A.Zeta Kitchen, Bangsar

May 19, 2020

A.Zeta Kitchen offers cause for culinary celebration, marking the comeback of Andrea Zanella, one of our favourite Italian chefs to have ever cooked in KL. If you've passionately pursued pastas and pizza in the past 15 years, you've probably encountered chef Andrea's fare, spanning the start of Sassorosso to his own restaurant Chiaroscuro to subsequent stints in il Lido, Zenzero and Anita Laguna - a remarkable run through many of the city centre's best Italian restaurants since 2007.

With four decades of experience, the Veneto-born chef has brought us so many beautiful creations, from slow-roasted rabbit leg in Chiaroscuro to ewe's milk ravioli with honey sauce in il Lido. A.Zeta, a labour of love with Andrea's wife Carol Lim, leans more toward the casual contemporary trattoria style of Chiaroscuro, weaving together the rustic and the refined in each recipe.

With the Neapolitan jazz classic Tu Vuo' Fa L'Americano playing in the background, the mood for a marvellous meal might be set with a trusty standard - slices of house-baked bread paired with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic reduction - together with welcoming starters like yogurt-thickened, minty-chilled cucumber soup to perk up the palate and crunchy tapioca crackers to titillate the taste buds.

A chiller brimming with A.Zeta's own freshly pulled pasta underscores that pappardelle, tagliolini, spaghetti alla chitarra, gnocchi or any of the other flour-and-egg temptations here should be your first order. Let Chef Andrea decide which tender pasta to partner with your choice of sauce - the most intriguing is the trio of traditional tomato-and-basil (lively with perfectly ripe Cameron Highlands tomatoes, smoothly sweet and tangy but not sour), bolognese (an authentically meaty mince of both beef and pork) and mixed mushroom ragout (robustly marinated for full-bodied flavour), clocking in at RM46.

The antipasti selection is also worth investigating - a puree-textured passata of cannellini beans might be the most soulful soup on this side of Bangsar, its naturally wholesome earthiness complemented by delicately briny squid, lightly spicy shrimp dust and herbaceous dill oil (RM25), while the sweet-sour eggplant with fried polenta is a vegetarian take on the Venetian saor of vinegared sardines with soaked raisins and pine nuts, punchy and brinjal-fleshy (RM22).

There might only be six main courses on the menu, but each is so tempting that it's tortuous to narrow down your options. While we would have loved to order the barramundi fillet with fennel flan and black olive sauce, the roasted stuffed chicken with mustard mash, and the breaded cabbage steak with capers, we selected the other three, none of which we regretted.

Chef Andrea's Venetian heritage resurfaces again in the cuttlefish with a rich ink sauce, layered with plenty of vivid colour and vibrant nuances, including roasted onions and pickled pumpkin for piquancy (RM48).

The kitchen's effort to serve up distinctive dishes is displayed in the tarragon risotto, with the anise-like notes of the leafy herb adding a memorable flourish to the rice, bolstered by bacon ragout for savoury protein juiciness (RM52).

If you're here to indulge, have the pork jowl, a decadent balance of luscious fattiness and succulent meatiness, each bite yielding a concentrated dose of pure, pristine porky pleasure; even its accompaniments aren't an afterthought - the smoked garlic semolino and lemon-zesty spinach roll are drop-dead delicious (RM72).

Throw a couple of Campari-based cocktails in the mix, plus a velvety red that costs a reasonable RM120 per bottle, and you'll leave hoping that A.Zeta (the name is a play on the chef's own) endures as a fixture in this neighbourhood for years to come.

A.Zeta Kitchen

14, Jalan Kemuja, Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur. 

Open Monday-Saturday, 630pm-11pm. Tel: +603-2302-1510

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