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Evil Penevil

Ristorante Da Marco On The Darkside

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Ristorante Da Marco is an upscale Swiss Italian and modern European restaurant on the Darkside. It's open Tuesday through Sunday (closed Mondays) from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.

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Da Marco bills itself as "elegant simplicity." I would term it casual fine dining in that it aspires to serve top-notch dishes in surroundings far less pretentious than a classic fine dining restaurant.

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It's a relatively small, open-front restaurant which probably has a maximum capacity of between 20 and 30 guests. It appears to be popular, so advance reservations are recommended. At the depth of the low season, our group of three couldn't get a table on Friday, Saturday or Sunday and had to wait until Tuesday. This was surprising, especially considering how far away it is from central Pattaya (30 minutes drive from Tukcom in light traffic) and it's isolated location even for the Darkside. If you don't have your own wheels, you'd have to arrange transportation to and from Da Marco. More about finding Da Marco later in this review.

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Da Marco has an open kitchen in the dining area so you can watch chef Marco prepare your food.

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I'd agree that the decor and atmosphere are simple and elegant. No doubt it's a nice place to have a meal, but the lack of air-conditioning and the open kitchen can make it a bit warm. The food is better than what you get at 95% of the farang restaurants in Pattaya, although there were some misses in execution and service the night we were there. Given Da Marco's concept and prices, it has to beheld to a higher standard than the average Pattaya eatery.

Bottom line: Would I return to Da Marco? Yes, if I can hitch a ride with a friend; there are some other dishes on the menu I'd like to try. Would I hire a taxi/car service to go there and back? No, never. Da Marco isn't THAT good or exciting to make the trip worth the extra expense and effort.

Now for the nitty-gritty of our visit. MM, Pompui Dan and I arrived at 8.30 p.m. There were about 10 guests already dining. Da Marco wasn't full, but there weren't many empty tables, either. A slice of fresh garlic bread and a pat of real butter came long with our drink orders.

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I chose as my starter the homemade ravioli filled with meat and mascarpone cheese and seasoned with butter and sage (270 baht). It was excellent!

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Chef Marco hails from the Italian-speaking section of Switzerland and some regional specialties, such as pizzoccheri alla valtellinese and saffron risotto, are on the menu. It seems like about a third of the dishes on Da Marco's menu have an Italian connection; the rest are what could be called "modern European." There are a handful of Thai dishes as well.

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MM had the avocado and shrimp as his starter and that's where the problems also started. The waitress brought him a bowl of soup instead. No major problem, she had apparently just got the tables confused. The other waitress then wanted to give Pompui Dan's starter to MM. Again, no biggy, but was striking is that the first waitress never offered an apology. A simple "I'm sorry" should be an integral part of elegant simplicity.

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MM said his starter tasted fine, but the presentation wasn't all that attractive. The avocado slices were brown from exposure to the air and the ingredients seemed all jumbled together in the lettuce leaf shell, neither elegant nor simple.

Pompui Dan had the scallops as his starter, which were presented well. According to Dan, the scallops were cooked properly and tasted good. No complaints on his part.

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This review is getting long with a lot of pics, so I'll divide it into two parts. Stay tuned for the main dishes, including my adventures with braised pork jowl; dessert; more general impressions; directions to Da Marco and a copy of the menu.

Evil

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I ordered the "Braised Pork Jowl and Filet with Morels Sauce and Young Potatoes." Pork jowl consists of the cheek and part of the neck of the pig. It's most often encountered in cured form - Italian guanciale as well as hog jowl bacon in U.S. southern cooking and soul food - but it can also be cooked fresh. In the U.S., I've had pork jowl that had been slow cooked or simmered for anyway between 4 and 24 hours, then seared in a frying pan and finally roasted or grilled to create a crispy surface on the fat and melt away most of the excess. I'd never had it braised and served with a sauce, so I was eager to try Da Marco's version. It cost 460 baht



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There was a lot of flavor in the jowl meat and sauce, but I hadn't expected the layer of fat to have been that dense and flabby. This could be a cultural thing. I know in some regional cuisines fat is considered to be the best part of the dish, but that's not my preference.



