KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 24 – Shortly after my parents got married, my father went to Italy for work, where he got hooked on Amarone and tasted bistecca alla fiorentina for the first time, leaving my mother with a newborn me.
In spite of the allure of la dolce vita, he returned, making a promise to my mother that he would one day bring her to Italy, and in particular, Tuscany.
Two decades and one overgrown child later, he finally fulfilled that promise, this time making a pilgrimage of sorts to Antica Macelleria Cecchini, Florence where bistecca alla fiorentina is elevated into something divine and mythical in the hands of world-renowned butcher Dario Cecchini.
I was not around to bug my parents on their romantic (read: gluttonous) Tuscan getaway, but I did bring them on a night out to Florentine La Bisteccheria, which recently opened in July along The Row on Jalan Doraisamy, Chow Kit.
It’s brought to you by the team behind Osteria Gamberoni, also in Chow Kit, though the focus here lies clearly in steak.
The front of Florentine La Bisteccheria.
The interior at Florentine exudes warmth thanks to the brown and terracotta colour scheme.
Fashioning itself as "a modern grill house”, the decor is appropriately snazzy with swathes of ochre on the columns, exposed brick walls and smooth wooden furniture.
The menu is largely Italian, and as expected, dedicates an entire section to steaks.
Beef, it’s what’s for dinner indeed.
Losing sight of the actual gem here can be tempting as you run your eyes down the list. Black Angus from Argentina, Australia and the U.S. show up multiple times, but the real prize here is the Italian Chianina T-bone (RM68 per 100 grams).
This opens the path to a celebration of beef, to bistecca alla fiorentina, which in English means beefsteak Florentine style.
It is a thick, hulking t-bone, grilled over wood or charcoal and traditionally served very rare.
Traditionally, two breeds of cattle are used: Maremmana, and the more famous Chianina.
The latter is one of the oldest breeds of cattle and is prized for its beefy, grassy flavour and tender meat despite the very light presence of marbling.
Carpaccio di Manzo at Florentine (left). The risotto was buttery and full of mushroom flavour (right).
It’s a huge hunk of meat and takes a while to cook, so we chose to tide our peckish selves over with Carpaccio di Manzo (RM58) and a classic Risotto ai Funghi (RM96).
Nearly everything here is generously portioned for sharing, encouraging the communal dining experience so often associated with Italian cuisine.
The razor-thin slices of raw beef were particularly mild, with shaved Parmesan adding the only saltiness found in the dish.
Unfortunately, this meant that the dish fell rather flat once we ran out of the few slivers of cheese there were.
Fortunately, the risotto was far better. It was rich and creamy, bursting with the earthy, nutty flavour of porcini and each grain of plump, starchy Arborio rice was perfectly al dente.
The main event arrived, a behemoth in all its bovine glory.
Steaks here come with a sauce of your choice on the side, and the red wine reduction we got was veritably reduced, viscous and damn near solid.
The red wine reduction: never has a brown, gloppy substance, tasted quite so good (left). Mashed potatoes and rocket salad made up the sides of our steak (right).
It was really good, even if not entirely traditional.
Also not traditional were the mashed potatoes (RM18) and rocket salad (RM22) we ordered as sides, but they were delicious, and I’m not Italian or in Italy so I don’t much care.
The steak really didn’t need much help at all, however.
Grassy and tender while retaining a satisfying chew, the natural flavour of beef needs nothing more than a touch of salt.
I usually stray away from telling people how they should eat their steak, but this is really a piece of meat that responds better to doneness on the rarer side.
The characteristic lean quality of Chianina means there’s little intramuscular fat, and the closer to well done it is the tougher it will be, which is far from enjoyable and frankly, it’s criminal to overcook such majestic meat.
It may not look it, given the restaurant is in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, surrounded by towering skyscrapers on every side, but I find every bite of Chianina beef here at Florentine is a tip of the hat to the beautiful city of Florence, to the Duomo, to Botticelli, to Dario Cecchini and to bistecca alla fiorentina.
Florentine La Bisteccheria
62, Jalan Doraisamy, Chow Kit, Kuala Lumpur
Open daily, 5pm-12am
Tel: 03-2602 1299
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