Thursday, May 24 2018

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A taste of authentic Italian cuisine in Hà Nội

Update: April, 01/2018 - 09:00
Great: Cosy and homey atmosphere inside the restaurant, with professional and attentive staff. VNS Photo The Nomad Quynh
Viet Nam News

Newcomer Cugini has managed to make its mark quickly in a city already full of Italian restaurants. What are their secrets? The Nomad Quynh went to find out.

In Italian, Cugini means “Cousins”, and if you are familiar with the Hà Nội food scene, this name might ring a bell. Yes, Cugini is a popular Western restaurant with a few branches already established in the city. Following this success, their owners have teamed up with Chef Nico Ceccomoro to open Cugini, with the intention of bringing a fresh take of Italian bistronomy—casual fine dining—to Hà Nội food lovers.

Tucked away in a small quiet lane on Tô Ngọc Vân Street in the expat area of Tây Hồ, the restaurant was hard for us to find at first as the street numbers around here are not exactly organized. In the end, we finally made it thanks to the instructions on their Facebook page, which mention that the site is “in front of Công Đoàn Hotel”.

Upon arriving, the grand building with deep red brick walls and a white balcony, surrounded by luscious green trees, immediately caught our eyes. A smiley waitress quickly showed us where to park our vehicle, and then graciously ushered us to the second floor where our reserved table was.

It was a cold winter night, and we were happy to be seated next to a cosy fireplace. I also noticed their lovely balcony outside which would be perfect on a warmer evening. The interior of the restaurant is filled with black wooden furniture and red-and-white tiles that match the colours of the plates and napkins, giving it a classy yet homey feel.

My companion and I were offered a look at the menu. The usual suspects of pasta, pizza are available next to mouth-watering seafood and meat choices for main courses. Of course, there is no lack of options for starters and salads either.

We decided to first choose an antipasto, Italian for appetiser, of mixed wild mushroom paté, truffle oil, rocket salad and cherry tomatoes served on rustic brioche bread (VNĐ100,000), which was brought to us soon after a generous portion of complimentary bread and basil tomato sauce. This was a good choice for a starter – the mushroom was expertly mixed into a smooth paté, while the added truffle oil brought more richness to the taste and the slightly grilled brioche was the perfect base.

For the main courses, we opted for Tonno Grigliato, which is a 180-gram wood-grilled tuna steak served with asparagus, eggplant and other vegetables (VNĐ290,000). We also ordered the Agnello Scottadito, which is 250 grams of wood-grilled milk lamb chops, artichoke tempura and buttered green beans (VNĐ550,000).

The two dishes were brought out at the same time, both beautifully presented. My companion is a tuna fan and totally approved of his dish. The steak was nicely seared on the outside, maintaining its interior softness and freshness, while the accompanying grilled vegetables not only added balance to the whole taste but also dutifully served their decorative purpose.

Classic: Tiramisu – one of the most famous Italian desserts. VNS Photo The Nomad Quynh
Must-try main course: Wood-grilled milk lamb chops with artichoke tempura and buttered green beans. VNS Photo The Nomad Quynh
Fabulous fungi: A delicious antipasto of mixed wild mushroom pate and truffle oil served on rustic brioche. VNS Photo The Nomad Quynh

Our other main course – the milk lamb chops – justifies its status as the most expensive item on the menu, as we could tell it was made with top quality ingredients. The lamb, perfectly medium-rare as we asked, was amazingly juicy with a melt-in-your-mouth tenderness, not to mention aptly seasoned, while the artichoke tempura was such a nice addition that it deserves special recognition by itself.

If you prefer something more iconically Italian with a creative twist, Cugini’s menu also features some interesting choices such as duck ragu Lasagna (VNĐ230,000), or Risotto with goat cheese and hand-carried cured horse meat, which is freshly made upon order and comes in a portion for two at VNĐ650,000. I’d be keen to try the risotto next time I’m here. Their wood-fired pizzas sound equally tempting.

To wrap up the lovely meal, we took a second look at the menu for desserts. They serve artisan gelato from the popular Gelato Italia nearby (VNĐ50,000) as well as a few other interesting choices. We decided to go for a Panna cotta made with cinnamon and red wine reduction (VNĐ80,000), and Tiramisu (VNĐ90,000) – my all-time favourite Italian dessert. While the tiramisu was good, we actually preferred the panna cotta which was exceptionally tasty thanks to the addition of cinnamon and red wine. I think I will order this one again on a future visit.

Last but not least, the restaurant’s professional service is also worth mentioning. Their staff are always friendly and helpful, while foreign managers are also around and will be happy to assist should you have any specific requests.

At the end, after a delightful meal plus a few glasses of wine, our total bill came to around VNĐ1.6 million. It is also noteworthy that during weekdays, set lunch menus are available and priced at VNĐ280,000 and VNĐ320,000 for two and three courses, respectively. These sound like good options for a business meal.

Cugini is a nice choice for either relaxing group gatherings or romantic occasions, if you do not mind a bit of travelling outside the city centre. This place is run by professionals who are serious and passionate about what they do. The food is delicious, the venue is elegant and cosy, and the service friendly and professional. I myself will certainly be back to sample more of their mouth-watering dishes. — VNS

 

Cugini Ristorante Italiano

Address: Lane 67 Tô Ngọc Vân Street (in front of Công Đoàn Hotel), Quảng An, Tây Hồ Dist, Hà Nội

Tel: 088 811 6654

Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday: 11.00 to 14.00 and 18.00 to 22.30;

                            Monday closed

Comment: Authentic Italian restaurant serving great food in a cosy and elegant setting, in the peaceful area of Tây Hồ Dist, Hà Nội.

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