Mario & Luigi
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Note: Mario & Luigi is now closed.
In a KL overrun by concept-dining restaurants, it’s reassuring to eat at an Italian restaurant that is quite simply, an Italian restaurant. Mario & Luigi is the descendant of Hit & Mrs, what was once The BIG Group’s passion project complete with a first-floor bar kitted out like a retired minister’s home. BIG’s Benjamin Yong’s trademark restlessness means that in the swish of a wand, Mario & Luigi emerged from the rubble of Hit & Mrs. And in the five months it’s been operating, it buzzes with life.
On a Tuesday night, the restaurant is full. (Reservations are recommended; customers can choose between the 7pm or 9pm slot.) I’m seated by the glass window, at a small table draped in white from where I see alfresco diners clouded in wispy cigarette smoke on my right, and well-heeled Tengku-types on my left. The perilously low-hanging light bulbs from Hit & Mrs’s heydays remain above each table, but take a more contemporary form. And to mimic the way most Italian restaurants prove their worth, a blow-up of a young Sophia Loren in a plunging neckline is slapped on the wall.
The menu doesn’t wander too far off the classics, but by golly, it ain’t cheap. Pastas start at RM58 while the mains go up to RM128 each. With Mezze only a few kilometres away where one of the city’s best pasta dishes, pappardelle of oxtail, can be wolfed down for under RM50, the peppering of ingredients like truffle, sea urchin and bay bugs in Mario’s menu seems like an attempt to win us (and our money) over.'
The first starter arrives, a plate of sweet, wobbly scallops topped with tiny domes of yuzu and celeriac purée, and hazelnuts. The scallops are refreshing against the smooth celeriac, but the pool of truffle vinaigrette is so intoxicating, it leaves everything else in the shade. The zucchini flowers, meanwhile, are near perfect. Each flower is filled, battered and fried to produce a thin, light, crisp coating that shatters to reveal warm, oozy ricotta. And the rocket salad that sits at the bottom is not an afterthought – it’s fresh and adequately dressed for the occasion.
There is general inattentiveness from service staff involving cutlery and glasses; there’re only two of them shuffling about at the peak of service. But if the breadbasket placed upon us during waiting time is used as bait, I acquiesce. The accompanying olive oil is so gorgeously light and fragrant, you could dab it on your pulse points.
Thankfully, my risotto – all RM78 of it – is outstanding. In a beautiful coral shade, the risotto carries a mélange of seafood led by the king prawn, its shell just the right side of burnished, its antennae curled upwards. Instead of stock, I suspect the rice is cooked with crab bisque, whose sweetness whispers kind things to each grain. If I have one complaint, I wish for the rice to have been cooked slightly under; a firmer bite is a better pairing with the gooeyness than a tender one. The casarecce, on the other hand, is cooked impeccably. The lamb ragu that comes with it is fresher than it is rich and hearty, owing to the finishing spike of lemon.
To cap off the meal, I order the panna cotta with strawberry sorbet and granola. It’s good in that I wouldn’t kick it out of bed, but I wouldn’t want it to stay the night. I’d have no qualms, however, to give it a call when the desire strikes.
15 Lorong Kurau
Taman Weng Lock
|Opening hours:||Tue-Sun, 12noon-3pm; 7pm-11pm|