E Cucina, ris­torante e vino

A faran­dole of pasta in the Pull­man ho­tel.

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - Weekend|Review - Pho­tos: Nyan Zay Htet ZUZA­KAR KALAUNG

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.

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