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Restaurant review: Itameshi, Nicosia

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It is very difficult to define what fusion cuisine actually is, if only for its constant evolution, a byproduct of globalisation and migratory phenomena influencing cultures all over the world.

Even the most traditional Cypriot dishes are somewhat fusion, as people transiting over the course of the centuries have inevitably changed the way people eat on the island.

The latest addition to the fusion restaurant scene in Nicosia, however, is definitely an unusual one. Itameshi opened a few months ago near the Famagusta Gate, where the historical Bastione used to be, and combines elements of Japanese and Italian cuisine.

Itameshi simply means ‘Italian food’ in Japanese. The term has also become synonymous for the Japanese-Italian fusion genre of food, extremely popular in Asia, less so in the rest of the world.

The menu embraces the differences between two of the most popular cuisines in the world, combining traditional ingredients of both cultures much more harmoniously than I had anticipated.

The first dish to arrive was beef tartare, accompanied by truffle yuzu sauce, pickled mushrooms, miso cured egg and unagi sauce. The contrast of flavours was immediate, the unagi and yuzu sauces combined harmoniously for a subtle yet complex bite.

rest2Along with the tartare, the other starter me and my dining companions went for was the miso eggplant parmigiana, with peanut butter miso, hazelnuts, tomato sauce, vegan mayo and 24-month-old parmesan coulis. The contrast here was immediate, but although peanut butter, tomato and parmesan are all strong ingredients with distinctive flavours, the result was a surprisingly delicate dish.

We also decided to share a shitake truffle flatbread topped by ricotta and taleggio cheeses and smoked pancetta. To my joy, the restaurant has a wood-fired oven, crucial to cook the dough to perfection. Definitely more Italian then Japanese, as the shitake mushrooms ended up being slightly overpowered by the tangy taleggio and the pancetta, but definitely worth a try.

Onto the main dishes. I went for a plate of cacio e pepe noodles – bear with me – with truffle oil and shichimi togarashi, a spicy Japanese spice mixture made of seven ingredients. Definitely not the cacio e pepe you would find in Rome – that’s kind of the point of the restaurant anyway – but the ingredients mixed to absolute perfection. Cacio e pepe is a tricky one, but Itameshi nailed it. The best dish of the evening, hands down.

rest3Other main dishes were the soba noodles carbonara, with cured egg yolk and chives and the crispy porcini mushrooms gyoza with gorgonzola cheese. The first one was interesting, but perhaps too mild compared to a traditional carbonara. The second one, on the other hand, was a pleasantly hard hit on the palate, the crispiness of the gyoza numbed by the creaminess of the cheese.

Lastly, the desserts. Italian purists, don’t shudder, but the ‘tiramiso’, a clever play on words of the famous sweet, with espresso miso sauce and carob crumble was a revelation. Creamy and indeed dreamy, the perfect ending to a great meal.

I am looking forward to my next visit, and I have a feeling I will become a regular of the place. Extra points for offering brunch on weekends. The large leafy patio in warmer months will be the perfect setting for a lazy and tasty morning out!

 

VITAL STATISTICS

SPECIALTY: Italian-Japanese fusion

WHERE: Itameshi, Athinas 6, Nicosia 1016

WHEN: Monday to Friday 7pm-12am, weekend 11am-12am

CONTACT: 22 591020

HOW MUCH: Starters from €9 to €20, main from €14 to €30, desserts from €10 to €13 per person

 

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