Relae *

Dining Room

Relae
Jægersborggade 41
2200 København N, Denmark
+45 36 96 66 09
Official Site

Voted as the world’s best restaurant three times, the two Michelin-starred Noma single handedly brought New Nordic Cuisine to mainstream and in the process transformed Copenhagen into a gastronomic hub. The kitchen serves as a talent incubator producing an impressive list of alumni. One of its most prominent alum was Italian born chef Christian Puglisi who was the sous chef for more than two years before leaving in 2010 to open his own restaurant, Relae in Copenhagen’s trendy section of Norrebro.

Prior to Noma, Chef Puglisi worked at then three Michelin starred Taillevent in Paris, and the world renowned El Bulli in Spain. With his strong pedigree, it was no surprise that Relae was a success from day one. The restaurant was awarded a Michelin star in 201,1 and presently occupies the 39th spot of the World’s 50 Best Restaurant (it debut in 2015 at no. 45). In addition, it was crowned the International Food Made Good Champion 2016 Winner and was the recipient of the Sustainable Restaurant award in 2015 and 2016.

Relae is situated along a charming cobblestone street filled with boutique stores and coffee shops. This subterranean restaurant has an open kitchen in the front with counter seating on the side that can accommodate up to six guests. The dining room has low ceilings, white walls, linen less oak tables and Scandinavian dining chairs.

There are only two types of dinning option available, the seven course “Ralae Experience” for 895 KR and a shorter “Relea Menu” for 475 KR. I had the “Relae Experience” on my visit.

Radish and preserved strawberries kick things off. This was a piece of red radish topped with strawberries and covered in sorrel leaves. The crunchy radish and its mustardy taste were complemented nicely by the strawberry sweetness. The sorrel leaves yields a pleasant sour note. The sour dough bread with spicy olive oil was freshly baked, warm and extra-tender in the middle.

Onion and birch, was a preserved half onion in birch water. The onion has a distinct sweet oniony taste and lucid texture that was wonderfully lifted by the birch water’s clean flavor.  This was followed by Oyster, spinach & juniper; a finely chopped spinach with chunks of luscious oyster hidden beneath. Its profound maritime presence was greatly enhance by the acidity of the oyster emulsion dressing.

Next up was a cup of lumpfish roe, celeriac & almond; a Danish delicacy at their peak from January to May.  The delicate roe was brilliantly combined with the almond cream subtleness. Mussel and ramson had plenty of deep oceanic essence while also having a defined garlic undertone. Providing an extra layer of saltiness was the mussel juice. The meal continued with a humble plate of potato, parmesan and black pepper. Slice potatoes drenched with five year old melted parmesan cheese.  By absorbing the aged cheese the potatoes was subdued in its sharp tanginess to create the right balance.

Hindsholm pork and spring greens was the main course. Hindsholm pork is a  type of pork that lives twice as long as a common hog and their meat are considered to be the finest in Denmark. In this dish, the pork meat was roasted to perfection, it was succulently tender and extremely flavorful. The combination of raw and cooked green vegetables on the plate were a delightful addition. Served on the side, was the Buckwheat tart with pig head meat and pig mayo. The tart was ultra-rich and fatty but was pleasing at the same time.

Fresh cheese, blueberries and black olives was a buckwheat pancake folded in half stuffed with fresh cheese. This has an interesting mixture of savory and tartness that worked fittingly with each other.

Dessert came in the form of yoghurt and citrus, served cold to sooth the palate.  The yogurt was blanketed with dehydrated orange which provided texture as well as the citric flavors that complemented its sourness. To finish was the mushroom and caramel. It had an appealing earthiness that was beautiful paired with the sweet caramel.

In this tasting, the food was unfussy yet skillfully prepared and vegetable heavy. Every plate is simple looking, there were no more than four ingredients used at a time. With this minimalist approach they were able to create a unique combination of taste that my palate had never experience before. The produce and other ingredients were highly seasonal, organic and local. The same goes for their wine list which consists of naturally grown wine from continental Europe.

There are no wait staff at the restaurant, the chefs that prepare the food also serves them. The staff is completely competent and friendly. Their informal service was the perfect fit for the restaurant laid back atmosphere. In the dining room, diners enjoy their food in the music of Nas, Biggie, Jay Z and other hip hop heavyweights.

With the success of Relae, Chef Puglisi has not only become one of the most recognizable chef in Denmark, but also one of the most successful restaurateur. He established his own mini empire in Copenhagen that includes Manfred a wine bar (located directly across the street from Relae), Braest an Italian restaurant, and a bakery Maribelle which all follow Relae’s concept of sustainability. As of last year, Chef Puglisi had turned over control of his flagship to his head chef Jonathan Tam to focus on his growing numbers of restaurant and other projects. With this changing of the guard, Relae continues to thrive and progress. Chef Tam was able to maintain what his predecessor has achieved. It remains a gastronomic stop in Copenhagen for all travelling gastronomes.

Copenhagen is in the top ten most expensive city in the world. To eat and drink at their top tier restaurant, one will need to have a deep pocket while the affordable ones are still pricey compared to New York City.  The wine and spirits at any eateries are marked up brutally. It makes me wonder how people can afford such a high price tag. Relae on the other hand allows diners to experience high quality food at a reasonable price.

Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester ***

Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester
53 Park Ln, Mayfair,London
W1K 1QA, UK
+44 20 7629 8866
Official Site

Alain Ducasse is one of the most decorated and influential chef/ restaurateur in the world. He holds an astronomical 18 Michelin stars (only bested by Joel Robuchon), including three restaurants in different cities with three stars; a feat that he was the first to accomplished. This was no easy task, but Chef Ducasse remarkably managed to achieve this twice. His dining empire stretches continents and his restaurant can be found in every major global city like New York, London, Paris, Hong Kong and Tokyo. In London, he has the three Michelin starred Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester, and Rivea in the Bulgari Hotel.

Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester opened its door in 2007. Within two years, it was awarded two stars by the Michelin guide. A year later the ultimate third star came; joining the ranks of Restaurant Gordon Ramsey, The Waterside Inn and The Fat Duck as the only restaurant in the UK to have three stars. Taking charge of the kitchen from day one and responsible for the restaurants ascession to the top was head chef Jocelyn Harland; who has since been dispatched to lead Le Meurice in Paris in early 2016. Sous chef Jean-Philippe Blondet, a veteran of the Ducasse restaurant group was promoted to head chef. He was tasked to maintain the Ducasse standard and under his leadership Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester retained its three stars in the current UK Michelin guide.

