Posts Tagged ‘Italian cuisine’

Cuisine: Italian and Engadin (area around St Moritz) traditional.

Visit: January 2012

Price: Medium to high (if you get truffles on everything you order then you will get a three-digit bill).

Food, art and view from the slopes above St Moritz

Food, art and view from the slopes above St Moritz

Atmosphere: The outside terrace is very popular on sunny and warm days. Lovely views of the valley and ski slopes attract many diners. It is lively and refreshing. Inside there are two parts of the same restaurant. One is a bit more elegant and the other has a rustic mountain feel. When cruising the slopes we prefer to sit in the more casual one. Decorated with animal head trophies, horns and mountain photographs, the place assures you that you are in the European mountain area. Everyone wears their ski suits boots and even hats if they do not feel like taking them off. The room is pleasantly warm though so it is up to you how much you decide to undress.

Mountain interior at Salastrains

Mountain interior at Salastrains

Food: Honest, rustic and generous. The portions are not huge ( especially if you compare them to the portions typical in the US), yet most of the dishes are very filling. When skiing I like to warm up with a bowl of rich soup. The creamy Molligatawny Soup is my favourite. This curry-based creamy soup with pieces of chicken is hearty and tasty. It surely gives you a good base of energy for at least a couple of runs down the slopes.

Local meat platter is also a nice starter. Engadin specialities such as Deer carpaccio. Fish carpaccio or Tuna tartar are lighter and refreshing options.

Hearty creamy soup

Hearty creamy soup

The pizza is the reason why we return to Salastrains each time we ski in St Moritz. But  this is not just any pizza. Crisp, thin crust with a hefty dose of cheese, crowned by a light brown cap of white truffles. What to say – it is the most gourmet pizza (and probably the priciest one) one can imagine. You can get also deer carpaccio, house-made noodles or risotto sprinkled with the precious white truffles from Alba.

White truffle pizza

White truffle pizza

Pasta are the restaurant’s signature as well as the fresh lobster. The homemade pastas are delicious, especially the linguine. The lobster is very nice for Europe, yet not superb like the Main lobster. You can have it steamed or grilled, served with a green salad  or plain. Veal Milanese would surely please any lover of this Italian “schnitzel” style speciality.

There is a tempting dessert buffet in the restaurant, so if you still have a space for an “Apfelstrudel” , “Topfenstrudel” both served with vanilla sauce or a Chocolate mouse go for it. Not fussy, just home-style and generous.

Drinks: Warming up with a cup of mulled wine or tea with some schnapps (strong liquor) is a must in the mountains to get you soaked properly in the winter atmosphere. The wine list offers Italian, French and Swiss wines by the bottle and some by the glass (2 whites and 2 reds). If you feel like having some bubbles then a tiny bottle of Champagne (185ml Moet et Chandon) will not send your head into flying mode while replenishes your imaginary energy levels through the combination of sparkle and alcohol. Half bottles for those conscious about safe skiing are great option if you do not want to feel the drinks in your head. Magnums are perfect for big groups.

Opening season: All seasons. The restaurant is located at the Salastrains hotel.

Address: Via Salastrains 12, 7500 St Moritz, Switzerland

Contact: Tel: +(41) 81 830 07 07

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Cuisine: Italian, Piedmontese.

Visit: November 2012

Price: High (but for the quality it is a good value for money).

Umberto: the owner of Vintage 1998 shaving truffles for you

Umberto: the owner of Vintage 1998 shaving truffles for you

Atmosphere: It feels much more informal than at most of Michelin stared restaurants. Colourful walls, very friendly and upbeat staff including its owner Umberto and the dress code is also much more relaxed. The tables are elegant yet cosy and Umberto makes everyone feel like at home. I would call his approach a grandmother’s style – serving you generous portions and adding more and more tasty dishes than you would imagine ordering. But they are so good and he knows what is best on that day so trust him and forget about a light meal.

Vintage 1997

Vintage 1997

Food: Hearty, generous and superb quality of ingredients. We came still in truffle season so everything one can imagine was or could be enhanced by tremendous truffles from Alba. Impolitely staring at other diners’ plates I spotted amazingly looking Beef tartare served with white truffles, so I had to try it. The starter had not disappointed. I have never had before (yet two courses later it was repeated) such a generous hat of truffles on any dish. Even a thought back about this dish makes me salivating!

Beef tartare with white truffles

Beef tartare with white truffles

My friends from Turin are regulars at Vintage 1997 so I listened not only to Umberto’s suggestions but also to theirs. Their choice of a crispy Artichoke with egg and melting parmesan was exquisite. Again not a very light dish, but full of flavours and calling for some wine to lighten it up a bit.

Artichoke with egg and parmesan

Artichoke with egg and parmesan

The home-made pasta here are like from a grandmother – no eggs were spared. The Agnolotti egg pasta are one of the restaurant’s signature dishes. I got them simple with butter sauce and another generous shaving of white truffles. If one is very hungry this plate will satisfy immediately, but it can be a shock for some cholesterol-minding customers.

