, Tomato and White Wine. It is accompanied with a very hearty Lamb Ragu. Sze Yean thought this dish was rather homely comfort food and that the lamb was tender.
Tagliolini Di Polenta Con Pesto Alla Genovese
The Tagliolini Di Polenta is a very filling dish, with no exception. It's also a vegetarian's dish! Chef Riccardo served this dish in combination with a few condiments which includes Basil, Pine Nuts, Potato, Green Beans and Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

I have to admit that by the time we reached here, we were both nearly reaching our eating capacities in one sitting. But there was more to come!
Costolette D'Agnello πŸ‘πŸ‘
I had no problems mustering the capacity for red meat! Yes, this is what being greedy is like A fine New Zealand Lamb Rack is oven-baked with a Black Olive Crust and Thyme Scented Jus, with the latter lending that important earthy lemony taste. It is served with some Brown Sauce and some Seasonal Vegetables which includes Cherry Tomatoes. I rate this two thumbs up!

In my opinion, this dish trumps my previous favourite at this establishment, the Harissa Lamb Rack. Whilst the texture of the Lamb is similiar, the Costolette D'Agnello is distinctly Italian, and carries with the very essence of North Italian flavours. Sze Yean had one word to describe this dish right before she nearly passed out from Food Coma; spectacular.
Filetto Di Barramundi
The key to this dish is two fold. One, is the Barramundi Fillet, perfectly pan-seared which is placed on a bed of Panzanella. Panzanella on the other hand, is a famous bread and vegetable Italian salad from Tuscany. This fish was garnished with sea salt and curiously, mint sauce which lent a refreshing taste to the fish. Barramundi flesh has a nice firm texture, and comes off in very large flakes.

For those of you who are unaware, Barramundi is also alternatively known as the Asian Sea Bass. The Japanese call it Akame. The Spanish, Perca Gigante. Fish from the Bass family are well known for that distinctive hump-backed shape, and did you know, we have aquaculture farms not far from Kuala Lumpur? I used to fish there when I had time. Did you also know that the fish we locally know as Siakap is actually from the Bass family? Yes, it is Barramundi! I do a spot of fishing from time to time, so I know my favourite fishies at least. I am glad to report that the cooking style really brings out the flavour of the fish, and the rock salt as garnishing is befitting this specimen, since many seafoods I have freshly cooked on the beach or on a boat uses saltwater for flavouring. The Barramundi, if you must know, is usually found in estuaries where freshwater meets saltwater and is rich in marine life on which this predatory fish feeds on.


Tentacolo Di Polpo Arrostito πŸ‘πŸ‘
I laughed with delight when I saw this dish. It was a masterpiece. Even my camera agreed with me as I clicked and the shutter snapped away happily. A Magnificently cooked octopus tentacle skewered with a chopstick, I felt that was a brilliant asian touch to an otherwise European-centric dish. It sat on a mountain of Avocado which swam on a bed of Cumin Gazpacho, like an ancient Greek Titan on Mount Olympus looking out of an orange sea. Whilst most of us are familiar with Avocado, it may not be so with the Gazpacho which is an Andalusian style cold soup. The Octopus tentacle tasted quite good on its own, if a little on the chewy side. The avocado and gazpacho lent it a hint of savory sweetness which we found pleasing to the palate.
Semifreddo Di Cioccolato
This Italian dolce is a Dark Chocolate Semifreddo, which is partially frozen to retain it's taste and texture. I suppose you could liken it to an ice cream cake, except that this dessert had no cake in it. I liked that nut crumble and strawberry was used for garnishing, plating wise it looked very appetising. This was Sze Yean's dealmaker; she reported that it was light and rich in flavour. I should probably also add that chocolate is her kryptonite, what's yours?
Tiramisu
I have always enjoyed a'Roma's Tiramisu and for good reason. The blending of Mascarporne with the Guanaja Ganache and Degayo Espresso was a delight. Like the Dark Chocolate Semifreddo, Nut Crumble and strawberry was used for it's garnishing. Of the two desserts presented, this was my pick of the night.

*****
"With a haughty and noble bearing, Lia was the most beautiful and desired girl of a small town in the heart of Monferrato. She had no noble origins, but her gait, the gracefulness of her movements, the elegance infused in her simplest gestures, made her more interesting and magnetic than any aristocratic woman. For all it was the "Duchess", sincere and authentic as her peasant origins, but noble in her bearing.