This flagship restaurant of the iconic Dorchester Hotel in Mayfair has an understated interior, with a touch of contemporary elegance. The dining room is surrounded by wooden paneled walls;, the tables are dressed in beige and white cloth, and the chairs are draped with lush leather. Its center piece, “Table Lumiere”, a private table for up-to-six guests is surrounded by fiber optics strand. Separated from the main dining room next to the windows is another area with additional tables. The space has plenty of natural lights, and Hyde Park serves as its background. Chandeliers shaped in metallic leaves stretched from one end to the other and hangs above its tall ceiling.

A la carte, tasting menu and a seasonal tasting menu are offered for both afternoon and evening while a special three course is available for lunch. On this visit, I had the seven course tasting menu for 145 GBP that started with a handful of gourges or cheese puffs. Soft and airy cheese puffs are flavored with either paprika or pepper was nice to snack on while waiting. First course was the Dorset crab celeriac and caviar. Thinly sliced celeriac rolled and stuffed with tasty crab meat are topped with caviar. The caviar topping was a great way to elevate the crab meat, giving it a bite of saltiness. As a bonus, a extra crispy crab claw fried in tempura batter is added to the already savory plate.

Next were the Guinea fowl and duck foie gras terrine rhubarb.  The terrine was scrumptious and had delightful richness. Providing a certain tartness to complement the terrine was the rhubarb. The third course, saute gourmand of lobster truffled chicken quenelles, was the signature dish of the restaurant. Lobster, chicken and pasta drowning in cream sauce packed of wonderful deep savory flavors. This course was the highlight of the meal.

Line-caught sea bass cucumber and juniper came after. The sea bass was firm yet delicately tender and was seasoned beautifully. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same with the cucumber on the plate as it was a tad too salty for my palate. For the main course, I was served the Milk-fed lamb green peas and mint.  Perfectly cooked lamb chops were extremely succulent and flavorful. Along with the peas and the green vegetable puree on this dish, the mint accompanied the lamb fittingly.

The cheese course was an Assortment of four French cheeses with varying types of textures and sharpness. Served with different condiments, the spicy puree worked particularly very well with all four cheeses.

The sweet course started with Mignardises & Gourmandise; consisting of macaroons, homemade caramel candy, coated almonds and chocolates all presented at the same time while desert followed shortly. Marking the end of the meal, I was served Berry contemporary vacherin that was mightly sweet and almost syrupy. However, the sweetness was wonderfully subdued by the vacherin, and its savory and acidic features. There was also a cold aspect to desert that was quiet refreshing.

With the exception of the cucumber in the sea bass course, this was a very good meal where the cooking standard is equally as high as the execution. I find their Modern French cuisine to be light and satisfying. In each course, the individual components worked together harmoniously, striking the right balance on the plate. To go along with this tasting, I requested for the 95 GBP wine paring that included Alain Ducasse’s own champagne label. The pairing was perfect, all seven individual glasses enhanced the flavors in each course it was paired with. The restaurants wine list is plentiful and consists of predominantly French wines and some from continental Europe and Australia. I was extremely surprised to see US wines on their list.

The service was polished and faultless. The multicultural staff exudes calm and confidence. They worked the busy dining room flawlessly and discreetly, glancing unnoticeably at every table often assuring diners were properly looked after.

Wine Pairing:

This was my first foray to an Alain Ducasse establishment. The service and the setting is what I anticipated. The food, though it was very good it just did not exceed what I was hoping for.  Perhaps it was the name associated with it or the three Michelin stars that set my expectation too high.  Nevertheless Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester, is still worthy of the label as one of the finest dining venue that London has to offer.

 

2016 Dining Recap

 

Having visited a handful of Michelin starred, World’s 50 Best and other top restaurants in Asia and Europe, 2016 was great dining year. My journey began at Hong Kong where I dined at Lung King Heen, the very first three Michelin-starred Chinese restaurant in the world. Needless to say, it had an extremely high quality Cantonese food. The restaurants location on the fourth floor of the Four Season hotel boasts a panoramic view of Victoria Harbor. The two Michelin-starred Amber at Landmark Mandarin Oriental offers a terrific weekend wine lunch which consists of five courses paired with four glasses of wine. This was one of the best deals out there at 928 HKD for a restaurant at this caliber. Dinner at the L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon (the only of the L’Ateliers with three Michelin stars) was also quite superb.

I waited in queue for hours at Tim Ho Wan in Sham Shui Po, which at that time was the cheapest Michelin starred restaurant in the world (until that distinction was awarded to Singapore’s Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken in the summer of last year). The dim sum was tasty and I enjoyed every single dish that I had. Frog legs and chicken congee at Tasty Congee & Wuntun Noodle Shop in the IFC was nothing short of delicious. Even better was the chicken and fish congee at the concierge recommended Sang Kee Congee Shop in Sheung Wan. 208 Ducento Otto serves up wonderful cocktails while Angel Share Whisky Bar & Restaurant and its expansive list of whisky is a must-visit for enthusiast while in Hong Kong.

That same journey through Asia led me to Tokyo, Japan. I had my very first meal in this sprawling metropolis at RyuGin, Chef Seiji Yamamoto’s flagship restaurant which has three Michelin stars and ranked number 31 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurant. The modern kaiseki that it serves is a reflection of the agricultural bounty of Japan. With each dish skillfully prepared, this was one of the best meals I’ve had. In Ginza, the Omakase at the three Michelin-starred Sushi Yoshitake did not disappoint. The fish and other seafood used in every single piece of Nagiris were extremely fresh. Sushi might be star of the show at this restaurant, but the cooked dishes were equally sublime. It was highlighted by the abalone liver sauce mixed with sushi rice which was a mind-blowing dish that still resonates in my memory.

Hideki Ishikawa is Japan’s most decorated chef/restaurateur with three restaurants under his belt totaling eight Michelin stars. He also has the distinction shared by the likes of the Robuchon’s , the Keller’s and the Ducasse’s to have two restaurants at the same with the maximum rating from the Michelin guide. At his eponymous Ishikawa, I was served a wonderful contemporary style kaiseki that shows simplicity with plenty of subtle flavors. I also visited Kohaku the other three star restaurant of Chef Ishikawa, which is located in the same area and within walking distance from each other. The kitchen is under Koji Koizumi a disciple of Chef Ishikawa. There are many of similarities between them, but the two are distinctly different at the same time. Kohaku is a more modern prepared kaiseki that incorporate foreign ingredients, which are not usually use in Japanese cuisine.

