There is much more to Italian cuisine than spaghetti and pizza, and this week we explored Mister Polenta, a new restaurant specializing in northern Italian food.
Italians are always passionate and Mister Polenta is Marco Cantamessa, a passionate Northern Italian from close to the Swiss border. Marco is to polenta as a wine aficionado is to Super Tuscan wines. Marco wants his customers to understand just what polenta is, and the differences between yellow and taragna, so there is an explanation in his menu.
Polenta derives from earlier forms of grain mush (known as puls or pulmentum in Latin or more commonly as gruel or porridge), commonly eaten since Roman times. Polenta has a creamy texture due to the gelatinization of starch in the grain. However, its consistency may not be completely homogeneous if a coarse grind or hard grain such as flint corn is used. Marco gets his polenta in a dehydrated form and comes direct from Italy (do you really need to ask)?
The restaurant Mister Polenta is very easy to find, despite it being in a single shop-house. Come up Pattaya Tai from Second Road until you see the Krungsri Bank (the yellow bank) on your right, after the Friendship supermarket and Mister Polenta is on the other side of the road right there. Park where you can, or in Soi 20.
There are tables with rustic seating along both walls and a couple outside for the smokers. The kitchen is way down the back and is clean. While Marco does not have much English, the waitress (“Miss Polenta”?) has adequate language skills, and the menu is also photographic. Well done, Marco!
Beverages begin with all local beers B. 70. House wines by the glass are B. 110 or B. 500 for one liter. Bottled wines are Italian (that does not surprise) and range from B. 1,000 to B. 3,700. We chose a Montepulciano at a very reasonable B. 1,100.
There are different vegetable and ham nibbles (Taglieri) served on wooden chopping boards, similar in concept to an Antipasti (B. 360). Yellow polenta is B. 130 and Taragna B. 190.
Thai food items, and there are many range between B. 150-500.
Put simply, you choose your polenta and then your main course, which is cooked like a stew, and eat as if it were a stew with mashed potatoes.
To keep us in the polenta mood, Marco delivered some fried yellow polenta to our table, to be nibbled upon like potato crisps. To show the versatility of polenta, after this Marco presented us with both types of polenta and some deer and wild boar stews which had been marinated for 24 hours in red wine.
The meat was very tender after such a long time in the marinade and the polentas were a great way to eat the very last scrap of the deer and boar, and thoroughly enjoyed as well.
We were replete and had no room for desserts, but we did enjoy our introduction to yet another aspect of Italian cuisine.
This is a restaurant to grab three friends and make a night of it (four to a table). The concept of the family dining around the central polenta board makes for so much fun and communication, as opposed to four people looking at four mobile phones on the one table! We enjoyed both the concept and the food, and as I have always said, food should be fun, not just sustenance. With a liter of wine being B. 500 it’s a cheap night out too. Do try.
Mister Polenta, 111/35 Pattaya Tai Road, South Pattaya (opposite Krungsri Bank), open 4 p.m. till midnight six days (closed Mondays), telephone 061 680 2480, www.misterpolenta.com, on-street parking.