Enrico Bartolini is the only chef awared 4 stars simultaneously (across 3 restaurants). One can only imagine the intensity required to envision, create and manage that many restaurants at that high of a level. With 7 restaurants in Italy and 3 more worldwide (in Hong Kong and Dubai), I had to imagine that the food at his 3-star flagship restaurant would reflect that intensity. I was right and it provided a powerful contrast to the glorious simplicity of Aimo and Nadia the night previous.
Chef Bartolini was there that evening and greeted every table. It was quick and formal - he either doesn't speak English or was putting the minimum time required in. Either way, it was a lovely gesture. The table of 8 next to us clearly had some friends or VIPs and got the lion's share of his (and the wait staff's) attention. No fault in that. We were well cared for. Just clearly not the focus of their evening.
Right out of the gate, you are presented a dizzying array of canapes in various forms. I was quickly overwhelmed trying to keep up with what they all were, so my notes on each are sparse. They were varied, gorgeous and all tasted good, though none of them blew me out of the water. No part of the main meal did either. For me, this was a restaurant to appreciate more than enjoy, though enjoyment improved steadily throughout the meal.
The food here is complex. Very, very complex. Look at the taco, for example. The sheer number of components on this single bite is almost overwhelming. The wild boar presentation had so many colors it makes Jackson Pollack look simple. (The restaurant does sit inside an art museum, after all.) Nothing was bad to eat, but it was a mental exercise to wrap your arms around what had been put in front of you. I often found myself "understanding" what he was doing with the dish more than loving it.
For example, the scallop dish had sweet (scallop), umami (boullibase sauce), acidic (lemon buerre blanc), briny (olive seeds) and sour (spinach). It was paired with an ash-y, volcanic white wine from Santorini. I admire the many layers and notes this dish was designed to hit. Did I devour it and wish for more? No.
The shrimp dish was the same, taking a strong sweet, sour and smoky shrimp and pairing with a creamy, parmesan-forward risotto. It makes sense, and I appreciate it. But I won't be rushing back to have it again.
The spaghetti dish was a standout. Delicious, visually stunning and perfectly delivered. The lamb too was outstanding, with a proper jus that made you want to lick the plate. And pumpkin seed bread with citrus butter (??) was surprisingly incredible. The final dessert - presented as an olive tree - was truly superb.
Wine pairings were well explained and very well matched, though none (save that sherry!) were ones I would go pick up. Very unique though. The wine with the beetroot dish was the exact same color as the beets, had an intensely strong nose but mild, easy finish. Would have never guessed that was out there.
This restaurant is the stuff that Michelin loves. And its three stars are deserved. Service was on the snooty side of formal, but for the most part top notch. This style of food and restaurant is less my cup of tea than others, but...well...I understand it. :)
Replying to Steven Smith
What do you think? I'd love to hear from you.