Japan is surprisingly home to one of the finest French restaurant outside of France. Others can argue that it might better than its home country due to the high quality of ingredients it uses produced by Japan. Many of the top French chefs has an outpost sprinkled throughout country, but a large number of them are concentrated in Tokyo. I had a superb tasting menu at Chef Pierre Gaganaire, Two restaurant Peirre Gagnaire Au Tokyo on the 35floor of the ANA Intercontinental, which was awarded two Michelin stars. Each plate were carefully crafted, using only the finest local ingredients. As a bonus, guests enjoyed the scenic view of the whole city as the backdrop while dining. In Roppongi Hills, I dined at Chef of the Century Joel Robochon L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon. Along with Paris, the Tokyo branch is one of the first L’Ateliers. Having previously gone to the Hong Kong location, these two Michelin starred restaurant are a lot more casual, yet the quality of food is equally top-notched.

Inside the train station in Ginza, resides a minuscule ramen shop called Kagari Echika, which has garnered a lot of following. They served me tasty bowl of ramen, with a broth that has a certain delightful creaminess. In Shinjuku, high above the mall of the train station is Tenichi, where I had some delicate fried tempura accompanied with fresh sashimi. While at Sushi Mamire, I was served with affordable yet enjoyable pieces of sushi and rolls. Pagliaccio Due in Shiba, is an Italian restaurant that serves pleasant dishes like the Seafood Rissotto, and the spaghetti with fish. Night caps in the New York Bar at the Park Hyatt Tokyo, were made lively with tunes from a funky jazz show. Soon after I feasted with the hotel famous weekend brunch. Finally, visiting Japan is not complete without trying the world famous Kobe beef. At Kobe Beef Kaiseki 511, I had a magical experience without breaking the bank. The beef was as good as advertised, and every bite was heavenly like cotton candy that melts in the mouth.

From Izakaya’s, to noodle shops, to high end kaiseki, sushi (as well as low end), and to fine French restaurants, I had the greatest time dining in Tokyo. The uncompromising use of quality ingredients in this city restaurant makes Tokyo the gastronomic capital of the world. The two weeks I spent there was simply not enough.

The next stop in my search and passion for fine dining was a short trip to Basel, Switzerland. I had the opportunity to dine at the three Michelin star, Cheval Blanc. The restaurant is located in one of Europe’s oldest hotel Le Trois Rois. Bavarian chef Pete Knogl, is in charge of the kitchen and under his leadership Cheval Blanc was elevated to culinary stardom. The tasting menu has global influences and shows the precision cooking technique of Chef Knogl. Each dish was light and has a fantastic complex combination of flavors and textures.

I couldn’t end 2016 without grazing the home front for some great eats. After all, no one can beat New York City in anything, (at least to a New Yorker that is). I had very good meals at the Upper East Side’s, The NUAA. This beautifully decorated restaurant serves refined Thai fare that’s geared towards the Western palate. Last year, I saw an onslaught of new eateries opening up in the Financial District improving the neighborhood’s restaurants scene. Among them is Eataly Downtown which opened to the public last summer. Much smaller than its older siblings in the Flatiron, this mega food market brought a slew of dining options that includes another outlet of the seafood haven, Il Pesce. The restaurant offers appetizing sustainable seafood prepared in the simplest form. As the last stop of my 2016 journey, West Village Carma Asian Tapas, served an unmatchable creative Far Eastern fare in small plate format. I enjoyed the way the kitchen recreated classic Chinese dishes, as well as using other Western ingredients that aren’t usually found in Asian cooking.

Though 2016 didn’t boast much of my hometown’s variety of eateries, it was a star studded year of dining in the international level. Overall, I would say it was great and successful year of eating. I’m looking forward to an even better 2017 where I plan to focus on New York City, its outer boroughs and state side. Hopefully, I can sprinkle few international trips here and there.

Cheval Blanc ***

Dining Room

Cheval Blanc
at Grand Hotel LES TROIS ROIS
Blumenrain 8
CH-4001
Basel, Switzerland
+41 61 260 50 07
Official Site

Having the headquarters of the two largest pharmaceutical company in the world, Novartis and Hoffman-La Roche, Basel is known as the world’s pharma capital. The city offers more than that, it has a well preserved old town and a dining scene that is underrated compared to other Swiss cities like Zurich and Geneva.  When the restaurant, Cheval Blanc, received the coveted third Michelin star last year, it single handedly put the city of Basel in the global stage of gastronomy.

Grand Hotel LES TROIS ROIS

In charged of the kitchen is German chef Peter Knogl who trained under three Michelin starred chef Heinz Winkler at Tantris in Munich. Chef Knogl came to Cheval Blanc in 2007 and in a matter of months it received its first Michelin star, the second one came a year later and finally the third star was awarded in 2015.  The restaurant also received 19 points from the GaultMillau and was voted as the 2015 best restaurant in a hotel in Europe by the Prix Villegiature. Chef Knogl French haute cuisine with Mediterranean and Asian influence had earned him the title as the best chef in Switzerland in 2011 and 2015.

Entrance

A la carte and two types of tasting menus for lunch and dinner are offered while special lunch set menus are also available. I had the longer tasting menu priced at CHF 220.

Tasting Menu:

Ragout de couteau de mer Textures de champignons, Peta Negra

The meal began with an array of snacks starting with Espuma Jalapeno.  I was instructed to use the spoon and to start from the bottom where a piece of shrimp buried below a chilled jalapeño cream.  Macaron/foie gras de canard, orange, Garam Masala had an airy texture with a touch of orange zest and spices that was in tune with the buttery foie gras. Ragout de couteau de mer, chopped razor clams presented in its half shell had an abundance of deep maritime essence.  Textures de champignons, Peta Negra, mushroom cream on top of crispy chip with some Peta Negra had a very good earthiness. These tasty small bites were a fantastic intro.

Kingfish, avocado, radish and Miso Langoustine, white asparagus and port

The first course was Kingfish, avocado, radish and Miso. Fresh and delicate kingfish had a sublime citric acidity. Avocado puree and radish on the plate worked in harmony together with the fish to create vibrant flavors. Next was Langoustine, white asparagus and port. Firmed and meaty langoustine sat  on top of beautifully poached white asparagus bathed in thick sauce with port wine. The sauce renders hints of sweetness that is infused into the langoustine which also had a hint of sour note in the background.

Filet of red mullet, crispy scales, saffron, black and vinaigrette of tomatoes

Third course was the Filet of red mullet, crispy scales, saffron, black and vinaigrette of tomatoes. The mullet was cooked precisely to have a crispy skin side including the scales keeping the inner part moist and soft. Enriching the fish was the sour acidity of the vivid yellow foam sauce.  Continuing on was the main course of Saddle of suckling lamb, flavored with sweet pepper and ginger. The juicy lamb had a deep scrumptious flavor that was asserted by the strong saltiness of the sauce which was made from its own juices.  Other components gives the dish extra dimension of sweet and spicy.

