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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Malga Panna (Moena, Trento, IT): Pure comfort

(Visited July 2012)

Look ye not for daring culinary innovations here, o traveller, but for the comfort of tradition interpreted in a modern way.

Malga Panna (reviewed last time five years ago here) is in the location of dreams: just abandon yourself to the comfortable embrace of the warm environment, the stupendous mountain views, and the capable professionalism of chef Donei and Maitre d' /sommelier Michele.

From the impressive breads and herb butter:

to a lovely (and substantial! we're in the mountains here...) amuse of smoked trout

to a deer tartare, accompanied by watercress, goat cheese and rustic bread, that has true 'raw power' in spite of the lesser fattiness compared to beef. And also, what a jolly presentation:

Sometimes the cuisine rises into higher fine dining territory, as in this very balanced, very intense, original, heavenly really, capelli d'angelo (very fine pasta) with hazelnuts, smoked trout and a touch of caviar

a prodigious dish in terms of flavour.

The mains are back to delightful solidity, the protagonists firmly in the center and top class in their category. A wild turbot with chanterelles salad and beetroot

in which not only the fish (what a pity to present it hidden from view), but also the mushrooms and the condiment (an emulsion made with the cooking juices) sang. On a minor negative note, we like everything that is in the plate to be meant to be eaten (with necessary exceptions such as bones..), and for this reason we think turbot should be served skinless. Just saying.

And another stunner, after the pasta: a Lamb from Val di Fiemme (the nearby valley) from a very selected farm, one of those pieces of meat that make you think you'll never find a better one (an equally and differently good one, yes, like one from Val di Pejo we had here , but not a better one), and generally very nicely cooked too, except one piece which was a little drier than we would have liked:

(the crispy bit on top is an aubergine, and there were ceps - surprisingly just good but not stunning- as a garnish).

We concluded the blissful lunch with a Caramelised millefeuile of toasted hazelnuts with dried apricots sorbet

in which the dried apricot sorbet was for Man the most impressive bit, and a salad of candied strawberries with coffee ice-cream and lemon crisp: a terrific coffee icecream, and the interplay of the various different textures and flavours made it a delight.

The prices are in line with 1* Michelin in the area (say 15-20 euro for a primo and 30 euro for a main), and the mark-ups on wine in the interesting list are very sympathetic to the customer, even for an area in which wine prices are kinder than elsewhere - and monstrously kinder than in London/Edinburgh. Sommelier Michele's passion and intelligence are for all to read in the list he has constructed (and Man is a happy man...).

The petit four leave a very pleasant memory of a very pleasant lunch in a very pleasant place. Well done Malga Panna.


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