You should be redirected in 6 seconds - if not please click the link below:
You should be automatically redirected in 6 seconds. If not, visit and update your bookmarks.
see you over there :-) Man Woman


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Zirbelstube (Bad Mergentheim)

The day: 29th February 2008, Dinner.
The place: Hotel Victoria, Poststraße 2-4, 97980 Bad Mergentheim tel +49(0)7931 593607
The venue: Zirbelstube
Closest airports: Munich
The food: Modern German (if this makes sense)
The drinks: The list focusses on selected areas, not too long but interesting and strong on locals

And here we come, with some excitement and anticipation, to our main dining experience in pretty Bad Mergentheim: German cuisine may not have a great reputation but there are some bloody good German chefs around. After entering Hotel Victoria we walk along the cellar-style corridor past the Vinotheke tried with success the previous week, to enter the Michelin starred (for many years) Hubert Retzbach’s venue that shares the kitchen and part of the staff with its less formal sibling. The atmosphere is soft, comfortable, elegant yet warm, with large and sometimes immensely spaced tables with alcoves.

As you can see, there really is a stube. Admittedly the soft atmosphere is also due to the fact that we are alone, around us only tables, tables, tables all around. This pains us, not because we love crowds, but rather because we think of all that wasted food and talent. We will remain alone for the entire evening, but the waitress assures us it’s not always like this. Anyway she is in for a heavy duty night since we do not speak a word of German and she’ll have to translate all dishes one by one – something that will be carried out with great charm, many smiles and genuine German meticulous dedication (none of our Mediterranean sloppiness around here).

The menu is short but with disparate materials (rabbit, pike-perch, pigeon, crayfish, trout, catfish, lamb, duck, beef). There is a 4 course menu at €76 and a 5 course one at €89. The choice among the four starters ranges in price from €18 to €28, whereas the seven mains are all n the mid-thirties (all prices are given net of a hefty 19% charge which we now know is tax). All mains can be had in small portions as well for about half the price.

While we contemplate the menu with utter incomprehension, the bread arrives:

This is OK if a little disappointing in an area where bread is clearly very highly valued, and where even supermarkets offer vast assortments of wonderful looking multi-seeded and multi-coloured breads. A Michelin starred chef ought to top that.

And after the gracious translation service has been provided, while we wait for our starters here comes the present from the kitchen:

It’s a variation of duck: duck ‘prosciutto’ with quince mousse; sliced breast; and a ‘liver truffle’ on GewurtzTraminer jelly. The truffle is sublime, its consistency and fatness level really remind one of a chocolate truffle, and the jelly tasted very neatly indeed of GewurtzTraminer (we have experienced so many muted jellies and foams…). The breast is also very good, rightly tender, delicate. The prosciutto is slightly stringy but its flavour is intense and the tartness of the quince is perfect. All in all, this is a startling start that gets the full attention of your senses and heralds a great dinner.

And here are the starters proper:

- Glaiserter Chicoree mit Zanderfillet und Artischocken-Chips in Pinienkern-Vinaigrette (Pike perch with a lot of stuff) €17

- Loewenzahnsalat mit Kaninchenrucken, grunen Spargel, Gansemblumchen und Kapern in Honig-Thymiam-Vinaigrette (Special Rabbit with a lot of stuff ) €18

The artichokes in the pike perch are strikingly flavoursome in both guises in which they come: braised and in very light and crispy deep fried ‘clouds’ (Woman thinks the only way to eat them is by hand, and nobody is there to watch anyway…). The chicory, caramelised, comes in two colours and lends not only colour and incisive flavour but also nice moisture. Some mega-pine nuts in there too. And the pike perch? Excellent, cooked perfectly, a non-obtrusive lead actor in an ensemble piece that strikes for the fine balance of consistencies and the use of vegetables.

The rabbit as you can see comes in various bits: kidney, liver, a fried shoulder ‘ball’ and the saddle, with an asparagus accompaniment. The cooking of the saddle once again is perfect, making it moist, tender. The liver, the kidney, but most of all the shoulder ball contrast this delicacy with an explosion of concentrated flavour. The asparagus is superb, too, all in a nice fatty and acidic condiment, with an interesting barley garnish. Another complex, deft ensemble of great balance.

