An Italian food affair is what OHLALA’s Editor and her dining companions experienced at Meisei Italia.
Meisei has been a celebrated dining spot at block 338 for many years and has established itself as one of the best and well-prized Japanese Fusion destinations on the island. Over the years, they kept innovating and now, this beloved eatery has created a whole new concept – Meisei Italia.
Overall, Meisei is spread over three floors. The ground floor is where the Japanese creations come to life, and the rooftop is the place to enjoy a great lounge experience. The Italian concept, Meisei Italia, has taken over the first floor. The atmosphere is welcoming with comfy chairs and we sat in an area near a window that allowed us to peek inside the kitchen.
We were welcomed by Chef Fabrizio Molendi, an authentic ‘Chef Italiano’ from the Tuscany region, who created the Meisei Italia menu. You can clearly sense that he is passionate about cooking, but mostly, he is enthusiastic about his key ingredients coming straight from his homeland. Tuna is from Sicily, pasta from Napoli, burrata from Puglia, olive oil from Tuscany, and the list continues.
Traditionally, the famous focaccia is medium-thick, soft and crunchy outside. However, throughout Tuscany, you can also find a thin and crispy version, and that’s the type that Chef Fabrizio served us. The baked dough was paired with delicious olives and caperberries and simply baked with salt and olive oil.
After eating every crumb of this delicious bread, we refreshed our palates with two types of salad, the Finocchio e Pompelmo and Nizzarda. The first is composed of fennel, grapefruit, almonds and honey citronette dressing. While Nizzarda, a French dish (Niçoise salad) with an Italian twist, comes with iceberg lettuce, eggs, cherry tomato, cucumber, Taggiasca olives, tuna (from Sicily), anchovies, basil and citronette. I don’t have the habit of eating fennel; however, the salad was crispy, well-balanced, and spot-on. Meanwhile, my dining companions fought over the tuna chunks in the Nizzarda salad.
The next dish is a must-try in any Italian diner – pizza! We had the Funghi Freschi with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, basil and a generous amount of fresh mushroom, and Napoli, with tomato cream, garlic, oregano and anchovies. The dough was thin and crispy, yet soft even with plenty of toppings (I can’t really explain this magic). The tomato cream was a spectacle apart, it had such a smooth texture and was not acidic at all.
The first antipasti was the Vitello Tonnato Antico: veal, tuna, capers, anchovies and eggs, a mix of complex flavours that agreed to work well together. The other was the Polpo Grigliato Sulla Crema Di Patate, made with octopus, cream of potato, paprika and tomato confit. According to my dining companions, it was cooked to perfection and the star dish of the night. Authentic Italian restaurants have Primi (first course) and Secondi (second course) on their menus. The first is a selection of pasta dishes, and the second brings one type of protein as the main ingredient. Our Primi options were the Calamarata Sulla Crema Di Pomodoro and Linguine Sul Mare. Calamarata is a thick tube of pasta that was surrounded by a sauce that mixes cherry, Datterini and San Marzano tomatoes, garlic and basil. The Linguine pasta had prawns, mussels, squid, and sea bass accompanied by Pachino tomatoes (a tomato species specifically grown in Sicily). Each seafood sample was cooked to a perfect texture, and the dish had the right hint of the sea to it.
The Secondi were Branzino all’Acqua Pazza, a traditionally baked sea bass with an Italian touch of tomato, garlic, basil, celery, capers and Taggiasca olives. And the Costata Di Manzo Alla Fiorentina, a very tender Black Angus beef sliced, seasoned with salt, pepper and thyme and accompanied by baked potatoes. There was not even one slice left – it disappeared from the plate as fast as it arrived.
To end this gastronomic journey, we had three desserts. The Italians, Tiramisu (the well-known ‘dolce’ made with mascarpone and coffee) and Panna Cotta, a vanilla dessert served with strawberry sorbetto. And the Spanish Crema Catalana, a lighter version of the French Crème Brûlée. They were all delightful, but the Panna Cotta always hits a soft spot for me, and at Meisei Italia, it was light and left a delicate vanilla taste.
Italian cuisine is humble and straightforward. However, even a tomato sauce has its secrets. You need to mix the correct types of tomatoes and cook them in different ways to achieve the ideal texture and flavour. And that’s what I believe is the biggest trick of Italian cuisine. The dishes are simple, but the quality of ingredients and patience make this food so unique when prepared by the hands of true connoisseurs. If you feel like stepping into an authentic Italian restaurant without leaving Bahrain, Meisei Italia will transport you through an explosion of original flavours.