It is from this story, between truth and legend, that the brand "Duchess Lia" is born. Authentic Piedmontese wines, traditional, able to tell everyone the nobility and elegance naturally present in Piedmont, one of the most prestigious, varied and exciting terroirs of the world wine scene."
- A Quote from Duchess Lia
It was only fitting that an experienced chef from Piedmont selected his own preferred wines to pair with the evening's gastronomical delights. To that end, a'Roma Dinings served us wines from North Italy, specifically from Duchess Lia, famed for their making of Piedmontese wines. It is worth noting that a'Roma prides itself in offering wines not available for normal purchase in stores. For the evening, we availed ourselves to two reds and a white, specifically the Gavi, Barbera D'asti & Moscato D'asti.

The Gavi DOCG 2014 is very difficult to find! You will be lucky if you could find vintages from 2017. It had a dry mineral finish and is noted for it's excellent pairings with seafood and pasta. The Barbera D'asti 2016 on the other hand has a nice ruby colour. There were hints of licorice and blackberry and it went very well with meats. As for the Moscato D'asti DOCG 2017, it was sweet and had a nice creamy smooth texture with hints of honey, and wildflower and peach blossom flowers. I am pretty certain Wine lovers would visit a'Roma just to get a taste of these vintages, and being just a passing amateur myself, I would like to try more wines from Piedmont.

*****

And that wraps up my memorable re-visit to a'Roma Dinings. To be honest, I've made some return visits to this establishment over the years to mark special occasions and gatherings, and it is one of the few places I would knowingly make the long drive from my place of residence to PJ. I hope you enjoyed my write-up as I had reliving it. Until the next gastronomic foray, cheers! ~ Marv.7

About a’Roma Dinings

Nestled in a corner lot in Taman Paramount, a'Roma dinings opened its doors in 2015 with a focus on serving a "Bringing Italy to You" dining experience to its patrons. Expect a rustic, old-Italy vibe upon being seated while enjoying a meal surrounded by hand-painted murals, and ambient slow music accentuating the surroundings. Fresh homemade pastas, signature dishes and chef’s specials cooked with local and internationally sourced ingredients are served by a dedicated service team with respect and friendliness. a’Roma dinings aspires for excellence with every meal and strives to serve not just the customer, but the community as a whole. They aim to provide customers an honest and authentic Italian experience which can be seen with their selection of great food, right in the Petaling Jaya neighborhood.

About Chef Riccardo Milone

Growing up in the famous wine region of Piedmont in North West Italy (home to nebbiolo grapes used to produce notable wines such as Barolo and Barbaresco) Chef Riccardo's passion for cooking ignited at his mama's kitchen when he was still very young. At 14 years old, his entrance to the culinary world began at Moulins de Mougins in France, helmed by the famous Chef Roger VergΓ©.

Chef Riccardo further honed his craft following 12 years in the USA and while working and consulting at prominent Restaurants in Europe. From the Restaurant La Truffle Noir and La Maison du Boeuf in Brussels, Restaurant Galileo and Teatro Goldoni in Washington DC, the iconic La Petite France in Richmond, and Ristorante Le Madri in New York, the ever versatile and creative Chef Riccardo has also cooked for royalty.

In 2002, Riccardo opened Osteria del Pasco followed by Cantine Bonaparte [located in an underground cave] and Ristorante Trattoria del Castello [located in a heritage castle] in 2004 / 2005. After 17 years, the menu of Osteria del Pasco continue to excite his prominent & regular customers with seasonal produce cooked superbly in Riccardo's inimitable honest recipes.

Chef Riccardo excels best in his unassuming humble style, although he has represented VinItaly for Piedmont, been the MyMercato Chef ambassador and appeared in numerous cooking shows and he is also the Piedmontese Beef Ambassador for Compral (Cooperative). About 20 years ago Chef Riccardo earned his admission as Chef Rotisseurs conferred by Chaine des rotisseurs and also became a member of the prestigious Grand Cordon D'or of Monaco. Currently, he owns and runs two restaurants which are Osteria del Pasco in Italy and DIVA Restaurant of Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat in France.

*****

This is Me, Gentrified mode.
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