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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Consorzio (Torino): pure simple pleasure

Suffice it to say that, finding ourselves in Turin for two days, what we really were looking forward to - in a city graced by several Michelin blessed restaurants - was a dinner at Consorzio, a recently established trattoria in the 'Quadrilatero' area of Turin, where competition among this sort of simple, low-cost, modern or traditional trattorias, is intense. 

Woman was particularly happy that dinner time had arrived, so that Man could finally stop going on and on and on in praise and in anticipation of their anchovies starter

Plump, succulent, fresh, the fried ones with a lovely and light crispiness and the cured one on luscious butter, in a dish that in presentation and execution typifies the 'tradition & modernity' style that is the hallmark of this place.

This is Piemonte, the land of raw beef. Here you get a raw beef trio of delicacies from Scottona (heifer under 16 months of age) beef of Fassona breed.

We have a 'battuta al coltello' (tartare) that melts, melts on and caresses your palate with its just-right texture (cut neither too thin, nor too coarse), a more assertive salsiccia and an ever so delicate piece of thigh. A simply perfect dish.

We could not resist a third starter of 'Cardi gobbi', a thistle-like vegetable typical of here, served with potato puree, a goat cheese fondue, and a quite inspired touch of home-made bottarga (fish roe):

This was as delicious as ever judging with the emotion, with intriguing flavour combinations, even if, from a mean-spirited critical viewpoint, the dish perhaps still needs some adjustments in proportions and preparation to become perfect.

Ah, well but there were more specials on the night, so how could we say no to a fourth starter of a cold meat terrine with a devilish mandarin mustard? 

So decadently satisfying, with the sprightly tangyness of the (very!) hot mandarin cutting through the fat of the terrine... very good.

For primi, since as luck would have it that night they had the Piemonte King, i.e. the Tartufo (truffle) d'Alba (they don't get it supplied regularly), by which we mean this baby:

So one choice was easy: tagliolini al tartufo

What to say? To say that the pasta was elastic and well-made without being overly eggy, that it was a touch too buttery, to utter these mundane praises or faint criticisms seems ridiculous compared to the Heaven where those magic 7 grams of really fresh, high quality truffle (putting to shame the moulding rubbish you are sometimes served elsewhere) flies you.

We were very tempted by their adventurous Ravioli di cervella (brains), but opted instead for the more conservative pasta alla chitarra with cime di rapa (broccoli sprouts)

Unexpectedly for us the home-made pasta had no eggs, and thus a typically resilient bite. A very rich sauce exalted the excellent broccoli, and a touch of long ripened cherry tomatoes from Campania added a special twist (though there need to be more in the dish to make a real impression, e.g these many would be ok with us :)

A main of crispy chicken

accompanied by sauteed 'cicoria' on our request, was definitely not your KFC variety: cooked with great skill, the meat buttery and with a superb flavour, protected by its crispy layer, we could have eaten tons of it.

Desserts, desserts...

This chocolate and hazelnut torte

was a good start, but...we are freaks with pannacotta, and incredibly it is so rare to find a properly made one even in Michelin starred venues. But this one

is another perfect dish. Just the amount of thickener that prevents it from collapsing, so that its full creaminess is preserved, a high quality milk, and a gentle accompaniment of three different jams (one of which from the typical Chinotto oranges). Delicious.

And since Woman had been spotted eyeing the dessert on another table, here magically comes an homage of "bombette": 


The scream of "don't bite" arrived too late for Man, while judicious Woman gulped hers in one bite, and can still remember the extasy of the runny custard and the flaky pastry - gorgeous!

The prices are extremely kind; without the truffle (which at 4 Euro per gram was anyway faaaar less expensive than elsewhere, at equal quality) a three course meal for two comes to less than 100 euros with water, coffee and an excellent 27 Euro Barbera d'Asti (that would have set you back 70 pounds in London). Ah, and since we were arriving from Scotland, we were treated to a tasting of this amazing Japanese fellow:

Well, we're not whisky experts but the depth of smoky, orangey notes and infinite persistency we experienced was sublime.

Fired up by the fearsome (for us fading middle-agers...) energy of the two young founders Pietro (Vergano) and Andrea (Verra), 

this is for us the hottest ticket in town as far as 'trattorie' go. Propelled by stratospheric raw materials, the simply prepared dishes here are pure delight and a discovery journey trough Italian ingredients. In fact, not only Italian: on the night we visited there were on offer oysters from Brittany and cheeses from... England. Talk of open-mindedness. 

Is it all a dreamworld of perfection? Of course it isn't, the more elaborate the dishes the higher the chance of finding (if you are really mean) some minor cooking imperfection or imbalance in flavours. But this is if you are really mean, as we said. Because eating at Consorzio is pure joy, to which one should abandon oneself, and it is hard to think of other places where one finds such an assortment of high quality produce. 

A special mention also for the wine list (done by Pietro), absolutely original, full of surprises, and clearly a labour of love. 

Ah: they also have the best espressos we've had in Turin (and we've had many, and many good ones). Well done guys - you'll go far. 


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