January 27, 2022

Eating at Le Calandre is like watching Michael Jordan play basketball, or Tiger Woods play golf. Even amidst the greatest in the world, they operate on a different plane, with skills and understanding of the game that transcends the typical.

Max Alajmo is the same with food. He is simply a master. 

Photo in men's roomThe youngest chef to ever receive 3 Michelin stars at age 28, he has kept that accolade for 30 years straight. That resume warrants an hour drive outside of Venice to the forgettable town of Padua. Sitting in this plain jane lower middle class region is Le Calandre. The oddest setting for one some of the world's most inspired cuisine.

Dinner got off to a rocky start. Service seemed confused - with lots of whispering and concern. It was equally as confusing for us. Do we eat the bites we see right now? Or were they for later? We received no direction. We asked about wine pairings and were told the sommelier would come discuss it. He never arrived - the pairings just started showing up. Our menus were never removed or even slid out of the way. Was that on purpose? An oversight? Who knows? Perhaps it was the language barrier.

Photo in ladies roomTo their credit, service warmed up substantially as the meal progressed. And with the food they were about to serve, honestly - who the heck cares?

It is difficult to describe these dishes. They are not simply delicious, they're brilliant. Masterful. The experience and wisdom to source these ingredients, conceive of such diverse flavors and concepts, deliver them at such a high level AND have them be delicious? It's the holy grail of cooking.

Standouts were his signatures - the murrina cappuccino and the risotto, as well as that incredible pasta. The risotto is based on a statue at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. You can see the details of the dish and its meaning in this video on the gallery's website. The flavors in that dish may be the best I've ever had.

His signature "Almond Mozzarella" dessert was also incredibly impressive. It looks and smells like mozzarella fully, but delivers as a sweet dish. Treat yourself to the detailed video of how this dish is put together. It will give you a glimpse into this man's genius. 

 

You can really only marvel at what you are seeing and tasting. I have eaten at my fair share of 3 star restaurants, and this food plays at a higher level. It's truly mystifying. We were fortunate to have Chef Alajmo in the restaurant and he came to greet us and thank us for coming. I breathlessly gushed an embarrassing "You are just brilliant!".

After 30 years at this level, I'm sure he rolled his eyes.  :)

The wines matched the dishes, both in how they were paired as well as how delicious each one was! They seemed confused when I requested a list of wines we enjoyed, but happily provided the list via email the next day.

What an experience. Vastly underpriced for the level of delivery.

This restaurant is attending the super bowl. Experiencing it was a true privilege.

Initial bites, at the table to welcome you. Super light and airy bread (like croutons)
Bread wrapped in their incredible napkins - also there when you arrive.
Codfish salmon eel Potato/pepper Eel, cabbage
They add this to the (depressed) center of the table, though no indication of what it was or whether we were to open it
This is the gorgeous bread that was inside.
Shiitake mushroom gelatina with sesame cream and caviar. The mushroom gelatin was at the bottom. This was impossibly delicious. Complex but completely harmonious. Served with...
Rice chip with seaweed. Invited to eat both together. I didn't feel the chip elevated the dish.
Cuttlefish cappuccino. Directed to NOT mix it, but to dig deep. Warm potato foam with bits of cuttlefish and black squid ink at the bottom...
It was placed on top of this cellophane
Murrina cappuccino. Their signature, and for great reason. Murina, potato cream, spirolina, seaweed, sea urchin. The visual is stunning and strong and the flavors matched. Deep, rich, complex, balanced, unctuous and offensively delicious.
Crispy ricotta, mozzarella and stracciatella cannellone served with tomato dipping sauce (next photo). The fanciest cheesestick ever. On the left was a burrata ball - almost like a soup dumpling - with parsley oil. Wow was that delicious.
The accompanying tomato passata. Acidic tomato sauce which brilliantly cut through the rich cheeses in the cheesestick.
Smoked tagliolini with egg yolk and guanciale. Unreal dish. The very best carbonara you can even conceive of. Head shakingly good. Makes you fall deeply in love with this chef. Wow.
Served with oniony chicken broth (to finish). I didn't understand why this was added.
"Passi D'Oro" risotto. Saffron and licorice risotto, grilled lemon, fermanentated lemon and South African chile pepper. The most brilliant dish I have ever eaten in my life. That pepper is incredible with a strong sweetness to its pepperyness (like mesquite, but not smoky). That sweet pepper cut beautifully through the rich risotto and was PERFECTLY balanced in the dish. Drips on the bowl was not food but part of the bowl design. A signature of theirs.
The risotto is dedicated to Roberto Barni’s sculpture at the Uffizi Gallery. (See next photo)
This is the sculpture - "The Golden Strides"
Hand-chopped piemontese beef tartare with black truffle, to be eaten with your hands. Super delicious. Essentially used the truffle to make "sandwiches" with the tartare.
Scorched bone marrow - it arrives with the herbs smoldering. Not a huge marrow fan but wow was this an impressive presentation. Breadcrumbs over the top and salt (to be added) on the board helped greatly. Served with...
Parsley salad, sea urchin and caviar bruschetta. So...dang...delicious.
Roast suckling pig with cichories and coffee mustard foam. The skin was perfectly rock solid while the meat remained succulent. Mine was slightly underseasoned.
They then ask if you would like a sampling from their cheese cart. (Um...yes!!)
Teresa's softer cheeses...
My harder/stronger cheeses.
A bunch of finger food desserts placed in the middle (where the bread was). The mandarin orange slice was incredible.
Chocolate, pistachio and sour cherries. The bowl was incredible (see next photo)
Nutty, creamy pistachio ice cream cut through with a tart cherry gastrique covered in sweet and rich chocolate. Wow!
Almond mozzarella. Also a signature of theirs. Looks and smells (!) like actual mozzarella. Served with olives, capers and oregano. But it's a dessert. Outer shell is like an egg shell, inside is almond cream. Watch the video on how this is made! (Link is in the post.)
Passionfruit smoothie. Fun to sit in a 3 Michelin star restaurant and hear people slurping their straws. :)
Final yummy bites. Traditional dessert from Venice's Carnival. (Who knew?)
Max's philosophy guiding the restaurant.
The restaurant is elegant and gorgeous. The tables are scuplted from a 300 year old ash oak tree. All glass is hand-blown.
Each menu has different artwork on it.

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