Changkat Bukit Bintang. A popular and "happening" upmarket dining & clubbing area in downtown Kuala Lumpur. Countless hip and trendy restaurants, pubs and clubs line this never-ending street a busy hub for both visitors and locals.
To be honest, I have not checked this place for some time. So, one evening, braving the usual after-work horrendous jams from Petaling Jaya, I had the pleasure of Marian Eu's company in the car while we made our way to Changkat Bukit Bintang (CBB)... to Giovino, to be specific.
By the time we reached CBB, it was in full swing! What with the current FIFA World Cup fever gripping almost everyone, the street was vibrant and bustling with night birds. Located diagonally across Frangipanni, Giovino beckoned...
Giovino serves a mix of Greek and Italian cuisine in its chic and warm enclave. Hmm... why Greek and Italian, you might wonder? I believe this stemmed very much from the influences of the owner, Giovanni Koromilias, who is of Greek and Italian parentage. By the way, the "V" design in the signage of Giovino actually depicts Giovanni's nose, I was told ;-)
Greeted warmly by the vivacious friendly Ginny and the charming owner, Giovanni, we chose our table (with the best lighting) and were promptly served with glasses of their chilled bubbly Italian Prosecco...
... which currently is on special promotion at RM498 nett per case (6 bottles). That's quite a steal, I would say.
Almost immediately, we were served one of their signature starters - Prosciutto & Melone...
... paper-thin slices of the most succulent Parma Ham served with wedges of chilled sweet rock melon. Yumms! The play of salty and sweet was most enchanting. The slices of porky delights disappeared in record time, I tell ya!
There's something heady about parma ham and prosecco on your palate that does wondrous things ... it just whetted the appetite for more, more - it was purely good manners that stopped me from begging for another plate...
While I was in Greece, I had their salads at almost every meal... so Greek Salad is really nothing new to me, hehe!
The fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, capsicums and lettuce leaves were all tossed with Kalamata olives, olive oil and of course, the must-have Feta cheese. While not my favourite for the night, this salad provided the much-needed fibre & greens.
It's rather unfair for me to talk about scallops... because I love scallops. Cooked any way, I simply adore scallops. So what's there not to like about Giovino's version?? Served on a bed of portobello mushrooms and doused with Red Pepper Sauce, I could not fault this dish at all. Enough said.
Moussaka is to the Greeks what pizza is to the Italians and what roti canai is to Malaysians. I had plenty of this in Greece too and that was one dish I could eat repeatedly.
Giovino's Moussaka was truly authentic (and yummier than the ones I had in Greece, really) - baked layers of eggplant, lamb bolognaise, potatoes and topped with bechamel sauce. While we were still helping ourselves to the layers of soft tender creaminess of this Greek delight, the Trio of "pitas" arrived... various fillings stuffed in Filo Pastry:
On the Left is the vegetarian Spanakopita - Saute'ed Spinach & Feta Cheese.
On the Top Right is the Baked Kreatopita - Minced Meat, Feta Cheese, Fresh Mint.
On the Bottom Right is the Tiropita - pure unadulterated Goat Cheese - totally recommended for cheese lovers!
My favourite, among the three, was the Kreatopita - the flavours of the minced meat and feta cheese were delicately balanced by the mint - very nice indeed.
Next was this Pork Belly in White Wine...
Listed under their "Tapas" category, this was a rather mediocre item for me. I thought it was a bit bland - could have done with a bit more of the wine, garlic and herbs, I think!
On the other end of the taste-scale, their platter of homemade Italian Sausages was a tad too salty...
Flavoured with Spanish paprika, I must say the sausages tasted wholesome and earthy and to dilute the saltiness, we squeezed some lemon juice over it... and when eaten with some of the saute'ed onions, the sausages became more agreeable.
Greeks are meat lovers. We were fed more meat... Pork Skewers were next...
Served with thick slices of toasted bread and wedges of lemon, the skewered pork would appease any meat fan - even the most finicky, I would say. Well-marinated with spices and herbs, the pork chunks were well-grilled. At this point, we were already so full we could hardly chew anymore.
But, no matter how full you are, when in Giovino, you must must must order their Piadina!
Piadina - sandwich toasted Pizza with mortadella ham and cheese! I am no pizza fan...BUT this Piadina totally won me over. Ginny claimed that this is her bestest comfort food - and I totally agree with her! It's really really good. Those thin crispy pastry encasing the yummy ham and melting cheese were such a delight - we polished off the entire serving!
Desserts ... even though we were bursting at the seams, Ginny insisted we should try at least 2 of their sweets.
So we had the Warm Chocolate Flan with Vanilla Icecream and Cheesy Vanilla Creme Brulee. Of the two, I preferred the chocolate flan - warm, gooey and so chocolatty!
Since the charming Giovanni went off and was not around for us to photograph, we got to know the other chef - Chef Giogos Kalaizakis, better.
Ginny warned us that he's a shy one... but we managed to "persuade" him to do all kinds of poses (such a good sport, he was!) and he even took us to the back of the restaurant and explained the different kinds of wines, fresh and cured meats available for sale... customers can buy the meats by weight here.
Thank you, Marian and Ginny for a most wonderful evening of traditional Greek food with touches of Italian thrown in - the Prosecco was sublime. I want another glass, please :-)
32 Changkat Bukit Bintang
50250 Kuala Lumpur