August 30, 2022

Golden buttons

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I was thinking that it had been a while since we last paid the Juve Fan a visit, so I got off my ass and booked us a table. When I found out that Wai Gor had never been to Estro, I figured he and Belo could join us. But... we would have to drink Italian wines, and I wasn't sure how happy that would make Belo.

We decided to go for the shorter, 6-course menu tonight. I was perfectly happy to lower my calorie intake, and I am wary of stuffing Belo a little too much.

We started with a few bites:

Compressed Italian watermelon, lemon jelly, lemon cream - the sharp acidity of the lemon gel and lemon cream was eventually balanced out by the sweetness of the watermelon, but it did take a few seconds.

Bread pillow, roasted red pepper, bell pepper emulsion - loved the flavors of the peppers.

Potato roll, aubergine, tomato sauce, cheese

Cucumber, green melon, and tomato water - very nice and refreshing, with savory notes and umami. The cucumber was very obvious.

Homage to Salina | marinated squid, almond, capers, fennel pollen - the marinated bigfin reef squid (アオリイカ) from Japan was finely diced and shaped into a dome, topped with capers, caper leaves, fresh almonds, and fennel flowers. The dish was bathed in creamy almond milk, which worked pretty well with the acidity from capers.

Hidden inside was a center of caviar. Funnily enough this dish reminded me of that disaster at Bâtard, but this one was so well put together that everything jived.

Time for some bread, including the taralli and carta musica, so I could enjoy the butter made with Cetara anchovies.

Mussels "Gemmina" | aromatic bread, prawns, "aglio e olio" - a dish inspired by Juve Fan's nonna Gemmina, the mussel shells were tied up before steaming. The sauce was made with yellow tomatoes from Puglia blended with mussel water.

The mussels from Hokkaido were stuffed with sourdough, parsley, garlic, and prawns. And topped with lardo di Colonnata! This was very, very interesting as the stuffing was firm and springy, and we've got a little spicy kick in the sauce. Beautiful!

Juve Fan loves using pasta from Gentile, so we were getting a load of these:

Long scialatielli | king crab, Amalfi lemon - the scialatielli was made with basil and cooked in zucchini water. We've got shredded Alaskan king crab meat sitting at the bottom, and given that the pasta originated from the Costiera Amalfitana, it seemed perfectly reasonable that the sauce was made with Amalfi lemons.

I really loved this. The pasta was, naturally, al dente. The sauce had wonderful fruity flavors and was a little on the sweet side, and that lovely fragrance from the Amalfi lemons! I'd do this again in a heartbeat.

Next came an off-menu extra from the Juve Fan. Now we look smart for ordering the 6-course menu instead of the 8-course.

Spaghetti | tomato - simplicity and purity at its best. Roasted tomatoes cooked with tomato juice in the pressure cooker produces a clear tomato broth, which is then used to cook the spaghetti. As the pasta is cooked right in the consommé, this releases the starch from the pasta and thickens the sauce, giving it a grainy texture. The balance between acidity and sweetness was just about perfect, and the Datterino tomatoes on top provided the finishing touch that was needed.

Yes, I'd do this dish again in a heartbeat, too.

Buttoni | saffron, gold - I knew that the restaurant has been paying tribute to chef Gualtiero Marchesi - the chef behind the first restaurant in Italy to receive three Michelin stars - by doing variations on his 40-year-old iconic risotto oro e zafferano. Tonight it came not as a risotto but the restaurant's signature buttoni. Of course, my plate had more gold foil than the others!

That saffron risotto emulsion was beautiful, but I just couldn't take my eyes off the gold... Simply dazzling!

Lamb | roasted eggplant, sage, sea asparagus - the Italian lamb rack and loin were pretty tasty, and I felt I made the right choice over the beef option. The eggplant on the side was roasted and topped with sage and salicornia, but we also had two different quenelles of eggplant purée, one of which seemed to be flavored with sage.

Cioccolato - chocolate mousse, tuile, sorbet, and torta caprese - all made with Valrhona Araguani.

Sicilian pistachio gelato - there are many in town who would be ecstatic at seeing this making a return, and I would be among them. Pistachio normally isn't at the top of my list when it comes to ice cream, but this... this is so rich it's in another league.

Tirasimu - with white chocolate shell and liquid center.

Choux with vanilla lemon cream, figs -

We didn't go overboard with wines tonight - just four bottles, including 2 Italians. Unfortunately we forgot to save a glass of the Giacosa for the chef, but I wasn't surprised when he chose to have a glass of Solaia!

2019 J.M. Boillot Puligny-Montrachet - a little toasty, flinty, pretty decent with good acidity and not too ripe. Later on this turned buttery.

2007 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Le Rocche de Falleto Riserva - triple-decanted, with 1 hour and 15 minutes in first decanter, followed by another 45 minutes in the second decanter prior to serving. Fragrant with some stewed prunes and dried herbs. Still tannic. Later on minty notes showed up.

1998 Antinori Solaia - served after just under 1½ hours in decanter. Initially this was a little dusty but still got enough red fruits underneath. After the dustiness cleared up this showed smoke and pencil lead, and was kinda sweet on the palate. Drinking very well right now.

1998 Latour - triple-decanted, with 40 minutes in the first decanter and 2 hours in the second decanter. Smoky and minty, this was classic Pauillac.

A really fun evening, and I was really happy with all the dishes. Come to think of it, my favorites tonight were the 3 pasta dishes - not to take anything away from the other parts of the menu. Many thanks to the biggest Juve Fan for his hospitality, and I do look forward to coming back sooner rather than later.

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