May 23, 2024

Pepe e pepe

Pin It

I hadn't visited Juve Fan for a proper meal in a while, and after giving my Maradona shirt to the Hungry Hungarian for him to wear during his recent visit to Estro, Juve Fan decided to invite me for dinner at the restaurant. I put up a protest about this invitational meal, as I'm more than happy to go on my own dime to support him, but he insisted - and promised to make for me the cacio e pepe I had seen others enjoy at an event last month. So I begrudingly accepted his invitation.

When he proposed that I buy a bottle off the restaurant wine list, the wheels in my head started turning... Did they still have wines from Emidio Pepe on the list? Could I have a bottle of Emidio Pepe to go with my cacio e pepe, and make it a Pepe e pepe pairing? The answer was 'yes'. Then this would be an interesting occasion...

Right off the bat, we were told by Martina that it would be a 7-course menu for us. So... not a small meal, then... and we started with the quartet of aperitivo:

Dill and vegetable tart - with honey peas and basil. The flavors of the basil was particularly strong.

Choux with eggplant Parmigiana and tomato - this was OK, and the eggplant flavors showed.

Japanese egg salad tartlet - with salmon and Amalfi lemon. The salmon roe kinda overpowered the flavors of the egg salad, though it was still noticeable.

Green apple and cucumber drink - this showed a very nice balance among sweetness, acidity, and savory notes.

I always love the tarali here, and of course the anchovy buffalo butter, too.

Aori-ika | yellow tomato, lemon, French beans - so this would be our first "pasta" course of the evening, with Japanese bigfin reef squid (アオリイカ) cut into long, thin strips like fettucine.

What a beautiful dish! The "noodles" were sooo tender, and it was interesting to see such light colors on the crunchy French haricots verts. That yellow tomato and Amalfi lemon emulsion was absolutely delicious, giving us that wonderful fruity acidity. Of course, the fennel flowers on top provided some aromatics which further allowed us to immerse ourselves in the dream that is spring time.

Sea bass | eggplant, “puttanesca” sauce - the sea bass from Brittany was first steamed before getting the skin crispy with some torching. The fish was tender, tasty, and although it didn't really need anything other than the olive oil drizzled on top, it really shone with some puttanesca. The eggplant compote topped with semi-dried Datterino tomatoes was pretty nice, too.

Scialatielli | zucchini “trombetta”, caviar - I always feel that Juve Fan's pasta dishes are his best ones, and this homemade long scialatielli is a perfect example. He loves using zucchini trombetta and it shows up on the menu quite a lot.

The pasta cooked in a zucchini broth was, of course, nice and al dente. I often frown when I see gratuitous use of caviar in restaurants, but in this case the Kaviari Kristal caviar did not feel out of place, as the creamy zucchini sauce worked to balance the salinity of the salted fish eggs. The discs of zucchini on top were undercooked to retain their crunch. What an excellent dish!

Bottoni | buffalo cheese, morels, honey peas - Juve Fan is famous for his bottoni pasta, and these came filled with a sauce made of Robiola di Bufala and Parmigiano-Reggiano that was just sooooo rich and intense. The mushroom jus was really flavorful, as were the morels from Yunnan Province (雲南省). I gotta say... putting the sweet honey peas, pea purée, the savory cheese, and the mushrooms with their umami together was simply FANTASTIC!

Juve Fan brought out a tray with the five different types of peppers he uses to make the classic pasta. Clockwise from top left, these were: voatsiperifery from Madagascar, Kampot pepper from Cambodia, long pepper from Indonesia, cubeb pepper from Indonesia, and Timut pepper from Nepal.

Spaghetti | cacio e pepe - the pasta was cooked in a pepper-infused chicken stock, then coated in an emulsified cacio e pepe sauce, before the mix of peppers was ground on top table-side. This was rich and flavorful on the palate, and unbelievably fragrant thanks to the mélange of peppers. I'm so, soooo happy that Juve Fan made this for us. Now I don't have to resort to going to places like Pici if I have a craving for this...

Pigeon | radicchio “precoce”, balsamic vinegar - pigeon is always a good idea, especially when they come from Bresse. I did ask Juve Fan why an Italian is serving us French pigeons, upon which he admitted that Italian pigeons are just not as good as French birds. Anyway, the pieces of pigeon breast were very nicely done, very rosé and fairly rare, with a great crunchy and springy texture that was tender at the same time. The leg of the pigeon was stuffed with chicken mousse, and delivered plenty of flavor as a result. A tiny sliver of pigeon filet came on top of one of the pickled radicchio rolls.

For some reason Foursheets really didn't like the radicchio due to the acidity, which was surprising because usually I'm the one who hates the bitterness from this vegetable... but in this case the pickling had mostly neutralized it.

Cioccolato - the warm chocolate mousse shaped like a little hockey puck was topped by a very thin disc of chocolate crisp, some chocolate crémeux and crumble, a quenelle of cocoa fruit sorbet, and a chocolate tuile. So good. And since the kitchen forgot that Foursheets doesn't eat desserts - especially ones with chocolate - I ended up eating BOTH portions. YAY!

Finally, we had some sweet endings:

Sicilian pistachio gelato - one can always rely on this to deliver a certain amount of pleasure.

Hazelnut biscuit with dark chocolate

Hazelnut rocher

Lemon and marscapone tart

Juve Fan very kindly offered us a glass to bubbly to start:

Lagille L'Inattendue, dégorgée en Juillet 2023 - yeasty and toasty nose, with a little marmalade. Acidity was on the higher side thanks to the low dosage.

So, yes, I ordered a bottle from Emidio Pepe for my "Pepe e pepe" dinner...

2020 Emidio Pepe Trebbiano d'Abruzzo - initially showed a little bit of toast, perhaps the wine was too cold. The palate was much more rounded and soft than I had expected. Nice and flinty, slightly caramelized, with maybe a hint of Chinese licorice.

I decided to have a glass of digestif and asked for recommendation on an Amaro. The Amaro Averna was pretty nice.

This was a fantastic meal. We had, effectively, 4 "pasta" courses out of our 7-course meal, and they were all beautiful. The remaining three dishes were also excellent. In fact, this could very well have been the best meal I've had at Estro! I didn't think I could be a bigger fan of Juve Fan than I already was. Very grateful for the kind invitation, and also thanks to Martina and the service team for taking good care of us.

Finally, I was relieved to know that Andrea is in Italy so there was no chance of him pissing in my wine tonight. Whew!

No comments:


Related Posts with Thumbnails

TripAdvisor Travel Map