Further to our look at Kiyomi last week, we also explored the other new restaurant leading the charge in the $345 million transformation that is sweeping through Jupiters Gold Coast. Italian restaurant Cucina Vivo is in stark contrast to Kiyomi in design; whereas the neighbouring Japanese restaurant is dimly lit and moody, Cucina is endearingly bright with the added bonus of having a massive outdoor dining area overlooking Jupiters’ revitalised pool area.
It’s said that Cucina’s fit out is inspired by the picture perfect cliff-top dining spots found along the Amalfi Coast in Southern Italy, and that inspiration translates perfectly here, presenting an atmosphere augmented by vibrant, lively design and generous hospitality. As soon as I stepped in I knew I was in for an authentic Italian dining experience.
The service helps as well. My waiter really reminded me of how substantially better superior service makes a dining experience. His attentiveness, humour, and warmth was as bright as the space I was seated in and made me enjoy my Italian feast that much more. So much so that I went back for lunch the next day for the atmosphere and service alone.
Seated near the two-metre long wood-fired oven which looks out over the main area of the restaurant, I began to settle in with a rich glass of red and look over the menu. There’s plenty of ways to tackle this, with a nice balance between meat, seafood, and vegetarian dishes all of which are tempting on paper.
For the first dish, he brought out the Carpaccio ($16), very thin, wide, seared, and sliced eye fillet neatly organised under a bed of arugula and fresh Parmesan cheese. The clean taste is a brilliant starter, with the steak holding a seductive flavour.
I was a bit hesitant when he suggested the Calamari Fritti ($16) next. I love a big bowl of calamari any day, but it’s become such a common pub grub snack that I no longer associate it with a nice, relaxing meal in a quality restaurant. I admit to being wrong on this. He’s suggested turned out well, with the calamari perfectly fried – which makes the biggest difference – and light with dill aioli and frisee salad.
Cozze al Forno ($18), a big pot of black mussels, was a beautiful broth made up of pork sausage, garlic, tomato, and white wine. The pork is chunky and generous, giving the broth a nice, savoury flavour to soak into the mussels. Mussels are hard to get just right so that they slide from the shell right into your mouth but them being well cooked (and consistent) here helped a lot. There’s plenty here as well so you get your value.
Being that I was dining alone, and it was an Italian restaurant; I was a bit worried if I would fit everything in or not – you try having 3 starters, 1 pizza, 2 pastas, 1 steak, and 1 dessert by yourself, not to mention the wine and cocktails – but my waiter paced everything accordingly, reassuring me that I’ll be walking out of Vivo alive and relatively healthy (though feeling a bit guilty).
So on I moved to the pizza section of the menu. That big wood-fired oven was being put to good use, with pizzas being zipped all over the restaurant. I go for just one of the 8 regular options – the Ciccia ($20) which has tomato, mozzarella, meatball pieces, pancetta, hot salami, smoked leg ham, and mushrooms. All ingredients are good quality and fresh, with the sauce thankfully not too thick and the meats really bringing that richness to the top. The base is a bit heavy and thick, puffy to really appeal to younger/more gluttonous diners. It’s not something I’d recommend if you were having it alongside a few other dishes but if you’re just here for pizza then this option seems to be as good as any.
The pasta here is much more memorable and a section of the menu I’d turn to straight away on any subsequent visit.
The Tortellini Ripieni ($20) was without a doubt my favourite dish of the night, bringing mid-sized tortellini filled with sweet crab meat, served with a ricotta and lemon zest and on green pea puree. The presentation is fantastic with the texture of the pasta deliciously soft and thin, letting the puree mix with the crab meat for a moreish taste. My only complaint is that there isn’t an entire pot of this available.
For my second pasta I was given the Gnocchi Trifolati ($18) with sauteed wild mushrooms, truffle oil, and marjoram. The minty taste from the marjoram gives this dish a distinctive kick, with the gnocchi delicately melting almost instantly in the mouth. The well-balanced taste of truffle adds greatly to the dish, making this another winner.
What caught my eye the most – and what will probably catch everyone’s eye when they look at the mains – was the Butter Knife Steak ($99), described on the menu as “so tender you could cut it with a butter knife”. It’s Cabassi and Co VIP tenderloin, grain-fed for over 600 days, full blood Wagyu. It’s availability is limited. I didn’t end up asking for it.
What I did decide on though was the smaller – and less expensive – Crap Grim Rib Eye ($41); a 300g steak with crushed kipfler potatoes, and lamb’s lettuce salad. This is a nice hearty meal, made even better with paired up with a nice and full-flavoured red. A glass of 2011 Antinori Peppoli Chianti Sangiovese Blend ($10) is very well-priced. The wine, from Tuscany, makes for a perfect pairing.
I couldn’t leave without dessert, so I asked for the most popular sweet. It’s the Cioccolato Rosso Ferrari ($12) that comes up. The very affordable dessert is as indulgent as they come; A ferrari red chocolate sphere is doused in grappa infused chocolate sauce, which runs off the glistening surface as if the sphere as a volcano and the chocolate sauce some fast-running lava. Once you crack the sphere apart you have access to some smooth stracciatella ice cream and pistachio crostata. No matter what age you are; we’re all wide-eyed, forever happy children as far as this dessert is concerned.
Cucina Vivo is a valuable addition to Jupiter’s Casino, working in harmony alongside Kiyomi to preview the high standard coming with the expensive transformation. As I said in the Kiyomi review, if this is what the refurbishment is bringing to the Hotel & Casino then Broadbeach is getting something truly special, and long overdue.
Address: Jupiter’s Hotel & Casino, Gold Coast; Broadbeach Island (off Gold Coast Highway), Broadbeach, Queensland
Contact: 07 5592 8443 or 1800 074 344
Opening Hours: Seven days from 5.30pm and lunch on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 12pm
The writer visited Cucina Vivo as a guest of Jupiter’s Hotel & Casino.