For mains we have:

- Saibling mit seinem Kaviar und Petersilienwurzel-puree auf gelben Ruben in Weissweinbutter Sauce (Trout and beyond) €32

- Auf Rebholz geraucherter Waler mit Mergentheimer “Knaudele’’ auf Kartoffel-Barlauch-Puree in ApfelBalsamessig-Sauce (Catfish and beyond) €34

The trout is a simple looking dish, with the potential for some stodginess from the appearance of it. But the usual precise cooking and a dizzying lemony-vinous butter sauce with dandelions elevate it to a superior realm. The mash of parsley root (or did we misunderstand ‘parsnip’? Ehm) is much much better than the mash which we had in the Vinothek (another kitchen section at work?).

And the catfish is almost a work of genius. Everything is in place in a dazzling swirl and reinforces the rest, the smoky fish, the prosciutto on top, the artichokes, the fantastic black pudding tortelloni and the great crispy beetroot, and an assertive sauce. Many and strong flavours, many textures, so well assembled in this powerful dish: we doff our hat to the chef: it could have been such a bad mess, yet it’s so good.

And finally the desserts arrive:

- Schokoladen-Mohnflan auf Kompott von getrockneten Aprikoten und Mascarpone-Ris (Chocolate flan and more) €14

- Topfen-Nougatknodel mit Brettacher Appflen un Mandel-Nougateis (Nougat and more) €14

In the nougat, the icecream is decent but not special. However, the dumpling is airy, elegant, light, and the nougat strudel is special. The apple compote, the sugared and slivered almonds, and the acidic base help, once again, to make this a very balanced and varied chorus of ingredients.

And the flan: the mascarpone icecream is very eggy, which may not suit everybody’s taste but partners well a tasty lemony sauce. The flan itself has white instead of the dark chocolate which we were somehow expecting. Much variety and balance are in evidence in this dish too, with several nice little touches, such as the poppy seeds, the apricots, the thin biscuit (which in Italian we call ‘cat’s tongues’). A serious and seriously satisfying dessert.

With a bottle of Muller Thurgau trocken Taubenzeller Hassennestle Winzerhof Stahl (we just report everything on the label…) at €29 (bone dry, good), a steeply priced mineral water bottle (€7), and a 19% addition, the hit is €165, overstepping somewhat but not by too much our £100 threshold.

The waitress provided a friendly, cheerful yet very correct service cum translations. Once again we congratulate the chef. He definitely does not go for simple dishes with focussed flavours. His dishes are ‘full’, there is almost a ‘horror vacui’ and a fear of not having put enough materials, enough textures, enough shades of taste in. The potential is all there for a complete mess. And we think it is because of a great technique, thoughtfulness, sensitivity to flavours, precision and overall mastery of the trade that instead this cuisine comes across instead as powerful, neat, balanced. And remember, we say this as people who normally like simpler dishes! Go to Zirbelstube. We think the only reason why he does not have a second star is that the flowers are not fresh, and everybody knows that this is just what you need to seduce the inspectors :-)

Oh, we were forgetting: here are the petit four:

Great looking, and the few we tried were excellent on the palate, too!


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Victoria Vinothek

The day: 8th April 2008, Dinner.
The place: Hotel Victoria, Poststraße 2-4, 97980 Bad Mergentheim tel +49(0)7931 593607
The venue: Victoria Vinothek
Closest airports: Munich
The food: Modern German
The drinks: Good and not too long list, strong on German offerings

Amid the gently sloping hills of Baden Wurttemberg, swept by the chilly winds and snow of early spring, where better to find refuge and solace than in the warm embrace of Victoria Restaurant Vinotheck in the pretty spa town of Bad Mergentheim? We had been tipped off by one of our knowledgeable readers, and on a first recognition mission we had been impressed by the warm and relaxed atmosphere.

This Vinotheck shares the large open view kitchen and part of the kitchen staff, but not the room, with a more formal, Michelin starred, restaurant (we'll go there, we'll go there...stay tuned and you'll read our impressions next week).

The pricing structure is very easy: starters (Vorspeisen) go for €12, soups (Suppen) for €6, mains (Hauptgerichte) for €18 and desserts (Nachspeisen) for €8. One can also go for a 3 course set menu (either soup, main and dessert for €29, or starter, main and dessert for €34) or for a 4 course set menu at €39.

