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.
The 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.
To 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.
Replying to Steven Smith