This afternoon we get a sneak preview of an Italian wine dinner combining the talents of chef Ricky Parlanti, of Prego at The Westin Kuala Lumpur, and winemaker, Girogio Pelissero, the owner of Pelissero Estate in Treiso, Italy. The official dinner is scheduled for next Monday, December 4th at 7pm, where guests are invited to join the Italian duo for a six-course wine paired menu, and after today’s experience, I highly recommend you book yourself a seat.
Chef Ricky is one of the most amiable chefs we’ve come across and we’d be happy to revisit Prego anytime, not just to try whatever he’s delivering from the kitchen but for a spark of good humour and injection of passion too. We’re yet to meet Girogio Pelissero (we’ll get to that introduction next Monday), but add Italian wine presented by the winemaker himself to Chef Ricky’s food and presence and we’re pretty excited about the upcoming dinner.
Located in Treiso, the northwestern region of Piedmont, Pellisero is known for the three core varietals of Nebbiolo, Barbero and Dolcetto. The estate is large, however, and other notable grapes including Freisa, Favorita and Moscato make up the portfolio. The wine dinner pairs some of these signatures with flavours from the region, and with the two Italians doing the dealing, it’s like getting a Royal Flush.
As guests mingle and socialize, perhaps even finding a chance to speak with the winemaker himself, canapes of Spiced Bagna Cauda Crostini and Brioche with Fontina Cheese are passed around and washed down with a glass of bubbly. The former has us off to a fitting start as the warm sauce is a classic from Piedmont (the same region as the wine) made of anchovies, garlic, olive oil and butter. The latter cheese, again hailing from the same area, is semi-soft with a mild nuttiness and buttery mouthfeel.
Antipasto – Appetizer
Taking seats, it’s time for the wine from Pelissero to begin and our first drop is the Dolcetto D’Alba DOC Munfrina 2014 paired with Carpaccio of Scallops, Ocean Trout and Marinated Anchovies with Salsa Verde. Dolcetto from Alba is one of the most highly regarded of this varietal. Light and aromatic, the wine is soft enough to accompany the delicate cuts of seafood without overpowering them, yet has enough structure to stand by the more robust profile of the anchovies. Swilled on its own I detect a whisper of amaretto in the finish.
La Prima Portata – First Main
An intense ruby red draws our attention to the next wine, Barbera D’Alba DOC Piani 2014. Known as the “wine of the people,” Barbera is often easily afforded and drank younger than its other red siblings from the region. I need to give it a good swirl to discern the delicate nose of dark berries. It follows through in the mouth with soft tannins and a juicy acidity, and I’m surprised at the relatively persistent finish. They say the north of Italy is known for risotto and the south for pasta, so it’s with good reason that the first main sees rice over wheat as the grain of choice. Nobile Risotto with Braised Oxtail and Ash Coated Goat Cheese is firm to the bite and deliciously more-ish. Chef Ricky created his own ash from the pizza oven to wrap the cheese, which serves two purposes: one to absorb the moisture and intensify the flavour, and second to impart a smokiness to the diary.
Intermezzo – Palate Cleanser
Our palates are freshened with a smooth, chilled Forest Berry Granita and shot of Villa Massa Limon de Sorrento. Villa Massa has been producing this sweet lemon liqueur since the end of the 19th century and proudly uses the peels of Sorrento Oval PGI lemons as the raw ingredient. It’s fragrant and perfectly balanced between sweet and tart. Although I’m accustomed to sipping on limoncello at the end of a meal, I now think it’s a brilliant idea to use it as a palate cleanser too.
La Seconda Portata – Second Main
Escalating further in intensity and depth, the second main brings us to the peak of the line-up with Pan-fried Wild Duck Breast with Truffled Sweetbreads, Stewed Lentils and Toma Cheese Polenta paired with Barbaresco DOCG Tulin 2013. The semi-hard toma cheese is typical of the Piedmont region and literally translates to “made by the farmer.” It’s buttery, creamy and tangy and reaches its full potential when served warm such as in this polenta. The earthiness of the truffled sweetbreads, rough texture of the lentils and moist dark duck breast serve to complement the minerality attributes in the wine’s perfume. With layers of savoury and tannin, the complexity of the Nebbiolo is enveloped in a lustrous frame. Quizzing chef Ricky as to why the thick pieces of duck are so tender, he jokingly says, “It’s because we cook it properly,” but later reveals his secret, which is quite a lengthy process that we promise not to reveal but it involves a combination of pan-frying, cold chilling and sous-viding.
Il Dolce – Dessert
The meal concludes with Piedmontese Chocolate Bonet, Almond Cantuccini Crisp and Passion Fruit Gelato. The bonet, another classic dish from Piedmont, is prepared in a similar way to that of crème caramel but is lushed up with chocolate and rum (except no rum in this version as the pastry kitchen is Halal). Cantuccini, the hard almond biscuits also known as biscotti, are a signature at Prego, almost wafer thin, and I recall many happy meal endings with these melted away with sips of hot coffee. The tartness of the house-made gelato is a welcome break in sweetness and a good segue from food to drink. The mildly effervescent Moscato D’Asti DOCG 2016, fruity and floral on the nose, mirrors the various elements of the dessert with its gentle see-saw of sweetness and acidity.
The six-course Italian wine paired dinner is priced at RM275 net per person. It begins at 7 pm on the fourth of December at Prego, The Westin Kuala Lumpur. For dining reservations, please contact Westin Dining at 603.2773.8338 or email [email protected] .
Reasons to visit: Meet the winemaker in person and enjoy fabulously paired Italian wine and food.