Chef Kenny Lim doesn’t believe in shortcuts. Coming from a family of hoteliers, Kenny has been drilled in formal kitchen and culinary skills from the age of 17 when he went to Les Roches International School of Hotel Management in Switzerland. Armed with a diploma in Hotel Management from Les Roches (rated one of the top four hotel schools in the world), Kenny decided that hotel management was not for him and went straight into doing what he loved best: cooking.
Since then he has worked in some of the finest kitchens in both East and West Malaysia including stints with Shangri-la and Regent Hotels in Kuala Lumpur, the Hard Rock Cafes in Singapore and KL, the Cyberview Lodge in Cyberjaya and many others.
It was serendipity that found him in Ipoh where he and his wife were staying with his brother -in-law before moving on to Penang, where he was considering re-joining his ex-boss at the Hard Rock Hotel there. Finding that his wife and their three girls aged 16, 15 and 9 loved Ipoh, and as luck would have it, he met up with an American investor who was keen to take over the existing Italia Mia restaurant which was then up for sale. And so a partnership was formed, with Kenny presiding in the kitchen and Soli, the American partner’s wife helming the service and front of the house.
I noticed the difference the first time I went there after the new management took over. I have always been a regular at the ‘old’ Italia Mia and I needed to find out what was happening in the ‘new’.
The decor has remained but the menu was different – more trattoria style and less formal. But it was the prices that caught my eye. Visibly lower than the previous management, the only option was to use the old adage ‘proof of the pudding is in the eating’, which a group of us did with gusto.
We decided to blow diets to the wind and ordered a selection of their appetizers that included fried mozzarella sticks and deep fried calamari (squid) both served with their home-made marinara sauce, a tangy fresh tasting tomato based sauce that lent a piquancy to the fried titbits.
We then had a slice of pizza each, the one we ordered being the Pepperoni (beef) from a choice of five. The crust was thin and crisp, with a generous topping of cheese and pepperoni. The roast duck pizza is apparently a must try and will be on the new menu which is due out shortly.
The Parrot fish Piccata, pan fried with capers and served with a lemon butter sauce was very flavourful, tinged with the tartness of the capers which complemented the firm fresh fish. It wasn’t on the menu and was one of their featured ‘Fish of the Day’ specials. However, this will be on the new menu – RM42.
We followed this up with the country roast lamb rack, marinated and braised in own juices served with ratatouille (mixed vegetables stew) and mashed potatoes. Hints of rosemary, garlic, and citrus flavours wafted from the table as we tucked into this very succulent lamb – RM56.
Next was the Seafood Spaghetti A’lio O’lio one of their signature dishes, a cornucopia of seafood – prawns, mussels, squid – pan fried with garlic and tossed with white wine and al dente spaghetti, topped with parsley – RM28. Definitely a must-have for those into seafood.
The entire menu is small but with a selection to please all palates from the vegetarian to the ‘fishtarian’ to the carnivore with a choice of chicken, lamb and rib eye steaks.
Their wine list is modest ranging from RM85 to RM110, great for an evening of wining and dining in air-conditioned comfort in a European ambience, with white table cloths, where the service provided by Soli is extremely friendly and superlative and for me most importantly of all, where the toilets are clean and fresh smelling!
Italia Mia Ristorante Italiano
10 Persiaran SC12/1, Sunway City, Ipoh