Saddle of suckling lamb, flavored with sweet pepper and ginger

The cheese course was supposedly a Selection of soft and hard cheeses from Maitre Antony in Ferrette but instead I requested for an all Swiss cheese. I was served with some excellent cheeses from different parts of the country with their own distinct sharpness but with similar firm textures that are common with Swiss cheese.

Cheese Course

Before moving to the sweet course I was served a refreshing palate cleanser of pinacolada. That was followed by a pre-dessert of Mango passion fruit, rice crispy and pannacotta which was a combination of tropical fruits. For dessert I was served Composition of Gariguette strawberries with lime cress. Using special Gariguette strawberries from France which has longer shape than common strawberry and has a sweet candy like taste it was prepared in different ways with varying textures and temperatures while keeping its natural taste. This was an excellent dessert.  To finally conclude the tasting were more sweets that include the mignardaise which was made up of tiny pastries and the petit four which was a collection of Swiss chocolates.

Chef Knogl was in the kitchen on my visit and his standard of cooking reflected on this tasting menu. One after the other every plate in every course has a level of consistency that is inviting to the palate. Each dish was light and has complex textures and taste prepared meticulously. There was a mixture of quality seasonal and foreign ingredients used exquisitely to create superb flavors combinations.

Composition of Gariguette strawberries with lime cress.

Their wine list is vast and comprised mostly from continental Europe. I opted for the 110 CHF wine pairing and made a special request to only have Swiss wine.  The sommelier came through masterfully in choosing red and white wines from different regions of the country. The paring was in symphony and enhances each course in the tasting.

Mignardise Petit-fours

The restaurant’s staff was properly trained and well verse. They were formal yet extremely pleasant and welcoming. Service was restrained. The servers observed from a distant providing a senses of privacy and allowed me to focus and savor my food one bite at a time without too many intrusion.

Wine Pairing:

Wine Pairing

Located in the middle of the old part of Basel, Cheval Blanc is housed inside Grand Hotel Le Trois Rois, one of the oldest hotels in Europe and the most prestigious accommodation in the city. The restaurants interior is induced with class and a hush atmosphere. The dining room’s high ceilings with crystal chandeliers and tall windows overlooked the Rhine. Its clean white walls are decorated with oil paintings. A marble table serves as a centerpiece while the ten uniformed round tables covered in neatly pressed white cloth with each having its own candelabra are distanced properly from one another. Paired with the tables were classic wooden purple velvet chairs.

Dining Room

When a restaurant received plenty of accolades and is considered among the best in the country it sets high expectations. Cheval Blanc had exceeded mine and then more. It was perfection, Chef Knogl prepared a fantastic meal complimented with the finest Swiss wines and a staff focus in providing superior hospitality. I had a complete dining experience well worth the third Michelin star it received last year. Covering all aspect of a top tier dining destination Cheval Blanc exemplifies Swiss culinary excellence.

Steirereck **

Dining Room

Steirereck
Am Heuemarkt 2A/im Stadtpark
A-1030 Vienna, Austria
+43 713 31 68
Official Site

Austria’s capital city of Vienna is the cultural center of the nation. It is the birthplace of Viennese cuisine and the epicenter of Austrian gastronomy. There are nine venues awarded a Michelin star including Steirereck, the country’s most decorated restaurant and is considered among the very best in the world. Set along the River Wein in Stadpark, it has two Michelin stars, a score of 19/20 from Gault Millau and ranked number 15 in the San Pelligrino’s 50 Best Restaurant the Worlds list for 2015. The man responsible for its global ascension is Chef Heinz Reitbauer. He perfected his skills cooking under some of Europe’s greatest chefs like Anton Mosimann, Alain Chapel and Joel Robuchon before taking over Steirereck from his parents’ back 2005 when the restaurant was relocated to the capital.

In 2014 Steirereck was expanded adding more space that also houses another restaurant called Meierei Stadpark which faces more towards the river. The façade was given modern futuristic aspect, built with metals that reflect the lush greenery of the park. After entering the restaurant, guests are drawn to the kitchen next to the hostess desk where Chef Reitbauer directs his brigade. The swerved layout of the dining room provided a personal space with unformed round tables with ample distance from one another. Grey herringbone chairs gave a clean contrast to the white ceilings, blonde wood paneled walls and ivory mosaic tiled floorings while the large windows had the park as its back drop setting the tone for an intimate dining space.

Serving modern Austrian cuisine, Steirereck offers a six, seven course tasting menu and a la carte for both lunch and dinner. Additionally, there is a shorter five course option available for lunch only. The seven-course EUR 142 was the choice on my visit. I was served a made to order refreshing non-alcoholic aperitif prior to starting the meal. Then came a parade of small bites made from fish, sea food, vegetables, and eggs. Afterwards a cart of an assortment of freshly baked bread was rolled in-front of me.

The first course, CARROTS-Young Carrots with Fennel, Coconut & ‘Reinanke’, glazed in its own juice, ginger and lemon, yielding the carrots with some citric spiciness. “Reinanke” or white fish was just another facet to this dish that went well with all the other elements. Served two ways was the second course of CRAYFISH- Crayfish with eggplant, hemp & fennel pollen. A whole roasted crayfish cut in half was a bit messy and out of place for a fine dining considering that using both hands to crack shells in order to get to the meat but never the less the crayfish was very good. The other was with eggplant; it had very good textures with some lime undertones. Then came the third course, TENCH- Tench with Cauliflower, Spelt Sprout and Isabella Grapes. The tench was confit in brown butter which added some richness to the muddy essence of the fish.

Tasting Menu:

Non-Alcoholic Aperitif
Non-Alcoholic Aperitif
Amuse-Bouche
Amuse-Bouche
Amuse-Bouche
Amuse-Bouche
Bread
Bread

After all the sea food courses were finished, the tasting proceeded with the next two courses consisting of land proteins. PHEASANT-Pheasant with Salted Lemon-braised Onions, Chard & Ground cherry, a confit of lean pheasant breast and legs that was soft and scrumptious. It was enriched with sauce from potato with Peperoncini, baby leeks, and salted lemon. The main course was the MILK FED VEAL-Milk-Fed Veal with Young Cabbage, Turnip & Bone Marrow, the veal was cooked to perfection, juicy, and tender. The vegetables that were braised and grilled was a great addition to a flavorful veal. There was also a hint of buttery context on the plate lurking in the background of every bite.

