E Cucina, ristorante e vino
A farandole of pasta in the Pullman hotel.
THE legend has it that pasta, one of Italy’s most iconic national dishes, was invented in China and imported to Europe in the 13th century by Marco Polo, a traveler. That does not please everyone on the peninsula. Researchers excavated ancient tombs showing Etruscans (the ancestors of the Italian) cooking pasta long before Marco Polo (or Christ for that matter) existed.
Some also invoked Greek mythology, saying that the god Vulcan who forged weapons for the Hercules and Achilles of that world, had also invented the device necessary to make spaghetti.
Recent research points out at Arab merchant, who could have brought pasta to Sicily, in the southern part of Italy, when the island was an Emirate.
This review is in no way an attempt to settle the matter. It will, however, tell you where to find good pasta in Yangon.
E Cucina (“It’s cuisine”, in Italian) is a new addition to the city’s culinary scene. Opened only a few months ago, it is located in the Pullman hotel, in the glamorously named Sule Centerpoint.
Chef Nicolino is a native from Italy who has visited kitchens all over the world and is now in Yangon to train a team of pasta-wizards. For pasta is his forte -Weekend can attest.
We were invited with a group of local journalists and bloggers to try out a selection of Nicolino’s signature pasta dish admirably paired with Italian wine.
The festival kicked off with a plate of linguinis with Alaskan king crab. Linguinis are a flatter sort of spaghettis. They go beautifully with fish and seafood. Nicolino’s were flambée with brandy, which gave the dish a special twist.
The piece of crab served with it was generous and tender. One of the guest who had been nervous as she had never tried Italian food before was immediately reassured. A dry and cripsy white Verdicchio wine completed the master piece.
The second dish was visually intriguing. It was a plate of spaghetti naturally blackened with squid ink, topped with green asparagus and dice of bright white mozzarella.
Squid ink isn’t just decorative and the process serves a gustative purpose. Pasta “al nero”, as they are called, are distinctively saltier and have an elegant touch of brininess that brings your palate and mind near the cost.
The mozzarella used wasn’t your usual bits of cheese either. It was a Burrata, one of the creamiest treat of Italian cuisine. While the outer shell of this cheese ball is as solid as a normal mozzarella, the inner part reveals a melty heart made of buffalo milk. Burrata is a love letter to the sense, and a perfect addition to the crunch of the fresh asparagus.
The third dish was a plate of spaghetti with a creamy leek sauce, topped with grilled pork cheek salami and pecorino cheese. Here, in our view, the plate struck a note of over-sophistication. The slow-cooked leek sauce in white wine spiced up with saffron slightly overpowered the dish, which would have stood perfectly on its own.
This sort of dish could as well be served dry, without sauce, with just a bit of oil, to let the thinly sliced, crispy pork cheek speak together with the salty parmesanlike pecorino cheese.
The dish, however, led us to appreciate the texture of the pasta we were eating. The sauce was sticking to the spaghetti and was at one with it.
The proof of the pasta What makes a good pasta is the selection of the grain and the length of time the pasta has been left to dry up. Industrial pasta is dried as it is made. The flour and the water are mixed, and the pasta is left to absorb the air as it is made. The product takes on a yellowish colour.
Handmade pasta is a different affair where the pasta is left to dry, at least, 24hours. Sometimes three days, says a representative of Rustichella d’abruzzo, the pasta-makers, whose product Chef Nicolino had chosen for us. The product takes on a white colour.
We slurped down the delicious Caldera Montepulciano we were served and moved on to the fourth: a plate of Orecchiette (literally little ears) served with broccoli, cherry tomatoes and capers. This was the only vegan dish of the day, but one of the most generous – this dish, after all, comes from the Southern part of Italy.
The highlight of our lunch was the Paccheri alla Norcina. This is more a wintery dish best enjoyed in the hilly parts of Italy, but an air-conditioned restaurant in Yangon during the monsoon also does the trick, believe me. The two large tube-shaped pastas known as Paccheri, were stuffed with juicy and devilishly flavourful Italian sausage and a discrete touch of truffles. The heavy, full-bodied red concluded the lunch fantastically.
The pasta promotion which runs until the end of June is perfect for westerners craving for good pasta but also for locals willing to venture in a culinary adventure. ......................................................................................................................... E Cucina is situated in the Pullman hotel, on the corner Of Sule Pagoda Rd And Merchant St in Kyauktada township. Entry price for the pasta promotion is $9. Reservation: 95-1 382 704
Spaghetti con crema di porro e zafferano by Chief Nicolino, Yangon, June 2018.
Tonnarelli al nero by Chief Nicolino, Yangon, June 2018.
Orechiette by Chief Nicolino, Yangon, June 2018.
Italian restaurant E Cucina, Yangon, June 2018.
Paccheri alla Norcina by Chief Nicolino, Yangon, June 2018.
Linguine al granchio by Chief Nicolino, Yangon, June 2018.