The menu is in German only, and as our knowledge of the beautiful language does not go much further than ‘Zimmer frei’, you’ll have to do with our poetically vague descriptions.

We go for the more expensive three course set menu. Here starters, unlike soups, come with ‘wedding bread’ and quark with crauts (Hockzeitsbrot und Kräuterquark), so here they come:

Nice rye bread, with an equally nice spread to go with it.

But now for the real thing. For starters, out of the three available ones, we skipped the smoked trout (Geräucherter Saibling mit Seinem Kaviar und Merrettisch-Crème) and go instead for:

- Pork and vegetable terrine with remoulade and salad (Eisbeinsülze mit Essiggemüse, Remoulade un buntem Salat );

- Best of “smoked pork” in strudel with salad (Das Beste von Mohrenköpfle-Landschewein im Strudelteig mit Senfsaat Sauce und Feldsalat)

The Terrine first: the gelatine was really impressive, flavoursome but not too obtrusive, balancing out the sharp acidity of the pickled peppers, and the sweeter baby corn and gerkins. The pork meat itself was tender and tasty, the whole rounded off very well by the fat remoulade. Overall, then, the dish came out as varied, delicate and fresh.

As for the strudel: the puff pastry embraced a filling of congealed eggs: this probably sounds disgusting, but believe us it was not, just think of a quiche filling. In it sat some finely diced carrots, peas, and above all strips of the smoked ham. The latter we found too salty for our comfort, but (though we do not know this for a fact) we trust this is how this type of cured pork is supposed to taste. It offered a nice combination of textures (the crisp pastry, the soft filling) and tastes (the mildness of the filling playing with the strongly flavoured pork). We can reveal these are themes we'll encounter in the restaurant too.

We are in the right mood to face our main course:

- Blanquette of veal with potato mash (Blanquette von MilchKalb mit Kartoffel-Bärlauch-Püree);

- “Bouillabasse German style” in the words of the hilarious manager (Eintopfs von Süßwasserfischenmit geröstetem Weißbrot)

The veal was ok, but not exceptional: mind you, the meat was good, but the mash was a bit gluey (though, just to put it in perspective, we are light years away from Civezzano). The reduction was fine, but the whole dish was unmemorable, and a bit on the heavy side.

On a different level, the “bouillabaisse”. A soup of freshwater fish, it was remarkable. First of all, one thing we would not have tried at home, the fish was sprinkled all over with a mix of what we suspect must have been parsley (and so far, fine) and with… hard cheese, tasting a lot like parmesan. The same concoction was spread generously over the crostini accompanying the soup:

A rather crazy combination, but working surprisingly well by adding richness. The broth in the soup was also delectably rich in flavour, though we could detect only two varieties of fish. Herbs played their part here, too, and above all there was a pleasant curry undertone. It probably sounds bizarre, but we can assure you the taste was something to write home about - the audacious German style suits these particular Mediterraneans. Somebody who is ridiculously overrated could take a hint from this soup…

Last but not least, desserts: here, again, the list is short. Just three, unless you want to go for a selection of cheeses. The three were all rhubarb based: a kind of rhubarb muffin with vanilla sauce (Ofenschlupfer mit Vanillesauce), a rhubarb mousse with icecream (Rhabarber-Törtchen mit Weinschaum-Eis), and a semolina cake with rhubarb (Grießschnitte mit Rhabarber-Kompott).

Ok, we think we’ll have some rhubarb ;)

But we could not decide, so the charming waiter proposes to bring us the ‘muffin’ with a bit of mousse, too. Now this is that same guy who brought the most expensive brand of bottled water, unrequested, to our table (more on this story later…), maybe he is trying to make up for it. We accept the offer, and here is our complete selection of desserts:

We must have obviously misunderstood, as the “muffin” looks like hosting some apple pieces, though it does come accompanied by rhubarb chunks. Well, this really cut the mustard (so to say): very light, and if you allow us to go overboard, it was at the same time ethereal and bodily. Great.