CARROTS
CARROTS
CRAYFISH
CRAYFISH
CRAYFISH
CRAYFISH
TENCH
TENCH

Instead of having the traditional cheese course I had the FRESH CHEESE–Sweetened Vanilla, Fresh Cheese, with Physalis and Cereal. The dish was prepared on my table, one at a time the server slowly put together all the components while explaining about the dish. A more savory sweet course that has different types of fresh cheese, one was frozen darkened by black sesame seed and with hint of coconut the other was with unpasteurized vanilla. It also had dried Physalis for added textures and cherry sweetness. The dessert course was ROTER MOND- Roter mond apple and preserved walnut with spiced Amaranth, this was a Russian apple that has a distinct redness. Though sweet it also has some tartness, sour cream was added to balance the fruity nature. There were traces of gingery taste and preserved walnuts were for additional crunchy textures. Then finally the sweet petites course of chocolates and small pastries rounds up the tasting.

PHEASANT
PHEASANT
MILK FED VEAL
MILK FED VEAL
 FRESH CHEESE paired with Limoncello
FRESH CHEESE paired with Limoncello

This seven course tasting menu was with a wine pairing for additional EUR 89. The pairing consisted of all Austrian wines which I applauded as Austria makes excellent wines. Most of my meals in Europe the wine pairing usually included a French wine but the sommelier at Steirereck fittingly enough paired it with beautiful local wines that not only enhanced each dish but was also enjoyable on its own. Even the one cocktail, Limoncello , that was paired with the cheese course had a pleasing alcoholic zest to go with it.

Lasting three hours, the tasting menu allowed Chef Reitbauer to display his cooking repertoire to his guests. His attention to detail and creativity to develop a plate with a complexity that involves putting together different elements produces interesting flavor combinations. He put a lot of emphasis on vegetables as all the savory courses included different root and leafy veggies. The ingredients are quality and was sourced from the chefs own farm and other local farmers.

ROTER MOND
ROTER MOND
Chocolate
Chocolate
Sweets
Sweets

While Chef Reitbauer is responsible for the kitchen, the dining room is under the guidance of his wife Brigit Reitbauer. She was handling the multinational guest at the dining room from the beginning, in the middle of the meal, all the way to the end with assurance that each guest will have an excellent dining experienced. The staff was efficient, cordial and well trained. Service was flawless and is expected from a restaurant of this stature.

Wine Pairing:

Wine Pairing Wine Pairing

At Steirereck, Chef Reitbauer was able to provide a dining experience that is unique to Vienna. He is redefining Austrian cuisine and recreating classic Viennese fare while showcasing local ingredients. With this, he sets the restaurant apart from the handful of Michelin starred places in Vienna as it sits on the pinnacle of the dining echelon. Steirereck has been “THE” dining destination in the country for some time now and will continue to be in years to come.

Restaurant A.T.

Dining Room

Restaurant A.T.
4 Rue du Cardinal Lemoine
75005 Paris,France
+33 1 56 81 94 08
Official Site

Guides like the Michelin and Gault Millau are a good way to choose a place to dine especially in a city like Paris. In this instance Restaurant A.T. is nowhere listed in those guides, it was from The Forbes magazine where I learned about this restaurant when it published an article “The 12 coolest places to eat in 2015”. Japanese born chef and owner Atsushi Tanaka previously cooked at Quique Dacosta in Spain and De Pastorale in Belgium but working with Pierre Gagnaire at his Parisian three Michelin starred restaurant is what laid the foundation to Chef Tanaka’s restaurant, Restaurant A.T.

Restaurant A.T. opened last year in the Left Bank close to the Notre Dame Cathedral. Its humble store front and décor defines simplicity. Bright ceiling lights are assisted by clean white walls and stone ash wood flooring to brighten up the dining room. The fixtures of assorted heavy tables with table tops that are either made of concrete or black rubber, and steel chairs with black leather cushions seemingly built for an office space rather than a restaurant add sleekness to the interior.

Exterior

There were different set menus for lunch while in the evening there’s only the tasting menu that consist of twelve courses for EUR 85(at the time of my visit but has since increase to EUR 95) which I requested. The first to arrive was a charcoal chip served on a bed of rocks, it was quite crunchy with a fascinating burnt taste. Leeks sautéed in brown butter was next. The leeks with the toasted nuttiness of the brown butter was interesting. Following the leeks was parsnip cake, a creative dish, using a root vegetable that had a hint of sweetness along with an undertone of bitterness.

Tasting Menu:

Afterwards a combination of sea food and animal proteins arrived. Kicking it off was a lovely piece of oyster drowned in a pungent citrusy light sauce made of kalamansi (a small citric fruit found in the Philippines) that was counteracted by the harshness of the kholabari creating a balanced dish. Then there was a wonderful bowl of veal tongue with thinly sliced radish, mushroom, and green leafy vegetables. Its subtle broth was infused with vegetables and absorbed by the juicy pieces of veal tongue. The next course, Artic char, had a robust essence and the chips covering it, made from juniper and parsley, created a very good dish.

To continue was an excellent marinated beef that was nearly raw and served with Jerusalem artichoke and hay. This was a savory dish where the scrumptious beef had plenty of flavor. I was then served whelk, also known as sea snails, with salsify chips on top. It had a nice briny sweetness that went perfectly with its light and tangy consume.

A lovely piece of Hake drowned in cockles broth was next. The broth had a strong deep sea taste combined with the clean tasting Hake meat. For added texture was dehydrated oca plants leaves. Beautifully prepared and tender pieces of lamb meat with rosemary and turnips was the final course before dessert.

Lamb

Dessert courses consisted of raspberry with beet root and timut pepper, although not as sweet as I thought it would be, the combination of berry fruitiness and lemon added a slight soily texture. The chocolate and lavender with its sweet chocolaty and distinct floral aroma rounded the tasting in a wonderful way.

With this tasting I decided to go with the wine pairing for EUR 55. There were seven glasses all together that consisted of French wine and a single Scandinavian beer. Arranged by Sommelier Thibault Simon (formerly of Michelin starred Agape Substance) they were paired perfectly with each course and provided an extra jolt to the palate.

Wine Pairing:

Wine Pairing

Chef Tanaka prepared a very good meal with wonderful creativity that matched its refined flavors. His cuisine is neither French nor Japanese and the ingredients that he uses are international. He manipulates textures and taste that is similar to the molecular gastronomy style of cooking while his plating depicts modern artistry.

Wine Pairing

 

Service was competent starting when I arrived at the restaurant. I was greeted pleasantly by the staff in their uniform gray shirt and black apron and through my time at Restaurant A.T. they were attentive and engaging. Chef Tanaka served some of the courses himself to my table and even found time to chat on a busy evening during and after my meal.

With so many dining choices in Paris there tends to be a number of restaurants that are often overlooked, but as the dining scene changes more Parisian chefs are steering away from classic cooking to new and more experimental methods. Underrated Restaurant AT will get its recognition in due time, especially with a chef in the kitchen that has a strong pedigree and cooks some of the most creative cuisine in Paris.

