Rome has a lot to offer: once-in-a-lifetime views, heaps of pasta, and when all else fails, the colosseum. What Rome often finds itself lacking in is good Asian food. Sure, you have exceptions like Damplings and can find some all-you-can-eat sushi bars and a chicken tikka masala or two…but when it comes to authentic, regional Asian food you’d be better off in London or Paris.
Jiamo Lab is working hard to change that.
The small team is fronted by Chen, a young man with a perma-smile who is always happy to explain the cultural and historical background of their signature dish, the jiamo.
It is a drool-worthy sandwich from the Shaanxi province in North-West China, made by lacing deep-fried noodles into a crunchy bread and filling it with pork braised in Chinese spices. It is said to have originated during the Warring States period in 453 BC and has remained a popular street food ever since. Other than original pork jiamo, Jiamo Lab also offers beef, chicken, and vegetarian options.
The menu at Jiamo Lab is small, but every item is special. Their pork dumplings are seriously good, with discernible pieces of meat instead of a generic mince, paper-thin wrappers, and a crispy bottom. I shared the Peking Duck platter with my partner but would have happily had the whole plate to myself, dousing the perfectly cooked duck with sweet hoisin sauce. The bao is comfort food at its best, with bamboo shoots, ginger, and pork – and the noodles taste as good as they smell (each noodle is coated in a super aromatic oil, gingery and fragrant). Ask for their chilli crisp! It is nutty, spicy, and sweet.
For dessert, we had a refreshing mango jelly with tapioca pearls.
Jiamo Lab also sells Tsingtao, a light Chinese beer. Pick from a lager, pilsner or IPA (my favorite) to go with your meal.
Located near Piazza Fiume, Jiamo Lab is super easy to get to from the center of Rome by public transport. The 492, 495 and 89 pass through Piazza del Popolo frequently and it only takes 15 minutes from there. It is worth getting to know the area because Piazza Fiume (which is about a 10 minute walk from the Castro Pretorio stop on Metro B) is becoming a foodie destination. You can also try Faro for specialty coffee or I Caruso for gelato within a couple minutes of Jiamo Lab.
The restaurant is small, with limited seating, but It is also extremely affordable without skimping on the quality. Our meal of a jiamo, Peking duck, dumplings, and a large beer came out to just 12 euros a head (insane).
When speaking to Chen, he confided to us that it was difficult to get locals to take a chance on their food. It was foreign, and they did not trust it. Keeping the menu simple and affordable, and taking the time out to explain the food made all the difference and now the restaurant is frequented by regulars who swear by the stuff. Join the club.
Via Bergamo, 15
Rome, Italy (Piazza Fiume)
Phone: +39 388 8348616
Open every day from 12 pm – 10:30 pm