The mousse (tasting of strawberries, actually) was sitting on a rhubarb compote. It was also sitting on a very thin layer of sponge, with another wafer thin layer in the middle, giving it some extra consistency. But it was just the perfect mousse. And what about the semolina (bottom picture)? Simple, and good, this time the rhubarb, strawberries and above all a delicious icecream playing main character. A very good way to end this dinner, a surrisingly high level of patisserie for a bistro.

With a bottle of Tauberschwarz Hofmann 2006 at €28 and a 0.75 bottle of water at €7 (there is a cheaper one at €6, but if you do as every other diner except naive us did, you’ll have the tap water carafe), our total bill (including 19% service charge: that’s steep) came at €103 (before service, the bill was €86.55). In spite of everything, well within out target.

This is what Zetter could be, and is not (oh my god, it definitely is not). The dining room is sleek, with its full view kitchen, but also warm and welcoming. The service is really good: two waiters plus the manager manned a full room, with two of them also doubling in the more formal Michelin starred restaurant next door, and yet whenever they attended your table it felt like they had all the time in the world – which, believe us, they had not, judging by the breakneck speed at which they swept the dining room. Admirable. Of course, the 19% service charge must come in somewhere! Oh, ouch, in fact from later receipts we are starting to suspect that was VAT, not service charge....

Above all, the food was great, prepared with originality and good ingredients by people who clearly know very well how to treat them. Sure, you see where the commercial side of the operation is: the list is short, the ingredients sometimes repetitive (did we say rhubarb?) and 'humble', the preparations relatively simple. But they are exactly what they advertise themselves to be (and in fact deliver almost more than they promise), a German version of a bistro, serving top bistro food. And reasonably priced by German standards, even more by London ones. So the next time you drive along the Romantischestraße, you know where you can stop for comfort. Unless you want to truly impress and take your partner to the twice expensive adjacent restaurant room, about which, we confess, we now have great expectations!


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Locanda Vecchia Sorni

The day: 25th March 2008, Dinner.
The place: Piazza Assunta, 40 38015 Sorni - Lavis (Trento), tel: +390461870541
The venue: Trattoria “Vecchia Sorni”
Closest airports: Verona (British Airways), Brescia (Ryanair)
The food: Traditional regional cuisine with a modern take
The drinks: Good short list, strong on local offerings

As time goes by, we are discovering that there is more and more to unearth out and about Lavis. Driving out of Trento northbound, past the intersection for Giovo, off goes another intersection, winding up the hill to reach in a few minutes the miniscule town of Sorni. Park your car outside the hamlet, and in you walk to find very soon the Trattoria “Vecchia Sorni”. This is not one of your typical trattorie, though, which thankfully grace this beautiful region. This is another example of a handful of new establishments were youngish chefs hold their own in presenting traditional regional cuisine with a modern take, offering good quality at very accessible prices.

The restaurant consists of a very small but cosy room: we are told that in the summer tables spill over to the outside veranda with views on the Adige valley. But spring is not yet here, so we offer you an indoor view:

The menu is very short (often a good sign in low priced venues): three starters, three primi (all dishes in these categories go for €8 each), four mains (all sold at €13) and four desserts (€4.50 each). On top of that, each guest is charged €2 for “bread and cover”, in the old fashioned but persistent way.

Ok, a bit underwhelming, we have to admit. And somewhat in the same tone, here you have a present from the kitchen:

Deep fried cheese chunks. Woman is definitely not impressed, these immediately bring back long lost memories of pre-packed foods, we are sure it is not the case here, but the way it comes out is not very enticing. Man is just a little more forgiving. Mmh, let us hope we are not in for a debacle like Civezzano .

After the cheese, our primi arrive. We had settled for:

- Trout and prawn tortelloni;

- Polenta gnocchi with coarse ragout of suckling goat (capretto) and aromatic herbs

Ah, now we know: we are in for a little treat. The tortelloni are as fishy as you want them, light and flavoursome, generously stuffed. The dough is good and cooked well.

As for the gnocchi, their consistency is perfect, and the capretto ragout is very intense. Again, the name of the game is full flavour together with a light touch, delicacy with punch, well complemented by the herbs.