L’Arpege***

 

Dining Room

L’Arpege
84 Rue de Varenne
75007 Paris, France
+33 1 47 05 09 06
Official Site

So many chefs these days have been focusing more on vegetables as the main attraction at their restaurants, even the great Alain Ducasse made a splash last year when he decided to concentrate more on vegetables and fish after refurbishing his namesake Alain Ducasse Au Plaza Athenee in Paris. But way before Chef Ducasse and others made the transition Chef Alain Passard was one of the first big name chefs that entered the movement when he removed all animal protein from his menu at his critically acclaimed three Michelin starred restaurant, L’Arpege in 2002 (though animal protein has returned but to a minimal). Such a risky move for an established chef who’s had three stars under his belt since 1996.

Arpege

Chef Passard purchased L’Arpege from his mentor, Alain Senderens, back in 1986 and at that time it was named L’Archestrate (where he also spent time in its kitchen) before he renamed and renovated it. The calm dining room is small with a simple interior. Its clean white walls are covered in blond wood panels with silver plated artwork, low ceilings, tables sparsely spaced and paired with beige leather padding chairs in shiny metallic frames. The restaurants cellar, an enclosed space with exposed bricks, is also used for extra dining space.

Dining Room Dining Room

L’Arpege has an a la carte offering, a EUR 240 vegetable tasting, and a EUR 340 dinner tasting, although pricey, it’s on par with Paris standards. For lunch there is a EUR 140 tasting, a bargain for this type of restaurant and which I selected. Just like my previous meal at Chef Passard’s mentee Pascol Barbot in L’Astrance, the kitchen creates what is available on that day.

Lunch Tasting:

The lunch tasting began with a tiny snack of carrots with garlic puffs which was finished in one quick bite. Then a trio of nicely done mousses in individual teaspoons of carrot mustard, parsnip with coriander, and Parmesan with coriander was served. Next to come was a beet root sushi with mustard bay leaves. Made with thinly a sliced beet that was a substitute for tuna on top of tightly squeezed rice, to replicate a sushi, displayed the creativity of the chef.

Afterwards, I was served a salad from the garden. The vibrant leafy green vegetables were extremely fresh. It was garnished with shaved Parmesan cheese and walnuts for added texture while a dressing gave the right amount of acidity. For such a simple dish it was very good. Vegetable ravioli was next, which consisted of three pieces of ravioli stuffed with vegetable puree and drowned in warm vegetable broth with beet shoots and carrots juice. The ravioli stuffing had a wonderful veggie flavor to go along with an earthy aromatic broth.

Beet Root Tartare

Gratin with Parmesan cheese, peppers, and grapefruit was the following course. Made with potatoes and onions, the gratin had a nice crunchiness that combined perfectly with the pungency of the Parmesan cheese while also having a slight citrusy zest. This was then followed with a beet root tartare served with potato chips. A fascinating, yet refreshing root flavors that married with an intense bitterness of the horseradish cream. A well thought out dish where the genius of Chef Passard replicating a steak tartare that turned into a vegan delight.

Heart and Liver of Duck Tapenade

Garden Fresh Vegetables

A lone meat dish on the tasting menu was the heart and liver of duck tapenade on puff pastry with a side of green salad. The offal meat sliced in small cubes was cooked wonderfully, but at this time I was already enjoying the vegetarian spectacle that the animal protein was an afterthought. Never the less this was still a lovely savory dish. Now back to the vegetables. For the next course, colorful garden fresh vegetables with just a splash of olive oil and sprinkling of couscous giving it an added element.

An array of sweet courses began with honey onion and mint caramel custard served with fragrant star anise ice cream on the side to cool off the palate. A delightful plate of assorted pastry and sweets came as an intermission prior to serving the rest of the dessert. It then proceeded with a Paris-Brest, a firm pastry sandwiching a cream that is slightly rich and sugary. To end the meal were two kinds of chocolate confection, a mousse and a chocolate Napoleon, which was layered in different types of chocolate.

This was a sublime meal especially for the price I paid. The food served was light and healthy; the vegetables that were used were extremely fresh and of high quality. They are transported daily from Chef Passard’s own farm where he personally picks them. As a master craftsman who has a special relationship with vegetables, Chef Passard allows their natural flavors to shine without doing too much to them while arranging them on the plate with perfect combination. Also, in this tasting Chef Passard was able to use an ingredient more than once (as many of top restaurants do not do this) and used them well, adding a different dimension each time.

Wines

Unfortunately, there was no pre-set wine pairing available for this tasting but the restaurant did have an excellent list of wines available by the glass. With the help of the sommelier, the red and white wines from Medoc and Alsace region that were picked went well with my courses while also recommending a beautiful champagne as a welcome pour.

At L’Arpege, service was precise and formal to a degree, but was also adjustable to the type of guests that they serve. The staff was a mixture of young and seasoned veterans and handled the dining room with ease. After service, when the guests (or what’s left of them) are served their final dish the maestro himself emerged into the dining room. Mingling, stopping by every table, and even having coffee with guests or posing for pictures and waving goodbyes. A humble gesture from a chef with all his accolades.

Arpege 2015

Throughout the years Michelin starred chefs like, Pascol Barbot, Mauro Colagreco, and David Toutain, as well as countless more, have passed through the kitchen of L’Arpege. Chef Passard is one of the most influential individuals in gastronomy. He was a head of his time and an innovator willing to challenge himself and succeed. When he transitioned to a veggie-centric menu, his credibility did not suffer a single bit and L’Arpege has been constantly voted as one of the best restaurants in the world. It is continuously five toques from the Gault & Millau and has maintained three Michelin stars, including in the most current edition of the guide.

As well-known as Chef Passard is, on the same league with the Ducasse’s, the Robuchon’s, and the Gagnaire’s, he doesn’t have a global empire. He only owns one restaurant and can still be seen behind the stoves on the grind with his cooks and staff. His sole focus at L’Arpege is to create a dining experience that transcends vegetables to another level and where guests will have a better appreciation of the ingredients that are often overlooked on the plate. To charge EUR 240 without any animal protein, the food has to be out of this world and though I had the lunch tasting for a lot less, I can see why Chef Passard and his restaurant is highly regarded. This is a place for a gastro pilgrimage that both vegetarian and meat eaters will adore.

L’Astrance ***

Dining Room

L’Astrance
4 Rue Beethoven
75116 Paris, France
+33 1 40 50 84 40
Official Website

With ninety-four Michelin starred restaurants scattered throughout Paris to go along with a large number of quality bistros, brasseries, and wine bars, it is easy to say that Parisians takes their food and wine seriously. Fine dining is in abundance and as the epicenter and the originator of haute cuisine, the city has 9 three Michelin starred restaurants, more than any other city in the world outside of Tokyo. One of its top restaurants, L’Astrance in the 16th arrondissement which serves creative French fare with global emphasis, is high on travelling epicureans list to visit while in Paris. Led by Chef Pascal Barbot and Maitre d’ Christophe Rohat, the restaurant has had three stars since 2007 and continuously appears in the San Pelligrino’s The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list.

