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Sunday, September 2, 2012

El Molin (Trento): enter a magic world

 (Visited July 2012)

When you enter El Molin, a restructured old mill with a weird architecture and unusual spaces for a restaurant, you already feel you are abandoning reality to enter a different, fairy-like world.

And indeed you're in for a unique experience, sometimes a great one, not always a perfect one, this place is not about perfection: but a unique one. Gilmozzi is an excellent chef who has has a style - a 'philosophy' as many a pompous restaurant website (but not he) would say. He creates  menus that it would be impossible to have anywhere else. And that, it has to be said, sometimes even seem to be out of commercial logic and really meant to fulfill his creative needs more than anything else.

Not that there is anything 'molecular' or overly strange going on here. The menu looks in part very straightforward and traditional, but even the traditional dishes will surprise you, sometimes in subtle ways. And tonight we mostly skipped the most adventurous items.

Be assured, for example, that when you see that Char coaled Grigia Alpina (Alpine Gray, a local cow breed) with rhubarb and horseradish is on the menu, it's not going to be just an anonymous slab of grilled beef. 

Unless you've been in the mountainous North East of Italy you've never tried this beef (this robust cow is deeply adapted to the local terrain), and even so you are far more likely to have had it at the table of a farmer than in a restaurant (we've never seen it in several years of restaurant/trattoria going in Trentino). The beef is intensely flavoured (in itself and thanks to the expert charcoaling, perhaps the real secret of this dish), with a marvelous texture, the crispy horseradish and the rhubarb, ingredients, especially the first, that definitely look to Central and Northern Europe more than to the Mediteranean, providing a gentle, apt accompaniment. This is a dish that not only is good, but that also tells a story, the story of a territory and of culinary influences.

This came after a pasta with local Fontal cheese and truffles from the Lessini mountains, which was OK but surprised us in being more forgettable than the rest of the meal. And a long sequence of breads, butters, nibbles and amuses made with skill and love (notable a potato bread). The pasta just below is an amuse, not the primo:

The breads came first in a nice basket:

... and then just kept coming, in a variety of flavours and cooking styles:

A Krapfen with seaweed mayonnaise, sea lettuce and braised eel

speaks, in flavour and presentation, of the more modernist side of the cuisine. It is elegant and playful, it is rich and light and delicious. 

A very clean dish of

Roe deer loin in extra virgin olive oil with vegetable chips and Moscato sauce

brings back again the primordial pleasure of a great piece of meat simply cooked (pink) with utmost care, yielding the flavours of the wood.

But a dessert called 'Borderline', stark-looking and dense with incredibly tight aromatic and bitter notes REALLY pushed the boat out, too much for more dessert-conservative Woman, but sending Man, who always found very sweet desserts ultimately immature, into Paradise. He would eat this again, and again, and again (oh we can't quite remember what it was: roots, herbs... gotta go back and find out!).

Woman is more content, very content in fact, with this milk torte, hay and violet. Remarkable: the milk transformed into a sponge soaking up the sauce below, and the ethereally crunchy wafer - delicious!

 And we both still remember with delight the Variation's of creme brulee, a kind of signature dessert which we've had on previous visits and is a lecture in flavour extraction.

Price wise, as we mentioned before, so great is the disparity between the quality and elaboration (and also quantity) of what you eat and what you pay (consider also that we are in Michelin starred venue), that we worry about the economics of this restaurant! Service was very friendly and correct, and the chef often comes out himself to introduce his dishes (to each table).

Chef Gilmozzi may not pull off only perfect dishes, and not all dishes are for all tastes, but he dares and thinks and researches, he creates a magic world in his unique restaurant, an experience that is strange and fascinating precisely because it is so firmly based on the local produce and tradition, where the flavours of the surrounding woods and mountains are assembled and disassembled according to his unlimited fancy. A must go place in Trentino, and the perfect complement to the not distant, more traditional Malga Panna.


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