Via Pre and Jammin Via Pre, George Town, Penang
We feel hip just walking into Via Pre. Chilled world music tunes hum from an excellent sound system and, tall exposed beam ceilings give a freeing sense of spaciousness. Wine and liquor bottles line the shelves and, a long refrigerated counter of house made pastries and cured meats form one wall of the bar and service counter. A tall chalkboard, bordered with a ladder (as it’s needed to reach the almost two story top) highlights the deli items, daily specials and an event calendar.
|Via Pre Entrance at Weld Quay|
Two floors feature two separate kitchens and two distinct ambiences. Downstairs is a lively Italian restaurant with a definitely non-halal menu. Upstairs, Jammin Via Pre, is pork-free with lighter fare and a great nightspot. Featuring live bands, DJs and regular theme nights such as salsa and movie nights and, with its outdoor terrace overlooking the sea, it’s a perfect spot to begin or end the evening.
|Terrace at Jammin Via Pre|
We take an Italian aperitif, Spritz (RM27) a mix of prosecco, Aperol and lemon, on the terrace upstairs. With harbour views and groovy music it’s a great way to start the evening. You can eat an entire pork-free meal upstairs in the casual bar atmosphere, or enjoy both ambiences and head downstairs for the meal and possibly back upstairs for some live music.
|Spritz on the Jammin Terrace|
Relocating ourselves downstairs to benefit from both the pork and pork free menus, we try two starters from each kitchen. Tre (RM15 small) brings prawns wrapped in bacon in a pond of rich tomato sauce. They start the meal with a bang! A wallop of flavour fills the mouth and a tiny bite of spice lingers on the tongue. Yum!
Quattro (RM15 small) with eggplant and Parma ham is another winner. The smooth eggplant is contrasted with the more textured meat and the melted cheese provides a gooey topping that completes the parcel of savor.
Proscuitto and Fresh Australian Rock Melon (RM29) comes with a fabulous melon sorbet. Drizzled with a special Italian balsamic, the gelato-like accompaniment is easily devoured on its own. Actually we might even consider finishing with this for dessert.
Ocean trout with rocket, sundried tomatoes and artichokes is a sneak peak of the new menu for next month, as is the Eggplant Bresaola. Both are sure to be well received.
|Platter of Starters - Eggplant and Bacon, Prawns Wrapped in Bacon, Smoked Trout, Ham and Cheese, Melon Sorbet with Balsamic|
An Italian Pinot Grigio RIFF IGT 2011 (RM25) is lightly fruity on the nose, smooth in the palate and has a faint acidic finish. It’s easy drinking and one that could easily be sipped on all evening.
Spaghetti al Ragout di Cinghiale e Funghi (RM28) is a ‘wildly’ popular pasta with wild boar and mushrooms on spaghetti. A thin film of oil coats the pasta making it glide through our lips as we suck it in as if sipping a thick milkshake through a straw. Florets of cauliflower add a third texture to the delicately flavoured meat and pasta. We enjoy the subtle flavours of this dish but wonder if Malaysian palates, or those accustomed to a lot of chili, will be able to detect the delicate levels of seasoning.
|Spaghetti al Ragout di Cinghiale e Funghi - Wild Boar Ragout with Mushrooms|
Vermi Integrali con Pesce (RM22) grabs my attention because of the wholemeal pasta and light seafood soup - seems like a healthy option to me. It’s brimming with finely chopped carrot and celery and an ocean of clams and mussels. Chunky pasta worms make the dish rather filling and a squeeze of lemon on top brings out the flavour of the broth. It’s lightly salted and a bowl of croutons can be added at your will for a bit of crunch. We think it’s great value for the quality, generosity of seafood and, price.
|Vermi Integrali con Pesce|
A long-standing favourite, dating back to the opening days of Vineria IT (sister restaurant in Kuala Lumpur), Porchetta (RM72 Italian pig, RM56 local pig) is still a much-requested main. It’s made often but not on the a la carte menu so you should order this one in advance as the preparation sees a deboned suckling pig stuffed with ham, sausages, artichokes and sage, slowly roasted for 6 -7 hours. Seasoned with fresh herbs and the fat from the meat itself, it’s tender and wonderfully flavourful, not needing of any additional sauce. The accompanying bowl of mustard however is so palatable that I imagine it could easily be used as a gravy for rice or happily soaked up with sticks of crusty baguette.
Mixed roasted roots (depending on availability, in this case pumpkin and beetroot) maintain a slight firmness, much little like al dente pasta and we think they’re done perfectly. A side bowl of lentils, seasoned with onion, pork and fresh herbs, too are precisely cooked – just enough to soften them but removed from the heat in time to prevent a mushy mess. I appreciate the wealth of healthy sides that come with the dish and hubby confirms it a dish not to be missed.
|Porchetta with Roasted Vegetables, Lentils and Mustard Sauce|
The meal has been well-balanced, clearly made with the best of ingredients and executed with masterful preparation. We’re content and smiling with delicious satisfaction and while we could leave now, we don’t want to miss out on trying something sweet from what has been so far a faultless experience.
Chef Max organizes a tasting trio of Crème Brûlée (RM12), Equatorial Gianduja Cake with Chantilly (RM18) and a classic Panna Cotta (RM15) with berries and balsamic reduction. The traditional crème brûlée has hubby mmming with is velvety richness and specks of vanilla bean and, the panna cotta ensures a follow up of delighted ahhhs. The chocolate lava cake leaks a silky rich sauce and is just the right size to quench my cacao cravings.
|Dessert Platter - Crème Brûlée, Panna Cotta and Equatorial Gianduja Cake|
We leave Via Pre beaming from ear to ear, bellies pleasantly swollen and with enthusiastic musings of our next return.
Reasons to visit: home cured meats; everything made in house; good wine and liquor selection; double ambience with restaurant downstairs and nightspot above; Proscuitto and Fresh Australian Rock Melon; Vermi Integrali con Pesce; Porchetta; Panna Cotta
5 Weld Quay
+6 04 2619 800
+6 04 2620 560
Second floor of Via Pre
Open Wednesday to Saturday from 5pm until late.
Wednesday nights ladies get 1 for 1 drinks.
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