Hidden Italian Gem: “Da Marco”


Right now the discreet No Name Italian Restaurant on Peace Avenue near the State Department Store seems to be earning a quiet little following as it revs up and becomes known. Though its proper name is Da Marco, they have yet to put a sign outside. I had learned about this restaurant from an Italian friend and had also seen appreciative comments on “UB Foodies” facebook page. The pleasant atmosphere of yellow walls, red and white checker table cloths situated on the second floor, with the friendly service imparts the feeling of a simple family-style restaurant to enjoy a bottle of wine with friends while chatting about life. Frankly, its anonymity adds to the mystique as you feel like you’ve discovered it all on your own.
My friends and I started with a bottle of red wine. Red wine, Sangiovese, Cabernet and Chianti, sells by the bottle from 15,800 up to 54,800 MNT. Our table had the Sangiovese for 20,000 MNT. White wine runs 20,000 MNT to 29,800 MNT. Prosecco (Italian sparkling white, akin to champagne) is on the menu, which is a nice surprise.
Next, we selected pastas and risottos. The pasta is spaghetti and its variations—from original with bacon and tomato sauce (7800 MNT) to “Bolognese,” carbonara, eggs, and bacon and parmesan cheese. Prices go up to 10,800 MNT. My friend selected what he called “the classic,” spaghetti with olive oil and parmesan.
I chose risotto, as did another friend. Risotto comes in three varieties: “Al Funghi,” mushroom with a tart cheese flavor; “Con Salsiccia” which has a red wine sauce; and Blue cheese and pear risotto. All priced at 9800 MNT. My favorite was the Al Funghi, though all were tasty and sizable in portions.
After our red wine and pastas and risottos, we tried the Tiramisu for dessert. The current desserts listed are chocolate mousse (6800 MNT), Gelato (7800 MNT) which looks to be homemade, and Tiramisu (8500 MNT). The dessert prices are bit steep but my Italian friend, who adores this place, said he thought this was due to genuine imported Italian food items, such as dairy products, creams and sweeteners. The Tiramisu was quite delicious with that fresh, homemade taste. Having lived in NYC prior to moving to Asia, I can appreciate the authentic flavors. I suppose this is part of the deal, living in a remote, land-locked location like Mongolia. It means we simply have to pay more for international food.
I came back again with my friends a week later. This time we added salads, side dishes and pizza to our meal, downed with two bottles of red wine.
Pizza comes in a few styles and is large, thin-crusted and tasty. There is “Margherita” (8800 MNT), “Salame” (9800 MNT) and a “Prosciutto e Funghi,” which is ham and mushroom (11800 MNT). This seems to be a very affordable dish compared to other pizzas in town and was quite popular with customers from what I could see. We recommend it.
Salads are large and served family-style, meant for sharing. At first glance, they seemed expensive on the menu, but considering their size, now I see them as affordable. “Mista,” mixed salad (7800 MNT), “Marco,” pear, walnut and mild cheese (8800 MNT), and “Nicoise” (9800) are the three salads currently on the menu.
Side dishes are potato (5800 MNT), rosemary with mushrooms (6800 MNT), and vegetables (7800 MNT). Unless I am confusing a side dish with a starter, a friend ordered one which was sizable, so these are not tiny, hence the price.
Starters are “Ragu” (6800 MNT), “Caponata” or eggplant (6800 MNT), “Lingua,” which is tongue, in a green sauce, “Anacini” is described as deep fried balls with ragu sauce (7800 MNT).
Minestrone (7800 MNT) and “Passato di Verdure” (7800 MNT) are the two soups listed.
The main dishes listed, besides pasta and pizza was “Meat” which was priced from 12800-18800 MNT. On both occasions at this restaurant, none of my friends ordered from this part of the menu—but I will list the dishes for meat lovers: “Brasato al Vino Rosso,” braised beef ((16,800 MNT), “Spezzatino con Patate,” chopped meat and potato with salad (14800 MNT), “Arrosto di Maiale Arrotolato,” rolled beef, bacon, egg and spinach (18,800 MNT) and “Polpette Pomodoro,” cutlets with tomato sauce and mixed salad (12800 MNT).
“Tonno e cipolle” (tuna and onion for 12800 MNT) and “Quattro” (14800 MNT) are the other main dishes. My friends and I did not order from this part of the menu, but am again listing them to give an idea of the menu’s diversity. Both times I visited the most popular dishes seemed to be the risottos, pastas and pizza dishes.
Italians are famous for their enjoyment of life and Da Marco sets the tone for this experience with good prices, great quality and zero pretense. Ulaanbaatar is developing quickly, with fancy restaurants cropping up everywhere. It’s a nice reminder that quality does not have to sacrifice comfort. Talking with the chef, Damiano, (who stopped by our table each night to say hello) and the restaurant’s supplier (who prefers to remain anonymous), you can see that they are still sorting out the tempo of the restaurant, so menu items are likely to change a bit once the clientele gets established. Yet from what I can see now, they already have a good thing going. Not bad for a restaurant with no advertising and no sign outside.
Da Marco is located on Peace Ave, quite near Amsterdam Café (same side) and as of this writing has no sign outside. The building a few stories high, pinkish-red with “Samar Tours” on the roof, sandwiched between to “Richy Restaurant” and “Tuna Electronics.” It’s on the second floor and you can notice the tables set by the window looking down on the street. Open since September, 2012.

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Posted by on Oct 8 2012. Filed under Топ мэдээ. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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