L'Astrance

Chef Barbot worked under Alain Passard at Arpege where he and Christophe met (who was responsible for the front of the house). Upon his departure, Chef Barbot was the head chef and the right hand man of Chef Passard. He travelled the globe to cook before reconnecting with Christophe in 2000 to open L’Astrance. The restaurant was well received and quickly ascended to the top after being awarded a Michelin star in 2001 after just a few months of opening. Four years later it received the second one and finally the third in 2007. Not only was this one of the very best that Paris had to offer but it is also one of the toughest tables to score. Opened from Tuesday to Friday, L’Astrance is only able to accept a maximum of twenty-five diners per service. With the time difference between Paris and New York, using a concierge came in handy especially if it required waking up in the wee hours of the morning to call the restaurant for an available table.

Dining Room

L’Astrance is tucked in a quiet residential street near by the banks of the River Sienne directly across from the Eiffel Tower. Its store front glass windows are covered in wooden sticks bundled at the stems. Upon entering, there is an aged old wooden bar in the front for the sommelier to do his tasting before serving each glass of wine. The interior is designed with high ceilings, dark marble floorings, and grey walls with oversized mirrors hanging. Plush lemon leather covered seats and benches are paired with tables that are tight knit within each other. Its lofty layout provided additional seating in the balcony accessible by spiral stairs.

All of L’Astrance menu is listed as a surprise, there are no itemized listing nor a la carte. The EUR 70 prix fixe, EUR 120 five courses for lunch, and “Menu Astrance” their EUR 230 tasting menu, the only option for dinner. The “Menu Astrance” was my choice on my visit and by Parisian standard it is the most economical multi-course meal compared to others of the same level.

Menu Astrance:

A pair of tasty bite sized crispy short bread and mushroom wafers started my culinary voyage to the unknown. The first course called Paris tart is one of Chef Barbot’s signature dishes. Layers of foie gras, thinly sliced mushroom and apple stacked on top of each other was a handsome assortment of buttery, earthy, and sweet elements that was complemented with roasted lemon puree and hazelnut oil. The next course was Oyster from Brittany with scallops and bone marrow. It had a defined flavor of the deep sea and along with the bone marrow, which provided another dimension, this was an interesting blend that the kitchen pulled off excellently. An additional crispy roll with ginger mint and vegetable filling was served on the side as a supplement completing a sublime dish.

For the third course a beautiful piece of sea bass sitting on top of risotto cooked in cauliflower. The bass had a firm texture and clean taste, while the bergamot gave it added zest. The touch of saffron for a little spice and the intensity of the goat cheese helped to even all the flavors. Parmigiana cream with celery and black truffles followed after. Plated to resemble a yin and yang design, the celery puree, thickened with parmigiana, created a cream with strong flavors. On the other hand the pungency of truffle gave this dish an even contrast of two different tastes that got along flawlessly.

Guinea Fowl DSCN6642

The meal continued on with a “Guinea fowl”. Cooked superbly, the texture was extremely tender and flavorful. Parmesan cream gave some richness and the mushroom sauce added flavors that married well with the fowl meat. Miso caramel chips were served alongside this fine dish. Next was roasted duck with cabbage, duck sauce and condiments of olives and coffees. The duck was roasted to perfection the meat was soft and scrumptious. There was a hint of saltiness from the sauce and olives that could have been overpowering but was neutralized by incorporating the coffee for a slight bitterness as a balancer to this amazing dish. Served along with it was a bowl of vivid fresh salad covering a delectable duck liver toast buried beneath.

Roasted Duck Duck Salad

Moving on from the savory and to clear the palate was a refreshing sorbet with a touch of chili and ginger. Chocolate tart was for dessert, a thick sweet of chocolaty pleasure with great consistency. Mandarin sorbet was also served simultaneously. An interesting dessert dish as it has a mingling of cool fruitiness and some savory. Then finally ending the meal were warm and tasty madeleines, aromatic Jasmine eggnog, and a plate of fresh fruits.

At the start there was no telling what I was in for but when the meal concluded the kitchen delivered a remarkable tasting. “Menu Astrance” was truly surprising and joyous to the taste buds. Chef Barbot’s technical skills fused different elements to create dishes that were both light and savory. The pacing in between courses was of a timely manner allowing me to enjoy and savor every dish. To complement the tasting, sommelier Alexander Jean assembled a perfect wine pairing of mainly French wine which brought out an extra flavor from each course, it was harmonious.

Wine Pairing:

The atmosphere in the dining room was relaxed and intimate. L’Astrance staffs were interactive while also maintaining their formality. There was a bit of cockiness and to some might be interpreted as arrogance but they do it in a fun way. Christophe’s presence in the dining room assured each and every guest received a faultless service.

Decorated chefs like Alain Ducasse, Yannick Alleno, Guy Savoy, Pierre Gagnaire have all set shop in Paris and all have built a global culinary empire. Unlike them and other great Parisian chefs, Chef Barbot owns and operates one restaurant, much like his mentor Alain Passard. He devotes his effort at L’Astrance and can be seen majority of the time behind the stoves. With this, guests are guaranteed to have a meal that has met his standards. As one of most sought after tables in Paris the expectation was high. Chef Barbot’s arsenal was on full force on my visit and he delivered one of the best meals I’ve had so far.

Osteria Francescana ***

Dining Room

Osteria Francescana
Via Stella 22
41121 Modena, Italy
+39 059 223912
Official Site

The nation of Italy is one of the greatest places on earth to eat. People come from all over the globe for a gastronomic pilgrimage. From Piedmont to Sicily each region has its own distinct types of cuisine. One can eat very well up and down the Italian peninsula. But one region outshines them all, Emillia-Romagna in the north central of Italy. Believed to be the gastronomic capital of the country, it is blessed with fertile agricultural lands that produce some of the best ingredients.

There are many well know small cities in Emillia-Romagna like Parma, Bologna and Reggio Emilia but my main focus in coming to the region is the wealthy city of Modena, where Italy’s most famous chef and global icon, Massimo Bottura can be found at his restaurant the critically acclaimed Osteria Francescana. Considered to be one of the top dining venues in the world, both Chef Bottura and the restaurant are mentioned in the same sentence as Luciano Pavarotti, balsamic vinegar and Ferrari.

