Until I moved to Bangalore I had never been in an Italian (or Japanese or Mexican) restaurant that also had an entire section of the menu dedicated to the cuisine from a second country. In Europe, an Italian restaurant in Paris serves Italian food and not Italian food plus French food too. The Thai restaurants in the U.S. serve Thai and not also some Tex-Mex if they were in Arizona and so on. So you can imagine that it really takes a newcomer a long time to understand WHY every specialty restaurant in Bangalore has a complete assortment Indian food – when they aren’t Indian food restaurants. It’s something that my Indian mates don’t think twice about and just consider ‘normal’ but this characteristic trait of fine dining establishments is always a bit of a brain teaser for us newcomers.
So when a dear friend took me for Champagne and some appetizers at Via Milano one evening and I discovered that it was a 100% pure play Italian restaurant without a single menu item from another country (well, okay, one of the desserts was but that’s just fine!)…well, I was happy as a clam. I told my daughter about it the next day and we almost literally ran there (well, our driver Shiva drove us of course!).
Opened in 2009 in Koramangala, the restaurant itself is just lovely. Split across two levels it is over 5,500 square feet and the owners have really done a superb job of using that space to give us guests our OWN space. The upper level showcases high ceilings and one elevated platform in the centre of the room where about 5 tables are placed. It really breaks up the room in a nice way and adds to the unique architecture. Three sides of the restaurant are open and the soft breeze is just lovely. On the lower level, Via Milano has setup a spacious environment for fine dining with air conditioning and floor to ceiling windows with soft lighting at night that makes everyone look great (at least I think we all look nicer by candlelight). They play an assortment of soft international jazz and Italian love songs – some of which I actually recognized like Laura Pausini. And on Saturday nights they have live music from 8 – 11:30pm, too!
My daughter and I were pretty much on a mission to massively ‘mangia mangia’ down on some buono cuina Italiana. Aside from the weekly pasta dishes with fresh tomato ‘a la pomodoro’ or cream-based sauces ‘a la alfredo’ that I cook at home, the truth is that we hadn’t eaten proper Italian food together since moving to Bangalore. I already knew from my last experience that I was going to enjoy myself and I was thrilled to see that my daughter instantly fell in love with Via Milano too. To be precise, at the end of the meal “Oh my gawd, you have to call your review ‘Via Milano, the best Italian food in Bangalore’” were her exact words!
Like good girls should, we immediately placed our drink order prior to even opening up the menu. As for me, all I wanted was Italian red so I ordered a glass of Corte Sassiona and since my daughter was dragging-her-feet-dead from school she ordered a Lavazza coffee over ice. They serve my favourite Champange which I always love to see on the menu, Veuve Cliquot, as well as the more well-known Moët & Chandon and of course Italian Proscecco. Their wine cellar is comprised of labels from South Africa, France, Australia, Chile, India and of course Italia!
Then the fun started! It’s always exciting to see what goodies are brought to the table when we sit down or what questions and introductions the wait staff make. Well, when you sit down at Via Milano they immediately bring a basket filled with freshly baked breads including a unique pesto baguette, sweet rolls and bread sticks. To accompany these tasty grains they also bring what appear to be cool science laboratory beakers filled with two types of oils (one infused, one extra virgin is my guess) and balsamic vinegar – this is for the ‘traditionalists’ accustomed to mixing and dipping (TIP: if you haven’t eaten bread in Europe using the oil and vinegar mix, ask the waiter to do it for you first … then just sit back and enjoy! It beats butter or dips or spreads all day long!). They also bring a nice assortment of dips, although I have to admit that neither of us tried them because we dug right into the extra virgin oil and balsamico! The breads are all fantastically fresh as is the quality of the olive oil, which was superb.
Via Milano has a really diverse and ample menu and as I said earlier, I’m soooooo pleased that the owners did not succumb to the extraordinary peer pressure that almost every other restaurant in town has to add local cuisine to a foreign themed restaurant. After a bit of perusing, here’s what we enjoyed that night:
- Grilled shrimp with mustard sauce – wow, this was amazing, so tender and fresh and the presentation was stunning.
- Buffalo mozzarella – this dish is fried with tomatoes and was delicious. I hadn’t eaten such authentic buffalo mozzarella in so long that I wanted to eat 10 of them!
- Cipriani-style carpaccio – I’m coo coo for carpaccio and they have various versions. I ordered the style with sweet, fresh tapenade dollops and I was in heaven. The beef is so flavourful and perfectly sliced. If you love carpaccio don’t miss it.
- Oyster, porcini and button mushroom ravioli – this is a delight to the taste buds, prepared with clarified butter and parmesan and sprinkled with crispy bits of carrot. My daughter, until then hadn’t been a fan at all of mushrooms, but she gobbled them down like hotcakes and is now – almost – a mushroom fan!
- Lamb chops – these delights are brushed with mustard and then grilled and literally infused in a red wine sauce. Yum!
- Reef cod – this fresh fish was grilled and set atop a bed of thinly sliced potatoes and served with a white wine and shrimp sauce. The combination is a wonderful explosion of tastes, creamy and flavourful.
- Crema Catalana – this is what most people refer to as crème brûlée but it was actually the Catalans in Spain who invented this tasty dessert (though the French obviously always do a better job of marketing their cuisine!). They have a lovely version of it, was my daughter’s favourite.
- Caramelised almond nougat – this was mine and so delicious! Served with a chocolate sauce and some pistachios.
- We were too full to try it but they serve white and dark chocolate lasagna for dessert that we shall be trying next time.
Take my advice and head over for a romantic dinner with the one you love (or the one you are trying to woo) and sip Champagne and whisper over candlelight …. or go with a group of dear friends for a fun-filled night of decadent dining and an inspiring ambience. You will love it!
(reviewer Angela Carson)