Agnolotti egg pasta with white truffles

Agnolotti egg pasta with white truffles

From the desserts the homemade Tiramisu is perhaps the most popular but the chocolate aficionados also find plenty of sweets prepared with chocolate. Turin is famous for high-quality chocolate and the tradition spans across centuries, so you much give it a try.

Drinks: The wine list is spectacular with high- as well as low-priced Italian wines, but also some French treasures. What I appreciated was that Umberto selected to me a lesser known wine for a very reasonable price which tasted marvellous! What more to wish for a serious and even a less serious but price-conscious wine drinker. A bottle of a red Merlot from La Morra Langhe DOC 2006 made without any chemical fertilisers and from low-yielding vines by Fontanazza-Pissotta was surprisingly fresh and deep for a Merlot. Not a very Italian grape, but this wine proved that Merlot can thrive in Northern Italy.

Contact: Tel: +(39) 0115136722; email: info@vintage1997.com

Opening hours: Lunch: 12:30-14:30; Dinner: 20:00-23:00; closed for lunch on Saturday and on Sunday.

Address: Piazza Solferino 16h, 10121 Torino, Italy.

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Cuisine: Gourmet innovative Italian.

Visit: October 2012.

Price: High (anything near to the prestigious address of the historical Bund in booming Shanghai has an expensive rent, in addition being backed up by an established Italian chef, the prices at the restaurant move to higher levels).

81/2 Bombana bar

Chef: Umberto Bombana has been strengthening his name on the Asia dining scene in recent years. After opening his first Italian restaurant in Hong Kong a couple of years ago, this year he launched his first 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo restaurant in mainland China. Here in Shanghai as well as in Hong Kong the chef named his restaurants after his favorite Italian film director Federico Fellini’s 1963 autobiographical movie “8 ½”. Celebrating Italian lifestyle, art and pleasures became the motto of his restaurants.

In Shanghai the chef Bombana has teamed up with an Executive Chef Alan Yu, Chef de Cuisine Silvio Armanni, and Pastry Chef Sohya Takahashi to create a unique blend of flavours.

Atmosphere: Depending on where you are sitting, the bar is more fun and off-beat, while the restaurant is more uptight. The service is friendly, knowledgeable and impeccable. Each wine by the glass we were not sure about was given us to sample a sip so we could make up our mind according to our preferences while the wine waiter explained each wine and its producers in detail. I would recommend you dress up nicely at both – the bar and main dining area as the restaurant has quite a luxurious feel.

Crisp and original Italian grissini

Food: Innovative Italian classics, visually appealing and tasty. You can order the entire tasting menu or if you like select only one or two dishes from it as you fancy and add some items from the a la carte list.

From the later I tried the Artichoke Soup served with shaved italian black truffle first. It was quite a hearty soup, good for an autumn, but not a mind-blowing selection as it was quite simple. I would not order it again.

Much better was the Wagyu Tajima Beef Tenderloin Carpaccio topped with vegetables brunoise & crispy parmesan. The wagyu grade beef was superb, thin and juicy as it should be in a tasty carpaccio. Basil pesto levelled up the vegetables and the crispy parmesan crackers added depth and contrasting texture to the delicate and fatty beef.

Wagyu Tajima Beef Tenderloin Carpaccio

From the tasting menu I loved the seasonal Hairy Crab gratin with parmesan foam & oscietra caviar. I would lick all the sauce from the plate if I was not at a fine dining restaurant. The creamy parmesan sauce was so delicious and the gratin of crab with cheese and refreshing scoop of caviar just clicked all well together. A glass of a more acidic wine such as Riesling or Pinot Gris would be ideal for this dish.

The main courses feature the Italian signature Breaded Veal Chop “Milanese Style” with cherry tomatoes & oregano salad that is made to perfection here keeping its authentic crunchy texture and thin meat, it is not oily but more on the drier side so some might prefer it while others might miss a bit more juice. The tomatoes are succulent and intense adding zesty acidity to the dry character of the Milanese style veal chop.

Hairy Crab gratin with parmesan foam & oscietra caviar

Drinks: The wine list is studded with big names in the wine industry such the Angelo Gaja’s expensive Italian breed, but also with lesser-known off-the-beaten-track producers.

We went for the wines by the glass since they looked appealing. I found an interesting blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot made by Livio Felluga to be my favourite. This blend is called Vertigo and is produced in the North-eastern Italian IGT region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia. Elegant, smooth, deep with dark fruits such as rich blackcurrant and ripe tannins all made it not only a good wine with food but also enjoyable on its own.

Italian Livio Felluga Vertigo blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot

With your drinks you can savour the restaurant’s own baked Italian bread sticks – grissini. There are three kinds, but the plain ones are simply the best and perhaps the best I have had so far.

Opening hours: Dinner: 6pm until midnight.

Contact: Tel : +86 (0) 21-60872890

Address: 6th floor at Associate Mission historical building, 169 Yuanmingyuan Road, Shanghai, China

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