We are in the right mood for our secondi. Here they come:

- Rolled trout with prawns and sauted baby spinach;

- Rolled capretto with walnut filling

The trout roll was simply superb. Cooked perfectly, perhaps the prawn was not of the quality you would find in a posher establishment, but still of good flavour. They were sitting on a good potato mash, and surrounded by a very sweet sauce of what must have been carrots and tomatoes. The accompanying courgettes were also good. A dish well conceived and well executed.

The capretto (replacing the advertised rabbit, but we had been forewarned): well, we are running out of adjectives here, again intense and yet delicate, with a strong reduction, beautifully soaked up by the roasted potatoes. These were perhaps a bit too on the salty side for our taste, on the other hand this effect was contrasted effectively by the sweet carrots.

To finish:

- Linzertorte with raspberry ice cream;

- Strawberries and pineapple cup with coconut foam and chilli aroma

The linzertorte is a classic buckwheat based cake, dense, moist and rich, so the tangy raspberry icecream was a nice complement, while the custard kept the comfort food feeling going. Very satisfying!

The fruit cup was light and refreshing, with what might have been a mixture of whipped cream and Italian meringue. At any rate, it was pleasant, too, although to be honest, the chilli aroma we could almost not detect, which is quite a feat of delicacy...

With a bottle of 0.75lt water at €2.20 (yes, £1.50) and one of 2005 Pinot Noir Manincor “Mason” at €26, the total bill came at €83.20, that is around £55 for the two of us.

Service is informal and polite. What struck us was the grace with which dishes were put together in the kitchen, where (with the only slip of the initial cheese slobs) chef Lorenzo Callegari eases the strong flavours of the traditional rustic and robust regional cuisine into light and yet succulent combinations. The value for money is impressive, though not as much as at our well known favourite in the category, Osteria Fior di Roccia. But if you are driving up from Trento towards Bolzano further north, do make sure you do not miss this upturn.


Thursday, April 10, 2008

Rifugio Monte Baldo (Rovereto): champions of hospitality

After a strenuous hike up our usual 3,000 feet (well, with all that we eat, we need to make amends somehow), on our way back we stumble across a place that offers respite to the weary traveller, can you spot it down the slope?

It is located on the beautiful, flora-rich mountains dominating Lake Garda. Inside it is rustic

and above all warm:

The warmth is not only physical: the staff/owners give all the signs of being genuinely interested in your welfare.

The deal is a set menu, you can choose between around four or five primi, same number of mains, and desserts.

Just after the bread,

accompanied by a complimentary generous mixed salad:

do first come the fettuccine with roe deer ragout:

to which a deluge of strangolapreti (a kind of bread dumplings with greens) is quickly added:

ok, the butter seasoning the dumplings is going to mix with the ragout, but this is not the place for such nitpicking...All was very good, well-made and tasty.

Next, a triumph of meats. We had asked for carne salada and goulash, but well, they want to feed you properly here, so here comes the carne salada (literally, salted meat, very common in Trentino), and in two types: the standard one, quickly passed over the skillet:

and the home cured one, looking like bresaola, thrown in extra for good measure:

Both truly excellent, and before you have time to recover, there is the goulash for you, with all the trimmings: baked fennel, polenta, roast potatoes:

very satisfying!. After all this, we feel we have to go for just one dessert (under the impression that eschewing dessert completely would really offend our gracious hosts), and opt for a tiramisu:

We suspect there was more cream than mascarpone, but our arteries were thankful.

With two coffees, a 1.5 litre bottle of water, and half a litre of very drinkable wine (which one? well, either a one litre bottle, that you find already on the table; or our carafe:

the grand total came to.... €30 for the two of us, yes you heard us right, just above a tenner each in GBP.

A warm place, as we said, run by a delightful family, where you are even entitled to proper tablecloth (some more upmarket places in London, please take note), this is the place to be when what faces you is another couple of hours of marching in this weather:

And in the fair season, you can relax outside on the benches, in the beautiful Alpine landscape all around you. And for the less adventurous among you... Rifugio Monte Baldo can be easily reached by car!


Thursday, April 3, 2008

Maso Franch

The day: 29th February 2008, Dinner.
The place: Maso Franch 2, 38030 Giovo (Trento), tel: +390461242556
The venue: Ristorante Maso Franch
Closest airports: Verona (British Airways)
The food: Modern/eclectic fine regional dining
The drinks: Good list, strong on local offerings

ADDED FEBRUARY 2010: Chef Baumgartner has now been sacked by the owners of Maso Franch.

