A supermarket is the last place you would expect to find an Italian restaurant, but that is exactly where you will find Fresco. Jaya Grocer in Empire Shopping Gallery is home to Malaysia's first 'grocerant', a dining experience that allows customers to pick up meat and seafood off the supermarket shelf and have it cooked and served in the restaurant itself. Formerly known as 'El Fresco' (the menu still bears the original name), the restaurant also offers the usual menu options prepared by the chefs without you having to choose from the grocery section.
The first step to choosing your meal is picking out the produce. Any meat or seafood sold in the supermarket can be whipped up into a warm and hearty meal - in the end, you pay for the cost of the main raw ingredient and the side dish to go with it.
For today's lunch, I decided to go with a salmon fillet. Just pick out what you like and bring it to the restaurant counter, where you can decide on what you would like to go with the dish. I chose some roast potatoes and vegetables to go with my salmon. There's also the option of some spaghetti olio.
My meal arrived soon afterwards, grilled and served on a bed of vegetables and potatoes. A delicate smear of cream sauce was spread on one side of the dish, tangy with a hint of mustard. It went well with the salmon, which was crispy in all the right places. It was also great that the fish was very fresh.
My sister decided to go with a steak instead of the salmon, and her dish was served with some plain spaghetti olio. The main attraction of these dishes is definitely how fresh the produce is, as the beef my sister chose was juicy and tender. On a previous visit to the restaurant, my father had the same meal with a Wagyu beef steak he chose from the supermarket, and that was wonderfully served as well.
My only disappointment with Fresco is the filleto con funghi, a main meal from the menu that comes with a grilled beef sirloin served with creamy mushroom sauce and vegetables. When the restaurant first opened, this was my favourite meal here - juicy beef and tender mushrooms in a droolworthy creamy sauce. However, the last time I had it, the meat was not as delicious as I remembered, with a lot of fat and tough bits. It has been a few months since then so I cannot tell if it has improved, but this was my experience with it. At least the vegetables and creamy gravy were as good as I hoped it would be.
While the above dish isn't served by Fresco itself, you can still order it from Hikari, another in-supermarket food station in Jaya Grocer that serves Japanese cuisine. There are no issues with ordering from Hikari and dining in Fresco. My mother ordered the teriyaki salmon and chicken set, which came with some agedashi style tofu (fried tofu in a sweet soy sauce) and kakiage (fried veggies in tempura batter). My mother is quite fond of this dish and has ordered it a few times already, and I have to agree that it is a tasty and filling meal.
The restaurant also serves a variety of pasta and wood fired pizzas - the thin, crispy kind that's hot to the bite. While these dishes are good on their own, the novelty of hand-picking your main meal from the supermarket shelves itself gives a level of satisfaction.