The Restaurant Dining Room

Situated in the center of the oldest part of Modena on an unassuming street it is easy to bypass the restaurant. There are no signs, the façade is simple with just a grey door and metallic plate and the name of the restaurant engraved on it. Osteria Francescana only have twelve tables separated in three different rooms, one serves only for private functions. I was seated in one of the two main rooms where both locals and tourists occupy. The tables are evenly spaced and were immaculately draped in white table cloth with arco lamps hovering above. Large windows with thin curtains allowed the natural light into the room. Thick carpets cover the floor and light turquoise blue walls had contemporary paintings throughout showing the chef’s love for the arts.

Dining Room

In addition to a la carte, Osteria Francescana offers two types of tasting menus for both lunch and dinner, the EUR 195 “Sensations” and the “Tradition In Evolution” for EUR 170. The latter of the two was the choice on my visit. Having the restriction for pork, I was informed that it would diminish the dining experience so I made a slight exception here.

Tradition In Evolution:

To start, freshly baked bread with local virgin olive oil was served. Then came the snacks of macaroon with rabbit stuffing and crisp with shaved parmesan and black truffles that were both very appetizing. The first course was “Memory of a mortadella sandwich” where the mortadella was turned into foam but still retained the actual taste. Served with crushed pistachio and garlic puree (ingredients that were used to create the sausage) alongside an evenly cut bread. This dish was a wonderful combination of familiar flavors and appealing textures. I was then served a basket of fresh bread that included a warm croissant and some of the best Grissini or bread stick that I’ve ever had. Next was “An eel swimming up the River Po”, a beautiful piece of eel coated in a sweet sauce served on a large white plate. The graininess and the sweetness of the eel was balanced out by the accompaniment of apple extract and cream of polenta.

The third course followed, called “From Modena to Mirandola” a tribute to Modena’s famous balsamic vinegar and cotechino, as well as the version from Marindola. Served on top of a pastry made with almonds and butter with a biscuit like texture and covered in thick zabaglione. A combination of sweet and savory with a level of creaminess and fattiness in this dish that was explosive to the taste buds. Then the “Caesar Salad in Emilia” arrived after. A homage to a classic Italian dish, Chef Bottura’s version contains twenty plus ingredients coming from the bounty of the land hidden inside a fresh baby romaine lettuce. Difficult to name them all, but the essence of a Caesar salad that we are familiar with is there and the quality ingredients that were used can be profoundly tasted.

Next was the “Five ages of Parmiggiano Reggiano in different temperature and texture”. A dish made with one ingredient, the cheese texture was manipulated into different temperature and forms. Various aging processes provided multiple layers of intense flavors that wasn’t perplexing to the palate. Chef Bottura’s creation of only using Parmiggiano Reggiano (one of the region’s most popular food) and its flexibility was a stroke of genius. Afterwards, the pasta course of “Tagliatelli a Ragu” was served. A mountain of freshly made tagliatelli showered in veal ragu sauce with evenly chopped veal meat. This was a straight forward approach, a step away from all the previous thought provoking courses. Although seemingly deceiving, by the way that it looks, this dish had an tremendous rich meaty flavor.

Beautiful, Psychedelic, Spin-Painted Veal, Not Flame Grilled
Beautiful, Psychedelic, Spin-Painted Veal, Not Flame Grilled

For the main course, Chef Bottura was inspired by the artist Damien Hirst called “Beautiful, psychedelic, spin-painted veal, not flame grilled”. A culinary work of art where the plate is splattered with colorful sauces made with mashed potato with extra virgin olive oil, red meat extract, balsamic vinegar and chlorophyll then garnished with horse radish. Even though it’s called veal it was actually beef that was replicated to have both the texture and taste of veal. From all the sauces on this plate, where each was a calculated amount as to not overpower one another as they mixed, but compliment the perfectly cooked flavorful beef.

Foie Gras Lollipop
Foie Gras Lollipop

Prior to dessert I was served a buttery “Foie Gras lollipop” coated in almonds and hazelnut with balsamic vinegar filling. Though small, it comes with a beautiful combination of sweet yet savory richness.

 

Oops I dropped the Lemon tart
Oops I dropped the Lemon tart

The dessert course was one of the most famous creations in Osteria Francescana, created by accident “Oops I dropped the Lemon tart” was dropped by one of the chef’s in the kitchen and when they put it back on the plate Chef Bottura liked how it looked and decided to keep it. Made with lemon juice and limocello zabaione then covered in broken crust with star anise and plated with cinnamon, juniper, black pepper and cardamom, this was an enjoyable dessert. It had the right amount of sweetness that accompanied the creamy citrus flavoring.

To finish was the “Vignola” named after a town next to Modena and where some of the finest cherries in the country grows. This was a chilled chocolate formed like a cherry with a liquid filling of cherry liqueur and coffee flavors. Then the petit-four of more chocolate and other sweet stuff topped off the “Tradition In Evolution”.

The “Tradition In Evolution” was a culinary journey of Italy and the Emillia-Romagna region through the minds of Chef Bottura. His radical, innovative and playful reinventions of classic Italian fare while still maintaining the flavor profile was a display of brilliance. His food was a work of art plated gorgeously. Being born and raised in Modena, Chef Bottura is familiar with the region and is able to utilize what it offers. To add to this excellent meal was the EUR 110 wine pairing that I opted for. It was a terrific pairing that consisted of Italian wines, a French wine, and a locally brewed beer. Each glass was in tune with each course adding an additional layer after every bite.

Wine Pairing:

Wine Pairing Wine Pairing

In a great restaurant like Osteria Francescana the staff are often over looked as most of the guests are focused on the chef and the food. They were phenomenal and echoed the same passion as Chef Bottura with their service. Each dish was explained clearly and was genuinely engaging but never went away from the professionalism. Their warm Italian hospitality starting from the time that I walked in the restaurant provided the relaxed atmosphere throughout the meal.

Food plays a big role in Italian culture as it has been part of their way of life for hundreds of years. Recipes are passed down from generation to generation. So when Massimo Bottura opened Osteria Francescana back in 1995 he received backlash with his way of cooking. In one of his interviews he said” changing grandma’s recipes to the slightest is considered sacrilegious”. His reinvention of classic Italian cuisine was slowly being recognized in the gastronomic world that locals began to accept him. In 2002 the first Michelin star came, four years later in 2006, it received the second star. Then, in 2012 it was awarded a prestigious third star. The awards did not stop there, San Pelligrino “The World’s 50 Best Restaurants” listed Osteria Francescana as the highest new entry at 13 back in 2009 and from 2010 to present it’s been on the top 10 list. There are many more accolades to mention, but in the end Osteria Francescana is an exceptional restaurant led by a great chef. This gastronomic temple in the heart of Modena is definitely worth the special journey.