The first thing you’ll notice when you look at Bistro 102’s Italian menu, which focuses on pasta, risotto and pizza, is that the prices are pretty high with pasta ranging from 78RMB for a Lasagna up to 130RMB for Fusilli Alla Carbonara con Pasta Guerrieri. You think to yourself, what’s going on here? Then you look around at this restaurant on Miduqiao Road. It’s a tiny, casual place, around 53m2 in area, with half that space taken up by the kitchen, nothing fancy. Now you’re thinking, why the high prices? Am I missing something?
To get the answers, let’s hear what owner, Mr. Chen, has to say. “Hangzhou has many western restaurants, but not really any one where you can consistently get high quality food. I wanted to create a restaurant that doesn’t compromise on quality. Our pastas are handmade with special Italian semolina flour or we used dry pasta from artisanal Italian brands like Rigorosa or Afeltra. 80% of our ingredients come from Shanghai, which were themselves imported. Our dishes are unique and you won’t find the same menus like in other restaurants here and we make our pasta sauces from scratch, like it should be. Our prices may be a little higher than the rest, but when you pay that amount, you can be sure you’ll get a really good bowl of pasta.”
Pay a premium price to have a guarantee of no disappointments? Here is a restaurant whose modus operandi is to rise above the mediocrity. I’m starting to warm up to the concept. To test out his claims, we selected a 102RMB bowl of Pappardelle Fatte In Casa al Ragu. How did it taste? Pretty darn delicious.
Firstly, the pappardelle is made in house and it’s al dente and elastic. The pasta forms broad supple ribbons that wind around in bundles, capturing the ragu and what a glorious ragu it is. The sauce uses meaty ox tail from Uruguay that are seared, roasted and then simmered for 6 hours to make a rich tomato meat sauce. The oxtail meat was so tender it was basically toothsome shreds of meat and unctuous gelatinous bits. The tomato sauce was cooked for such a long time that it had a concentrated depth of sweetness like tomato paste. The chewy texture of the pasta means you spend a longer time chewing it and get to enjoy the taste of the sauce longer. A superb mouthful.
Other items we had were Porcini Mushroom Soup (78RMB), a combination of white and porcini mushroom purée with black truffle paste and just a touch of cream so that it’s low in fat but very tasty.
You can smell the high quality parmesan cheese in Risotto Contadino (88RMB) with fragrant fennel sausage and starchy Arborio rice.
Grilled Vegetable Salad (48RMB) was a very nice mix of grilled pumpkin, beetroot and sweet potato with salad leaves in a bright, acidic dressing.
Pizzas are made with Italian flour and bottled Italian mineral water, Aqua Panna. We had Pizza Bianca Alla Romana (110RMB) with mortadella ham and a smoked buffalo mozzarella cheese.
All breads and desserts are made in-house by a pastry chef and prices for breads are quite reasonable, with a huge loaf of olive oil and herb focaccia selling for 25RMB and an airy ciabatta bun for 12RMB.
So while the pappardelle al ragu pasta can easily pull me back to spend some hard earned bucks, understandably, some people may have a threshold level where they feel that’s too much to spend on pasta. Luckily, Bistro 102 has a well-priced lunch deal from Monday – Friday where for 68RMB, you can get a soup or salad and a lasagna or pasta carbonara. The Bolognese sauce in the lasagna took 5 hours to make with hand cut beef shoulder and the traditional mirepoix of finely chopped onions, carrots and celery.
That lunch deal is a wonderful way to come try the food at Bistro 102 and decide for yourself how much money good pasta is worth