Friday, October 29, 2010

Da Vittorio - Tribute to the white truffle (Bergamo in Lombardy)

October 2010

On our second day at Da Vittorio (see earlier review: Da Vittorio - first day, we took a walk around the compound and came across the enclosed lake area where about 2 dozen ducks, geese and swans resided. These birds were really peculiar. We expected them to be frightened of us, but instead, seeing us at the fence at one end, they then proceed to all come over. One particular group hilariously marched, single file with almost military precision, over the wooden bridge from one end of the pond to the other, to come across to where we were (picture below). We were there for 3 minutes and suddenly we were confronted by 20 birds right in front of us all looking expectantly. The thought did cross our minds: were these birds reared by the resort as pets or as livestock for the kitchen?

For our second dinner at Da Vittorio, we opted to try their white truffle menu, as it was white truffle season. The restaurant was quite eagerly pushing this menu, and brought to our table their white truffle haul in an old chest to entice us. If we were only having one dinner at this restaurant, we would have gone for their normal menu instead (so as to get a good sense of the food in the restaurant - truffles can always make a chef look good), but seeing as we had tried their seafood menu the previous night, trying the truffle menu seemed like a good idea.

This time, we ordered a bottle of 2004 Bricco Asli Barbaresco from Ceretto. This turned out to be an excellent recommendation by the sommelier as it was a rich and complex wine, without being too tannic or heavy. The Ceretto was also a Piedmont wine producer I had always wanted to try so this was a good introduction for us to this producer.

The chef, being aware that it was our second consecutive dinner at his restaurant, had to come up with a different amuse bouche for us (every other table was having the same amuse bouche we had the night before). This time, it was an excellent mini burger with cheese and bacon, as well as a parmesan roll.

The first course of this menu was sublime, and the best of the evening. It was a salad of king mushrooms (which was almost orange in colour), roasted sliced almonds, cheese strips and olive oil, with a generous shaving of white truffles. The harmony of the ingredients in this dish was amazing, and it was easily the best truffle dish we have tasted.

The next dish was the corn souffle (with poached egg yolk within) with melted robiola cheese from Piedmont with white truffle shavings.  It was very good, and the egg yolk complemented the white truffles very well.

Then came a dish which looked very much like the previous one, but was quite different: the mozzarella foam encased with mozzarella skin with white truffles. This was excellent, as the texture of the cheese was both chewy (on the outside) and soft and foamy (on the inside).

Another pasta dish and yet another disappointment. This was tagliolini pasta with cheese and egg yolk sauce with white truffles. The pasta was, as it was the previous night, overcooked and the sauce was so overpowering that it neutralised the fragrance of the truffles. After two nights of ordinary pasta, could it be that this is not this restaurant's strong suit?

At this point, we were already very full on the rather starchy food we had eaten so far (all with cream, or pasta or cheese) and the next dish didn't help. It was gnocchi with white truffles. We weren't terribly impressed by it to be honest, and it served merely to fill us up even further.

We were quite puzzled by the final main course. It was pan-fried foie gras with chestnut cream sauce and white truffles. The chestnut cream sauce went very nicely with the foie gras and also with the truffles, but unfortunately, the foie gras was too strong tasting and overpowered the truffles. We are not big fans of truffles shaved over red meat as both will compete to be the dominant taste, and this seemed to be the case here.

Dessert was a vanilla ice cream with shaved truffles, which was indulgent but disappointing in its simplicity; we expected the chef to come up with something more innovative with the use of truffles for dessert, and this seemed like a bit of a cop-out.

Petit four was the same as the previous night, but we were so full by that point (added to our jet lag) that we hardly touched it, and did not even bother with the sweets trolley.

In conclusion, we were glad that we came for dinner the night before when we had a better dining experience. Truffle menus can sometimes be a double-edged sword; the use of white truffles can flatter the chef but can also restrict the creativity of the chef who needs to come up with more than half a dozen dishes all incorporating the truffle. From that point, we decided that for the rest of our Italy trip, we would avoid the white truffle menu but instead have the normal menu with perhaps one dish (preferably the egg dish) with the white truffles.

Food: The meal started off very well with the first three courses excellent, but then it petered out with a loss of new ideas
Wines: Sommelier was very helpful with the recommendation which was very good and reasonably priced
Ambience: Very comfortable restaurant which is quite well lit and spacious. The bonfire outside for guests to mill around after dinner was a very nice touch
Service: Professional and flawless, they were even nicer to us having seen us coming back for more after last night's big dinner

Camera: Nikon D90 Nikkor 35mm f/1.8

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