orechiette pasta with stewed rabbit
Il Primo (the first in Italian) is ideal for the indecisive. With a concept that promises a selection of three cuisines (Italian, Japanese, Chinese) under one roof, you will be spoiled for choice. For me, Il Primo strikes me a mish-mash of restaurants - there's a little of Shook! in here with the multiple cuisine offerings, a dash of Dish as there's the familiar looking bread basket made from brown paper, the small display deli of goods (yes, they only use Rustichella D'Abruzzo pasta) used in their cooking, and lastly a typical Chinese seafood restaurant since an emphasis is placed on fresh seafood you can order cooked various styles.
fish and shellfish caciucco - Tuscany style soup
The setting though is quite different as it is housed in a standalone building right smack in the heart of Kuala Lumpur. It shares the same premises with The Conlay (a club as I've been told since I've yet to walk through those doors) with ample parking that can probably resolve all of Changkat Bukit Bintang's parking woes in a snap. One reckons, this could be just a temporary site since it's prime property that should instead sport a high rise condominium. Property savvy friends tell me, this plot could be leasehold hence it's not as attractive as the other parcels that have already been developed. Nevertheless, I reckon the owners are just biding their time at the moment.
grilled king crab legs served with lemon butter sauce and black pepper
Onwards to the food. While you're choosing what to eat, you will be served two selections of amuse bouche. For the first visit, we had a nice shot of mushroom cappuccino with a salmon tamago. On a revisit, it was salmon again, first in a maki form and the other was cucumber roll topped with minced salmon.
Vialonenanao squid ink risotto with seafood and prezzemolo, mural, amuse bouche
I'm more used to the words "Il Primo" as the first course in an Italian menu - kinda like the pasta course before you move onto the main course, which is how the pastas are labeled in the restaurant's menu. We managed to sample quite a few dishes in this category. I loved the orechiette (little ears) pasta with the stewed rabbit (RM42). A hearty dish of al dente pasta with soft stewed rabbit cooked in a tomato sauce, this was literally what an Italian nonna would have cooked up for her grandchildren in old Italy. For the homemade beef cheek agnolotti with porcini mushrooms (RM52), it had an irrestible dash of truffle oil but it was slightly overcooked and the filling wasn't abundant enough for us.
garoupa with spicy sauce, sashimi platter
I was interested in the squid ink risotto with seafood and prezzemolo (RM48), something I have yet to try before. This particular risotto uses a special type of risotto rice called Vialonenano from Verona hence the distinct small pearl-like grains you see in the picture. However, I felt it was a little undercooked and not as creamy as I liked it to be. On the side were fresh mussels, clams and prawns. Prezzemolo refers to parsley but I couldn't really get any distinct taste of the herb.
homemade beef cheek agnolotti with porcini mushrooms
Seafood is definitely an emphasis here as even the soup, a Tuscany style caciucco or seafood stew (RM48) comes with an ocean's bounty of a marron, mussels and clams, that you won't get much soup out of it. The soup has a rich seafood taste but was just a tad too salty.
the open kitchen, lemon tart
For those who prefer their seafood pure and simple, the best way to enjoy it is the sashimi - thick pieces of salmon, tuna, yellowtail and sweet shrimp (selections start from RM95 to RM208). Everything is very super fresh for you to enjoy the seafood's sweet taste. If you're a little adventurous, they also do crudos - sashimi paired with olive oil and various kind of sauces like yuzu, balsamic reduction and even decadent truffle oil.
From the Chinese section, we sample a garoupa with spicy sauce (RM145) - deep fried and dressed in a sweet versus spicy sauce. They also do double boiled soups if you're looking for some comfort to your soul.
dessert time: macarons, vanilla bavarese with passion fruit, sacher torte and opera cake
For both of us, we thoroughly enjoyed the king crab legs about 200g portion (RM128) that was wood grilled in the open kitchen. There's powerful exhaust fans here working in the open kitchen that won't let you get smoke into your clothes. We savoured the each delicate and sweet bit of the crab legs, dipping it in the lemon butter sauce or just sprinkled with the saffron salt and a dash of lemon juice.
caramelised apple tart with vanilla gelato
Desserts here are pretty enjoyable especially the baci gelato (RM10) that comes laden with fruits and a piece of biscotti. I do like their lemon tart, a toothsome and not too sweet treat with a light pastry base. Other favourite was the vanilla bavarese with a tangy passionfruit heart. I wasn't too hot about the sacher torte, the opera cake and strawberry tart. On our revisit, we enjoyed the caramelised apple tart. Also available as part of desserts are a selection of pretty in pastel macarons. Tastewise, they ain't fantastic but they're awfully pretty though.
Overall, we thought the food was good even though it can cause you a hefty penny to dine here. The ambience though is a little strange as they have a band playing next to the dining area. If you like your meal in peace, this ain't the place as it can get a tad noisy. Service is good and attentive even though it can get a bit hectic especially when the wait staff are attending to a big party of people. For those who don't want seafood, they also serve wood charcoal grilled meat like lamb and beef.
Il Primo Restolounge
No. 26&28, Jalan Kia Peng
(Pork Free. Open for lunch and dinner daily. For more pictures, see my Flickr set. )
*Notice: The reviewer declares that part of this review was by invitation from the restaurant. Some items were paid for by the reviewer in the second visit to the restaurant.