soul of the south
Taking up residence at The Ritz-Carlton, Kuala Lumpur for five days in March, chef Lino Sauro transformed The Library into a bastion of Sicilian cuisine, brimming with the vibrant flavours of southern Italy. The award-winning chef behind Gattopardo Ristorante di Mare in Singapore explained that he was in town to showcase the other side of Sicilian cooking.
Going over his four-course dinner menu, Sauro remarked: “Our cuisine used to have a reputation of being very heavy, with lots of fat, bread and pasta. In the past 20 to 30 years, it’s become much lighter, which is what I’m trying to showcase. As an island, we receive a lot of influence from Africa and Spain, and we have such incredible seafood to offer, like fresh amberjack and lobster."
His lightness of touch was plain to see in the crisp arancini balls that were circulated around The Library beforehand, and an amuse-bouche of an oyster with wasabi chips and Avruga caviar. Meanwhile, an ink-black dish of risone pasta with charred, citrus-glazed octopus presented a welcome alternative to the stodginess of risotto, lifted by a surprisingly spicy tomato aioli – an allusion to Sicily’s fiery spirit.
A nest of capellini con aracosta made a glorious mix of angel hair pasta, nuggets of lobster, seaweed and carrot as an ode to the island’s maritime and fishing prowess. This, too, was reflected in Sauro’s signature Gattopardo seafood stew, which came densely packed with prawns, lobster, fish, mussels and slivers of octopus in a rich tomato sauce. Rose pink slices of Australian Wagyu with morel mushrooms and a robust horseradish sauce made a slight departure from traditional Sicilian cuisine, but matched a glass of Vigneti Zabu Grillo Terre Siciliane IGT superbly.
Dessert took the form of a Sicilian ricotta cheesecake, more popularly known as a cassata, but with a wry twist – Sauro’s version revealed itself to be a deconstructed version covered cheekily in freeze-dried raspberries.