Peppino Italian Restaurant, Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort, Kota Kinabalu
Winner of the Sabah Tourism awards, Peppino Italian restaurant at Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort has a reputation in the city of Kota Kinabalu for elegant dining without the snobbery. Yes please, do dress well, but relax and feel welcomed by the friendly wait staff and an adorable chef. Seating is either in air-conditioned comfort with dim lighting, wine racks and, an abundance of glass and timber or, outside in the fresh sea air. Candlelit tables dot the al fresco patio and are adorned with fresh floral arrangements. Views of the nightlights shimmering off the pool and sounds of the gentle waves lapping the shore bestow holiday resort mood.
For a romantic opening, a bottle of Taittinger Brut Reserve is in order. First introduced to this French drop a few months ago, it has swiftly become one that I hopefully anticipate on a bubbly menu. Priced at RM75 a glass and RM360 a bottle, this sparkling wine is distinguished by a delicate aroma and a palate of ample profundity. Leveled with hints of honey, fresh fruit and toasty yeast, it has a long, fresh finish.
Charming Chef Salvatore Coco leads the crew at this elegant Italian restaurant. Clearly devoted to preparing authentic Italian cuisine, he’s proud of his Sicilian origin and tries to bring a piece of real “Italia” to Kota Kinabalu. We asked for his recommendations and he gladly rattled off a list of dishes he’s passionate about. Our mouths were watering for the pasta, beef and fish suggestions and in the end we left the menu in the hands of the chef. Full of stories, each dish arrived with a tale behind its creation. Not too sure on the veracity of the narratives, we asked, chef cheekily smiled and, assured us 100% truth.
|Chef Salvatore Coco|
The first bite to arrive was the amuse bouche, a Tuna Ball with Polenta Crush. A crunchy round broke way for a textured tuna centre. Topped with a fresh sprig of parsley and set in a red tomato sauce, it was rich and rustic and left our tongues eagerly anticipating the next item.
A Sicilian inspired pasta was up next - Linguine with Prawns, Baked Ricotta and Pistachio Nuts. If seen out of context the pasta could be mistaken for a tasty seafood mee. Upon first mouthful though we soon recognized the firmer al dente bite of a perfectly cooked noodle. White prawn flesh and ivory ricotta were contrasted with deep emerald micro greens. A rich prawn bisque sauce filled the mouth with bursts of garlic, onion, herbs and white wine and, made a distinct opposition to the fresh cleanliness of the carpaccio appetizer (hubby’s starter). Creamy red sauce was complemented by the soft cheese and opposed by the firm flesh of the sea crustacean. Nuts supplied the final grain and the Champagne cut through the richness and cleansed the palate.
|Linguine with prawns, baked ricotta and pistachio nuts|
Carpaccio di Manzo RM46 – marinated beef tenderloin carpaccio with truffle oil, lemon juice, salad leaves, shaved Parmesan and porcini mushrooms was hubby’s pick. Thin slices of raw beef deliquesced on the tongue and a modest tang from the vinaigrette remained. Rucola cleansed the palate and crumbles of the cheese endured until the next sip of wine.
|Carpaccio di Manzo|
So I’d read the trivia for the curious, telling that this dish was named after the Italian painter, Vittore Carpaccio, known for his use of red pigments resembling raw meat. What chef Salvatore however added was the romantic story leading up to the name. Apparently, there was a lady, (there’s always a lady), who was a regular customer of the Café Cipriani in Plaza San Marco, Venice. The damsel had been suffering some health problems and was advised to only eat raw meat. When the chef greeted her, the lady told of her dinner requirements. The chef went back to the kitchen and created this thinly sliced raw beef dish for her. When presented with the meal she enquired as to the name. Not yet invented, the chef glanced up at the painting on the wall above the diner’s table, and seeing red, named the creation after the artist whose painting was hanging on the wall, Vittore Carpaccio.
The night progressed in this format. The aroma of the next dish would have us salivating before it arrived. The chef would soon appear with a mischievous smile and another tale to tell. We’d eat, we’d laugh, we’d drink and indulge and it would happen all over again for the next course.
Filetto di Manzo RM120 met hubby’s carnivorous cravings. The Australian beef tenderloin was pan fried in its own juice and sided with sautéed spinach, mashed potato, almond flakes, parmesan cheese and a balsamic reduction. The thick chunk of flesh was slightly caramelized on the outside and pink and moist within.
|Filetto di Manzo|
My pick, the Filetto di Branzino RM68 also did not disappoint. Fresh succulent pan fried sea bass came dressed with anchovies, capers, lemon sauce and sautéed fat green sprigs of asparagus. A simple but elegant presentation allowed the quality of the locally caught fish to shine through. Stuffed at the seams, but always having extra tummy space for dessert, our thoughts turned to sweets.
|Filetto di Branzino|
Hubby loves to say, “oh no, I don’t need dessert,” but is renowned for gulping down mine, especially if it’s creamy. So, even though we were stuffed, I ordered two plates. With a Sicilian chef, there was no other option than to choose the Cannoli RM28 - a Sicilian specialty consisting of deep fried pastry rolls filled with ricotta cheese, candied fruit and chocolate buttons. Hubby plunged straight for the Crema Bruciata al Frutto della Pasione – passion fruit crème brulee with mango and coconut RM30. To help with digestion, Averna RM14, a popular Sicilian brew made of herbs, roots and spices with caramel, was too on our list.
Prices range from the mid 20s up to around RM120. Considering the quality of the food, the romantic ambience and the signature Shangri-La service, I’d say it’s a good deal for a special occasion.
|Averna - Sicilian digestive|
Reason to visit: dinner on the patio entertained by the sounds of the sea, great Sicilian cuisine, a chat with the chef, Shangri-La service.
Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort
20 Jalan Aru
Tanjung Aru, Kota Kinabalu
+6 088 327 888