Keeping to flavours of a country

Fresh Mediterranean anchovies marinated in vinaigrette of white wine and salt. — Photos: CHAN TAK KONG/The Star

MANY of us may not be able to travel to exotic locations so the best way to experience a glimpse of a country is to sample its cuisine.

Luckily, cuisines from across the world have been making their way to our shores along with chefs who are keen to introduce dishes that are authentic to their home countries.

A fine example of this is Sapore (meaning “flavours” in Italian), a casual and family-friendly restaurant in Ampang that serves Italian and Spanish-Mediterranean food.

It is headed by chef Fabio Ruggiero and 80% of the produce and ingredients here are brought in from Italy and Spain for a truly authentic taste.

“We do not overwork ingredients as we prefer to maintain the originality of the flavour especially with seafood and meat.

“Each dish only has two to three ingredients on the plate to let each element shine through,” Ruggiero said.

Roasted Octopus with roasted potato, arugula and balsamic vinegar.
Roasted Octopus with roasted potato, arugula and balsamic vinegar.

There is an extensive selection of hot and cold Spanish tapas.

A speciality here is the Jamon Iberico, a type of Spanish cured ham that is unarguably one of the best in the world.

But for the best cured ham, you specifically want Jamon Iberico de Bellota, bellota here meaning “acorn”.

It is served as cold cuts (RM45) where paper thin slivers are presented on a wooden charcuterie board.

Dark red and attractive marbling, the fat melts on the tongue, lending slight sweet and nutty notes to the palate.

Break off chunks of oven-baked focaccia (RM5) with the ham for a delightful sweet and salty pairing.

While the Tuna Tartare with Avocado Guacamole (RM38) sounds fishy, it was pleasantly not so.

Ruggiero does not overwork ingredients, preferring to maintain the originality of the produce.
Ruggiero does not overwork ingredients, preferring to maintain the originality of the produce.

Using the loin of yellow tuna, it is served directly in the avocado, with sliced shallots, lemon and capers.

The creamy guacamole helps complement the tuna tartare for a refreshing taste.

Another tapas dish that is highly recommended is Anchovies Marinated in Olive Oil (RM28), where fresh anchovies are marinated with a vinaigrette of white wine and salt.

Moving on to heartier options, the Roasted Octopus (RM128), looked simple but was perfectly executed, served with roasted potato, arugula and balsamic vinegar.

“I prefer to use the Mediterranean octopus because it is saltier and has a more pleasant taste compared to the octopus found in seas off Asia,” Ruggiero said.

The octopus is boiled with herbs for several hours until soft and tender.

It is then marinated with garlic, black pepper, thyme and Spanish paprika before it is grilled.

Tortellini in Beef Broth.
Tortellini in Beef Broth.

The octopus was not chewy, but flavourful from the simple marination.

Some new additions to the menu are the Grilled Pork Neck (RM49) and Tortellini in Beef Broth (RM42).

For the tortellini, the handmade pasta is stuffed with ham and cooked in a flavourful meat broth, with grated Parmesan cheese on top.

Sapore also has crowd favourites like pastas, pizzas as well as an extensive wine and cocktail menu.

SAPORE, 18, Persiaran Ampang, Desa Pahlawan, Kuala Lumpur. (Tel:03-4266 6362) Business hours: 11am to 3pm and 6pm to 11pm (Monday to Friday), 11am to 11pm (Saturday and Sunday). Non-halal.

This is the writer’s personal observation and not an endorsement by StarMetro.

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