Lavis is a rather unmemorable village 10KM out of Trento, but gastronomically it occupies a strategic position: near many vineyards along a ‘strada del vino’ (wine route), near Zambana of asparagus fame, and, driving just a few minutes along beautiful Val di Cembra (which begins at Lavis), you reach one of the top Trentino restaurants, Maso Franch. This is an old and history-rich ‘maso’ (a farm building), which from its origin in the early 19th century went through several incarnations and renovations, the latest of which operated by the new proprietors, the winemakers Cantina La Vis. In 2006 Maso Franch opened as a relais and high-end restaurant. The operation is run by the Baumgarter family, originally from the neighbouring Alto Adige, with chef Markus leading the kitchen and the rest of the family taking care of hospitality.

We first quickly peered into this elegant structure from outside after one of our monstrous mountain walks, still in mountain gear and showing obvious signs of out recent contact with nature. While a horrified member of staff observed us from inside fearful of our trespassing… we inspected the menu and were very enticed. Yes, we needed to go back.

So here we are, now (just) properly attired, inside the dining room, which is decorated in a modern style with stark lines (compared to more rustic settings such as, say Malga Panna or El Molin), but still with enough wood to be quite warm. Man qualifies it as Scandinavian while Woman is reminded of the 70’s style of Locanda Locatelli in London. Take your pick.

On the menu (written in precise Italian and German and approximate English), which changes weekly, the set offerings come in a four course version at €56 or in a 5 course version at €66. They are extremely appetising, with items such as Pigeon and goose liver variations with artichokes and Port wine reduction; or Small cannelloni with spinach mousse cooked in phylo pastry served on cheese and black truffle fondue; or, as a dessert, Pear charlotte with dark chocolate mousse and raspberry sauce served on wafer.

The a la carte section is rather long and varied for this type of restaurant: starters range from humble Sardine fillet and grilled vegetables with saffron scallion, salad and black olive pate (€14) to luxurious Scallop carpaccio with celeriac puree and black truffle with Champagne mousse (€20) and Variations of fois gras (€20). Among light first courses we note a Fennel cream with salmon and saffron pistils (€10) and among more substantial ones Ravioli stuffed with Artichokes, Sicilina Lobster and tuna bottarga (€15). Among Secondi, we mention Bass fillet with fennel caper and tomato ‘grostel’, in boullabaise. (€22). You will see that although we qualified this place as ‘regional’ (because of the presence of some typical items) ingredients and ideas come in act from all over Italy.

While we navigate, the bread arrives:

Most fascinating and varied, featuring walnuts and fennel bread, olive roll, tomato roll, olive focaccia, spinach roll, white roll, a crispy twisted tongue, a baguette, and a fascinating ‘puffed ravioli. All home made.

And here’s our amuse bouche:

It’s veal ‘animelle’ (sweetbreads) with eggs on toasted bread (left) and veal tail with ‘tapa’ of puff pastry (right). Well. The ‘crostini’ (toasted bread) are airy and delicate, yet offer intense flavour. There is an excellent contrast with the darker flavour and thicker consistency of the tail, very very pleasant and also playful. The chef meant to impress and he succeeded.

We go a la carte, and for primi we opt for:

- Buckwheat pappardelle with hare ragout and thyme mousse €14

- Granny Smith apple and celery risotto, gratinated fresh goat cheese with pistachio and mint €13

In the papaprdelle the taste is intense but balanced, complementing well the buckwheat pasta. Woman is perplexed, though, by the consistency of the pasta (no gluten?). The thyme flavour is not detectable, yet another one of the countless examples of disappearing herb flavours. Man ponders on the fact that this flavourless (or flavour-overwhelmed) thyme mousse is a foam, that he rarely understand foams in general, and that in this dish he sees its use as particularly needless; but this is just an opinion. However, unlike Woman, he does not dislike the rough bite of the pasta as a match to the rustic ragout. They both agree that this ‘chunky’ ragout is one of the best they had, and that this is what really makes this dish. Why complicate things, they wonder?

