While Ipoh is generally regarded as one of the better towns for hawker food (perhaps second only to Penang), if you look closer, the town also offers some hidden gems outside of hawker & traditional Chinese food. Case in point – Maiale Japanese style Italian Restaurant.
If the overly long name isn’t clear, the restaurant actually offers Italian cuisine, cook by one Japanese chef, and interestingly, also served by only one local server. If you’re looking for Japanese food here, you won’t find it, but if you want Italian food with a bit of a Japanese influence & ingredients, you’re at the right place.
The restaurant itself is converted from an old colonial style house with very limited seats (perhaps 20 pax max?) and offers an ambiance that is as cozy as it is unique in its staffing. Reservation is a must since space is severely limited.
There’s no real ala carte menu here, instead, you choose from a combination of 3-course menu with 1 selection of appetizer, a main course, and a dessert. Prices range from RM 45 to RM 80 for the set, but sometimes they do have specials, such as Japanese wagyu grade A5 which can fetch quite a pretty penny.
For our dinner, we chose the appetizer platter, pan fried sakura pork loin, and yuzu sorbet for the first set. For second set, we had the same appetizer platter, slow cooked lamb shoulder, and tiramisu.
Like most “almost fine dine” place, we started off with some warm bread, bread stick, with olive oil & vinegar prior to the arrival of appetizer, nothing out of the ordinary.
When the appetizer came, it turned out to be quite a delight. I didn’t care much about the glass plate, or the plating itself, but here’s what we had on it:
- tomato pickled
- roast pork
- spinach and tomato mousse
- baked shrimp
- caponata (middle)
Each had a unique taste and tasted rather not any less than some of the more fancy places. I’d be kicking myself if I chose the Caesar salad or mushroom soup in place of this platter for RM 5 less.
Oh, we also ordered a small plate of scallops (3 pieces) as additional appetizer. They were decent, and definitely worth the RM 8 asking price.
For my main, the pan fried sakura pork loin with red wine balsamic sauce turned out to be a a winner. The meat was cooked to the right doneness, retaining natural flavor of pork as well as its tenderness. Furthermore, the sauce, made from reduction of red wine, balsamic, onion, and beef oil was so flavorful it made me question my own method of preparing pork chop at home. I need to replicate this!
For the second set, the slow cooked lamb shoulder was a decent dish in itself, with the sauce (red wine, homemade beef stock, tomato sauce) that tasted a bit richer but perhaps lack the excitement of stronger acidity compared to the sauce from pork loin. It was good, but perhaps not the same level as the pork loin.
The sides were potato, tomato, and broccoli for both dishes, they were adequate.
The 3rd course of tiramisu & yuzu sorbet were pretty good choices as well. Overall I thought this is a place worthy for special occasions (perhaps a romantic one) if you’re in Ipoh, and loves pork. I should check out their beef or pasta dishes next time.