Saturday, April 12, 2008

Inspired by Da Mario

Da Mario is the type of restaurant that I'd love to keep quiet about and not share with anyone, simply because it's the type of restaurant which you'd thought had extinct by now and once publicized quality tends to go down ... But they have maintained their standards thus far despite the excellent reviews by loyal patrons for years, so I'm going to let you into this little secret :)

Located in Covent Garden, one would think that this is just another touristy Italian place with its typical pasta and pizza dishes. Not Da Mario though, a family run trattoria style restaurant, located on Endell Street, slightly away from the mad shopping crowd, and boasts a merry and chatty atmosphere (so Italian!), neutral deco and VERY reasonable prices! More importantly, I went there last week with the aim to try the authentically home made fresh pasta, which completely blew P and me away!

My camera went bombastic halfway through, so apologies for the photo quality of the starters: Garlic bread (not photo) and Baked Aubergine in Tomato Sauce. This is a rather dark photo of the aubergine dish. Can't believe I only learn to appreciate this purple vegetable only since 13! Portion was small, but still good to share, as you don't want to fill up too much before the major star of the meal appears :)

Da Mario doesn't give you those main stream pasta sauces you see marketed everywhere, no such thing as Bolognese, Carbonara, Al Fredo, Arrabiata, or Rigatoni. Great for those who think going to Italian restaurants being a waste of time (and money) given that you can buy fresh pasta/pasta sauces, or pizzas and jostle up some Italian meal. In addition to the standard menu, Da Mario has daily specials to fit in seasonal ingredients into their refreshing menu.

For my main, I had Tagliatelle Gamberoni, a dish of fresh tagliatelle with king prawns, cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumber and chili in a special brandy sauce, served with some grated Parmesan cheese and ground black pepper. Flavor wise it's out of this world! The quality in the fresh pasta is noticeable - it's slightly softer and chewier, yet still al dente, i.e. still has some bite. The brandy sauce adds a slight thick creaminess to the light tomato based sauce, which I suspect is made using good quality prawn stock with a mild sweetness towards the end. And best part is the sauce is not over powering the fresh bursty prawns and sweet cherry tomatoes, just enough to coat the pasta and giving flavor to the mild cucumber slices - perfection! :D

P was adventurous and went for Casarecci Pasta with Chopped Italian Sausage Meat and Broccoli. Anything with sausage meat is usually pretty flavorful, but we were more intrigued about the casarecci pasta, and how broccoli can fit well with pastas in general, as it seemed a pretty uncommon combination to me.

By the way, don't you think Italians have a beautiful accent? Listening to the waiter explaining what is Casarecci pasta like is like music to your ears, lol. Maybe I'd just been influenced by The Godfather movies starring Al Pacino and Marlon Brando. Anyways, *slaps forehead*, back to pastas...

Casarecci pasta is shaped like a very narrowly twisted and rolled tube. Upon close observation, it looks like an "S" if turned and viewed from the end and is about 2 inches long. P also fell head over heels in love with his choice of pasta. The sausage meat was nicely seasoned and not too salty. I had a taste of casarecci too and its awesome since its twirly shape manages to capture and hold on to more creamy sauce. Broccoli balances the dish by giving it a bit of a crunch and goes surprising well with the pasta.


Well what can I say? Having done 2 courses that exceeded expectations, I was keen to check out the dessert menu to satisfy my sweet tooth. Their home made apple pie is famous from the reviews I've read, but way too heavy at that time after the heavy meal. Sharing a Tartufo Nero seems perfect: a vanilla ice cream with hazelnut cream, topped with chocolate shavings and chopped hazelnuts. Picture doesn't look as impressive due to bad lighting, but tastewise it's good stuff.


My advice? Visit Da Mario for for the mains, especially authentic fresh pastas/lasagnes, which outshines the starters and desserts. In fact, I probably might go for 3 main dishes to share to try out more main dishes the next time I visit :)

In fact, I'm so inspired by Da Mario that I want to make my own fresh pasta today, since I have 3 other willing guinea pigs. Will let you know on my progress/outcome real soon this week!

Da Mario
63 Endell Street,
London, WC2H 9AJ
(Advanced booking recommended)

2 comments:

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Anonymous said...

im am SO going to this restaurant when i go london~~

haur