The risotto, on the other hand, is thoroughly excellent, and, Man remarks, ravishingly elegant in its look. Beautiful interplay of textures between the goat cheese, the apple, the celery and the rice (very al dente). Neither of us can detect the taste of the pistachio crust: where has it gone? The balance between the many flavours is excellent, with the fresh and multifaceted acidities in evidence. Great dish.

Our secondi are:

- Guinea fowl breast stuffed with artichokes and smoked scamorza cheese, mustard and chive sauce, rampion with julienne of ‘Speck’, roasted Kiplfer potatoes. (€20)

- Venison loin in Port crust, glace Belgian endive, buckwheat ‘gnocchetti’, celeriac puree’, mini-pear stuffed with blueberry (€22)

You can see from the long list of ingredients that these are quite elaborate dishes. The guinea fowl is cooked very well, the overall flavour is excellent, but the artichoke flavour is dead, extinguished, overwhelmed: this is a disappointment for us artichokes lovers, whose magnificent taste had been evoked in the description of the dish. But, overcoming this disappointment, we are completely taken by the intensity and succulent texture of the guinea fowl, which works fantastically well with the sweet-salty scamorza cheese, by the quality of vegetables (very pleasant on the palate), by the supporting chive sauce, and by the use of herbs. The speck seems to us an ingredient too much (presumably there for saltiness?). Most satisfying dish.

The venison is thoroughly successful and it has all going for it, at the core of it a rewarding, chewable ‘chunk’, nicely cooked, with the terrific Port crust (in fact soft) yielding a deep sweet flavour. More sweetness comes from the blueberries (note the revisited classic pairing) and pear, but it is perfectly balanced by the endive. The goodness seems endless: what to say of the great, light celeriac puree, of the herb perfume (rosemary) of the great variety of textures (remember the gnocchi. This is a remarkable dish, which with a venison meat that matched the supreme cooking level, would be truly unforgettable. But even with this ‘merely’ very good venison, we will not forget it for a while…

For desserts (numerous and tempting choices in this department too), we opt for:

- Fried ricotta ‘pockets’ (fagottini) with marinated apricots and vanilla icecream (€10)

- Semolina pudding (budino) with black and white sponge (pan di spagna), morellu cherries and tonka-bean ice cream (€10)

Man finds the Budino offering a seductive consistency, enveloped as it is in Pan di Spagna, and he does not care greatly what colour it is…But Woman is more stern on trade descriptions…

The fagottini are simply good, for once nothing spectacular but just ‘what it says on the tin’, and one might say: thank God.

Despite the fact that we take no coffee, as usual, the petit four generously arrive, and the little we sample is impressive:

With a bottle of Pinot Noir Val di Cembra at €28 (interesting local wine), a 0.75 litre (the ubiquitous stinginess) bottle of water at €3 (at least here at a fair charge), a cover charge of €5 (the old fashioned way), the total is a very reasonable €125, which, even with a tip, leaves us below our £100 threshold. Another very reasonably priced Michelin star level restaurant.

The service was provided partly by a Baumgartner junior (we think) and mostly by a nice waiter from a region very far away from Trentino: both were relaxed, smooth and professional.

The menu at Maso Franch contains a remarkable variety of ingredients, put together with an equally impressive variety of ideas. Chef Baumgartner clearly is a very thoughtful chef, and one whose technical rigor is high. His flavour arrangements are complex, and it amazes one that he manages to hold all those ingredients together in elegant ensembles with such skill. Personally, we prefer in general slightly simpler arrangements in our dish, and we found some of the complexity needless and distracting, accentuating the ‘intellectual’ aspect to the detriment of directness and ‘emotion’: but, we repeat, this is just a very subjective preference (possibly merely showing that we are culinary simpletons…). Apart from this, we had a really excellent dinner at Maso Franch, and we want to praise once again its reasonable a la carte prices. In terms of quality, this restaurant is in the same (high) league as the very top Trentino fine dining places we have visited: Locanda Margon (our consistent overall favourite despite the slightly higher a la carte prices), the impressive El Molin and Malga Panna; and it is superior to the other Michelin starred Lo Scrigno and especially to (the incomprehensibly starred) Le Due Spade. In all of these establishments the cuisine will surely not disappoint you, and the value for money for such quality will surprise you.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...