The room is magnificent! Small but with extremely high ceilings, it reeks of the elegance of a former period. It faces out over the still water swimming pool, way below is the coast of Nusa Dua, the lights like a distant fairyland. Sit at the outside tables at the waters edge or inside in refined comfort.
Fine dining has returned to that grand old building on Nusa Dua, Amanusa. With this elite boutique chain having been returned to its original management group, one of the results is that this restaurant also been returned to its former grandeur, as it was originally intended. Welcome to The Italian Restaurant at Amanusa. It has it all! Under the guiding hand of exciting young Australian executive chef Craig Diss, all the little things are done perfectly! After an earlier stint in Bali, Craig has been operating at Amanpulo in The Phillipines and has now returned to Bali to right a wrong. The Italian Restaurant is back!
In Italy one of the first things you see when arriving at any Italian restaurant is a table of food. It consists of an array of chilled bowls and trays, containing a large variety of small dishes that form the Antipasto Table. Some of life's most boring vegetables are turned into wondrous morsels with magic-like treatment in the kitchen.
Here is no exception. Crumbed Sardines, Agro Dolce [an incredible sweet and sour eggplant], simple pickled Beetroot, Sun-Dried Tomatoes with Olives and Mushrooms marinated in olive oil, mustard and garlic, are but examples.
If the Antipasto table is not for you then maybe you prefer some Brodo [a broth of mixed shellfish with pancetta], or a traditional Carpaccio, paper thin slices of prime beef with fried capers and citronette[a tangy lemon mustard]. Gamberoni is baked freshwater prawns in garlic and chilli with Parmigiano Reggiano. The meat, though small, is sweet and tasty. Bruschetta is something everybody knows but this version combines a tomato salsa with Prosciutto di Parma. Melanzane is simple eggplant, fresh tomato sauce and Parmigiano Reggiano.
Think Italian and you think pasta! You have a few options and all are cooked perfectly al dente. Capelli d'Angelo is angel-hair pasta with fresh crab meat and chives. Pappardelle is with beef Bolognese and a pork ragu, whilst the Tortellini is a ricotta and spinach stuffed pasta with prawns, walnuts and burro nocciola [burnt butter]. The pasta is firm yet tender, real al dente, the crushed roasted walnuts an unusual touch. As perfect is the Risotto Nero [black from squid ink].
Dorado is perfectly grilled fresh Mahi-Mahi, served with asparagus and a salsa verde. Dentice is pan roasted Red Snapper, with bell peppers, olives, caper berries and pomodoro. Estuarine Barramundi is pan roasted with saffron braised fennel, lentils and tomato, whilst Acqua Pazza is a combination of lobster, prawns, clams, cuttlefish and reef fish in a tomato saffron sauce. It is cooked in a 'paper bag', and arrives at your table that way. As soon as you open the bag you are hit with a blast of that unique saffron aroma, which persists as you devour each piece of perfect seafood.
The meat selection is small but all quality. The steak [every place has to have one] is US Angus, pan roasted and topped with Foie Gras and accompanied by fondente della patata [thin scallops of potato that have been cooked in chicken stock, butter and herbs] and a sangiovese glace. Agnello is rack of lamb, roasted pink of course, with a puree of cannelloni beans, fagioli verdi and lamb jus. That trusty old Italian friend, Osso Bucco, is everybody?s favourite [well for the carnivores, anyway]. It is the perfect slab of meat, cut across the veal leg, cholesterol-fuel bone marrow in the centre, simmered till perfect!
Now for the piece de resistance! Porkoholics beware; this one will keep bringing you back for more! Pork Belly slowly braised for three hours, and served with cavolo nero [black cabbage] is one of those dishes that you eat very slowly, savouring every mouthful.
Italian desserts always include Tiramisu, Pannacotta [this one with fresh strawberries and a basil tuille] and Semifreddo [a hazelnut praline with raspberry sauce]. Crespelle are crepes combined with a vanilla gelato and limoncello syrup, whilst the popular Budino is a pudding of chocolate and toasted almond with an amaretti chip gelato.
One of the most extensive quality wine lists and impeccable service do these grand premises proud. On a perfect night to sit outside, gamelan wafting across the swimming pool [should not that be Paverotti?], is almost the perfect dining experience. Save it for a special occasion or just create one, you will remember it forever.