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Monday, April 16, 2012

Locanda Margon (Trento): Love and genius

(Visited March 2012)

We know Locanda Margon very well. We had gotten quite friendly, due to or long custom, with previous chef Walter Miori (read there if you want to know about the Lunelli (= Italian champagne Ferrari) connection), who will always stay in our memory for the many culinary emotions he gave us. Thanks Walter.

Since a few years ago the time of Alfio Ghezzi (previously sous chef of Andrea Berton's of renowned Trussardi alla Scala) has come, and, OK, maybe we are just culinary whores, but in truth we have enjoyed some memorable dinners at the 'new' Locanda as well.

But truly memorable.

Once you get over the rather sombre lighting of the room in the 'salotto gourmet', it's a feast. The seats are so very comfortable, the tables wide and very well spaced. It is indeed a 'salotto'. This is pure, almost embarrassing, comfort. The room, though, is dark as we said, so unfortunately the pictures are particularly grainy, and do not make justice to the food.

Even before you choose, and then while you wait, you are treated to a dizzying selection of amuse bouches that span an incredible range of flavours, textures and produce - here we only post a couple, but the number and variety will bowl you over.

left - trout roe crostini; right: liver bonbons
left - trout roe crostini; right: liver bonbons

top: carambola  "alpine star" with casoulet cheese; bottom: trentigrana nests with asparagus
There are too many to detail. There are terroir based crunchy polenta with goat 'robiola' cheese, and a 'stella alpina' with casulet cheese . There's an ingenious tempura mortadella with apples and Perle' (one of the house champagnes). There's a deeply impressive crispy Trentingrana cheese with warm asparagus. There's a truly punchy liver (of what? can't remember) bonbons. And some more delicate crostini with trout roe.

You think that was all we had before the meal proper? Naah.

There are also the lighter snacks, like the trade mark multicoloured crispy rings in various flavours, and the breads. This is almost overwhelming, and you know you are in for an extraordinary experience, as beside being pretty and catchy, you can already see there's real substance to this food.

So many dishes a la carte are attractive that the first decision you make is that you need at least three visits to get a complete picture.

At two extremes of conception, we had an ethereal ziti pasta with capelonghe (razor clams),

 which was stunningly clean, sharp and clear in flavour (lemon and a very special oregano from Sicily), a true geometry of pleasure; and a powerful, earthy main of hare Royale with rosemary parsnip


that was prepared in the classic Royale style but in a way we'd never quite seen before, the moist 'polpettone' enclosing the supremely well cooked saddle, achieving pinnacles of deep flavour thanks to the foie gras and the innards. This is Koffmann's level stuff...and we don't mention the name of the master in vain...The parsnip and rosemary though (and this is the only negative note for this dish) were blandish and thus overwhelmed, a pity.

We also had a potato cannelloni, crema di salmerino (local trout), ginger and liquorice

a complex dish, a difficult dish in a sense, with cutting edge, daring flavours, that first startles you, has you suspended as if from a cliff of the surrounding mountains, but ends up in total harmony and peace. 

Oh my god, will we have to use the word 'genius'?

The other main was a mullet

pretty as a picture (prettier than OUR picture!), with an exceptional bisque, simply a great dish.

The petit fours arrive in French style before the desserts, and like the amuses, they overwhelm you:

The oh so amusing trademark pizza macaroon, the tarte tatin. the tiramisu, the torroncino, the hazelnut pralines...Is there no end to plasure?

No, for the deserts are on their way:

Biscotto foresta nera (black forest), liquorice and fiordilatte icecream

Rhubarb icecream and beetroot with "uliva 1111" olive oil and mini pop-corn

1111 oil being poured

The desserts are just perfect for our complementary tastes, Man loves fruit and veg based desserts without too much sweetness and with some sharpness. He thoroughly loved the balance of flavours and the imagination achieved in this one, with the excellent olive oil poured on the spot (even, ever the cynical and gimmick-allergic one, overcoming the mild irritation for an olive oil called 1111 because it is produced in this number of bottles: who T F cares?).

Get over the gimmicky oil name, this dish did deliver - the playfulness of the popcorn, the acidity of the rhubarb and the sweetness of the beetroot all came together. But for the stuff of comfort move over to the Black Forest.

Woman plunged into the chocolate emerging from it only quite a while later and looking blissful. The licorice was perfectly balanced, the sponge fluffy but firm, the morello cherries just perfect, and the creamy parfait linking all the flavours: really good.

The service, formal but not too much, strikes all the right keys. The sommelier accompanies you with grace whether you want to spend like a cheap bastard or like a Russian oligarch (the only negative, at least for us, was the champagne trolley at the beginning, which we find too pushy). Everybody is well briefed on the dishes.

The bill stayed within the 200 euro with a bottle of wine at 50 euro and a bottle of water, which is a very good price for this quality (and quantity!).

Despite being fans of the previous chef as we said, and also a bit suspicious in the beginning, Alfio Ghezzi's cuisine has completely convinced us over the years: He is not a youngster (listen who's talking...) and there is real maturity in what he does, there is a real depth of culinary culture in his dishes, a deep respect for local tradition and for classical, mostly French, techniques combined with an equal mastery of all modern contrivances and an exuberant creativity. He can also carve a chicken...

If there is a restaurant that could be the first to obtain two Michelin stars in Trento, this is it, so superior it is to its starred nearby competitors, and so comparable in quality to other two-starred places we've visited. Ghezzi has found a perfect local niche where to shine and become a beacon well beyond the confines of Trentino.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

All right, now I want to know what the heck is that "tempura mortadella with apples". Quick!

/coconut here :)

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