Italian food lovers, if you’re thinking of heading out of the city to celebrate the last few days of 2021, we’ve got a proposition for you: Prego at The Westin Desaru Coast resort. The modern Italian restaurant is a signature of The Westin, known for serving well-executed authentic cuisine in a relaxed yet spirited ambience. In preparation for the end-of-year festivities, we had the opportunity to try out Prego’s four-course New Year’s Eve dinner, which presented their trademark of new twists on traditional Italian classics.
Aside from being the only authentic Italian restaurant in Johor, the location in Desaru offers a feature that no other restaurant in the city can: close proximity to the South China Sea. Walking up to the restaurant, we were greeted by the hotel’s infinity pool overlooking stunning ocean skylines. Our reservation was made just when service had started, so Prego was quieter than usual upon arrival (we were one of the first few guests there) with the sun still setting outside. Past the front doors was an inviting wood-furnished space, lit by warm-toned light fixtures hung from the ceiling, setting the stage for a memorable dining experience with a show kitchen placed centre stage as chefs got busy in front of a stone-fired oven. As the sky turned dark over the course of dinner, the place filled up to match the blend of colourful, contemporary decor and warm service ethos, making it ideal for both casual dinner dates and kid-friendly family feasts.
The New Year’s Eve menu began with Pane di Benvenuto––the only way to start off an Italian meal––featuring slightly toasted pieces of rosemary and garlic focaccia, and a tangy sun-dried tomato dip. For someone who can live off bread and olive oil, this was a refreshing switch-up on a classic. Before I could dig in more (and overload on carbs before the meal even properly began), the Carpaccio di Manzo arrived. A slight twist on a Prego signature, the appetiser was a garden of flavours, consisting of thinly sliced beef tenderloin topped with rocket leaves and sliced beetroot, then sprinkled with Grana Pandano cheese. With lemon dressing as the final cherry on the top, it hit all the right spots––sweet, salty, sour, tender, and with a surprise crunch in every bite as the tenderloin and beetroot were wrapped together in camouflage.
Next on the table was the Zuppa di Zucca Arrosto, which arrived bare with a juicy piece of lobster tail and cherry tomato covered in herbs and truffle essence. The money shot came next as the waiter spiral-poured the finishing act into the bowl: creamy roasted pumpkin soup, slightly steaming with every drip and at just the right temperature. I’m a sucker for soup so this was my favourite dish (so far), with the consistency of the puree being neither too thick nor too light. The seasoning was also just right, making it a great transition between the appetiser and the heavier main to come.
For the main, we were spoilt for choice via a variety of epicurean highlights from the land and sea. There was the Filetto di Angus Alla Griglia, a grilled Australian Angus tenderloin and beef marrow accompanied with a side of spinach, garlic confit, and beef jus. Then, the Filetto di Merluzzo Al Burro, which is cod fish served with Dauphinoise potatoes, french bean, and a touch of saffron sauce. Last but not least, the third option was the Pollo Valdostana, a scrumptious North Italian dish made up of free-range chicken breast wrapped with smoked turkey and fontina cheese, alongside a side of rocket salad and truffle mashed potato.
We went with the beef and chicken, which both arrived with colourfully divine plating. Cooked medium rare as per the waiter’s suggestion (and just how I like it), the steak was grilled to a rosy pink in the middle with a crispy edge that was a bit dry on its own. However, paired with the buttery, rich texture of the bone marrow and mild beef jus, every bite was a delightful mix of chewy tenderness and succulence. The chicken, on the other hand, was super rich in flavour thanks to the combination of delicate smokiness from the turkey and creaminess of the mashed potato, though the nuttiness of the fontina cheese was slightly overpowering at times.
Finally, closing off the night for dolce was a generous portion of Pannacotta ai Frutti di Bosco that came in a glass cup, topped with a mixed berry puree and a stick of spiral chocolate. Infused with a hint of vanilla, the panna cotta was more milky than sweet, which went well with the tart sweetness of the fruits––and despite not being able to stuff anymore into my stomach, it was a delightful way to end the hearty feast.
New Year’s Eve Set Dinner at Prego
Date: 31 December 2021
Prices: RM295+ per person without wine pairing | RM345+ per person with wine pairing
For reservations and more information, call +607838 3333.
For more Christmas and holiday content, click here.
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