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The morels weren't very noticeable in the sauce, but it tasted good, if a bit generic. The piece of pork tenderloin (the fillet) was nicely cooked and seasoned. It was juicy with a lot of flavor. On the downside, the menu had said "young potatoes," which I took to mean new or baby potatoes. Apparently Da Marco didn't have "young potatoes" that night, but the waitress didn't tell me this when I ordered. What I got as a side was fried potatoes that hadn't been seasoned. I doubt that I would have changed my order if the waitress had told me new potatoes weren't available, but it's also clear that new potatoes go better with a fatty dish like pork jowl than fried potatoes.



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MM ordered the pork tenderloin and he seemed happy with it, although he said he get much of a Marsala wine taste from the sauce. Saffron risotto was his side.



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Dan ordered the backstrap (aka "eye of loin") of lamb, a premium cut. He said it was quality meat that had been cooked and seasoned properly. He did note that there was a bit of an imbalance in portion size: not enough vegetables in relation to the generous serving of meat. He was supposed to have gotten potato gratin with the lamb, but Da Marco didn't have that night or had run out. The waitress had told him this when he ordered and he got the same fried potatoes as I did.



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MM's side of risotto and my potatoes:



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The desserts at Da Marco weren't very impressive, mostly vanilla ice cream topped with sauces or liqueurs. I skipped dessert, but MM ordered the crepes Suzette. He said he'd never seen it served in quite that fashion. Traditionally, crepes Suzette is flambeed at the diner's table. It wasn't served that way at Da Marco.



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Dan had the panna cotta:



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I contented myself with a cup of excellent cappuccino.



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The cost of my meal was 270 B for the ravioli; 460 B for the pork jowl; 100 B for a bottle of SML and 30 B for the cappuccino, total 860 B. That's a reasonable price for a meal of that quality.



The ravioli was the high point of the meal for me and makes me want to try the other Italian pasta dishes on the menu. On the whole, the food tasted fine, but there were a few misses regarding service, sides and presentation.



I've attached copies of most of the menu at Da Marco so you can see what's on offer and how much it costs.





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I've also copied the map from Da Marco's website to give you a better idea of where it is and how to get there. You can get more information here: Ristorante Da Marco.



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I have no problem in recommending a visit to Da Marco; just be aware it's a very long way from central Pattaya and can be tricky to find. Also, because of its popularity, be sure to phone ahead to make a reservation. It would be a real shame to go all that way only to find no tables were available.



Evil


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I always dine there on a regular basis when Im back especially during the winter months. Summer time your right, it does get a little hot and I don't enjoy having a big old fan blowing on my back and across the table.

Sad you didn't have a perfect experience, I can say hand on heart not once have I had a bad meal there or bad service. The pasta dishes are amazing taste wise , the wine list is reasonably priced.I like the relaxed atmosphere and peace and quiet Its not so far from my house so easy for me.

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Thanks for that, it's a place I have never been to though I have heard many glowing reports, thanks to you posting of the directions, I looked on Google Maps, that's hopeless, but the written directions give me some hope of finding the place.

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Thanks for that, it's a place I have never been to though I have heard many glowing reports, thanks to you posting of the directions, I looked on Google Maps, that's hopeless, but the written directions give me some hope of finding the place.

Funny, I read the whole review thinking MM was materialsman! Obviously not!

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Funny, I read the whole review thinking MM was materialsman! Obviously not!

It's an easy mistake, there have been threads on this and other Forums where I actually had to post a disclaimer that the aforementioned MM is not me, that particular MM is I think the one who was involved in the FLB Bar?

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Thanks for the review Evil, will have to give this place a try and the good thing for me is that it's less than a ten minute drive from my place.

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Have been there a couple of times. Never been disappointed.

Transportation may be a problem if you don't have your own means.

Really to be recommended.

Thanks for the review.

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with the risk of sounding like Mulphy, I think if I was to spend the extra dosh on a nicer meal and environment, I would want aircon. Unless it was on the beach or some other special location.

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Great report as usual.

Also gives credence to the fact that there is money on the darkside, not all expats are broke and living in the shadows.

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good report rob

i`ve got this thing about over presentation versus size of meal - i have an aversion to painted plates with gravy or sauce

just cook what i order properly - whack it on the plate and i`m a contented pig

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