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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Pranzo - Piazza Duomo

To misquote Shakin' Stevens, "Pink Door, What's the secret you're keepin'?"

The answer arguable could be - the best meal we've ever had.

Piazza Duomo is a 2 star Michelin restaurant and from all we've read and seen about Chef Enrico Crippa, we are looking forward to an interesting meal.  To enter you have to first get through that pink door. On one side is a brass intercom that you have to use - it's a bit like going to visit someone's home, you have to be buzzed up.

You're greeted and taken through an anteroom before being shown to your table.

We'd both seen photos of the dining room but having been there in person, I must say that photos don't really do it justice. It's a far more attractive space - there's only about 8 tables seating less than 25 people, and they are well spaced - the tables are large and the chairs are very comfortable. Oh, you even get a little footstool for your bag - a bagstool I suppose.

The tables are already set with a few items

In the test-tube - sweet grissini, On the spike - taralli al finocchietto selvatico (Wild fennel Crisps), In the bag - cialde di riso - zafferano, riso nero, barbabietola, pisello, mais, curry e patata (rice chips - saffron, black rice, beetroot, peas, corn, curry and potato) - out of shot - curried almonds

Lingue di Gatto al Mais (Corn Cat's Tongue)

These are little snacks we can enjoy as we look at the menu. There are four degustation options - Evasione e Territorio (11) - Tradizione e Innovazione (10) - La Degustazione (7) and La Degustatzione +

La Degustazione + is the La Degustazione menu plus 3 dishes of the day - all up 10 courses. Each of the degustations have totally different dishes on them which makes it extremely hard to choose. Eventually we decide on the La Degustazione +.

I must add that they actually only give the menu with prices to the male - I don't mind that but I know there are some that would get their knickers in a knot. Seriously get a life if that is the case.

Should mention the wine list - there are actually two huge volumes - one for the local wines and the other for everywhere else. Paalo didn't really want to risk further damage to his elbow so Sommelier Mauro Mattei will be selecting local wines to match the meal as he sees fit.

Now the fun part begins, the amuse starts to come out

Shiso Apple Sorbet, Cocoa and Olive Marshmallow, Goat Cheese Ball, Fish Chips, Corn Tacos

Agrum Sorbet, Foie Gras Mousse

I say start because after this first selection is deposited on the table - more dishes come out

Parmesan Marshmallow, Prosciutto, Balsamic

Fake Olives with Meat and Vegetable fillings

The finale amuse is this savoury spinach sponge with mushrooms:

Now we know why the tables are so large! The amuse is the shock and awe of amuse  - you are left dazed by the tastes, textures and sensations. Mid way through we give each other a look - we're both wondering how soon would be too soon to return for round 2.

Once the amuse is finished and cleared away a silver tray filled with grissini graces the center of the table.

It's soon time for the first course:

Set before you are extra long tweezers and a folded envelope

inside it lists all the ingredients that can be used to make up Enrico Crippa's signature dish


The numbers refer to the number of ingredients - depending on the season - todays version had over 30.
The crackers you see protruding from the collection of leaves, flowers, seeds and herbs are made from amaranth - and if you haven't noticed yet, he does use a lot of these more unusual grains.

The bowl that holds the salad has a perforated base which means that once you finish your salad, there is an amazingly flavoured dashi-based broth to enjoy. There's only one word that describes this dish - perfection.

Second Course:

Parmigiana di Scampi

You see the word parmigiana and you think eggplant, cheese and tomato, here it's been given quite a twist. The cheese are those rough looking balls of fresh mozarella, the slight grey daubs are an eggplant puree. They sit amongst an exquisite tomato concasse and barely cooked pieces of scampi.

Third Course:

This is the first of the three extra courses - Orata reale servita cruda, lime, pepe verde, foglie piccanti e amare - Raw Sea Bream served wtih lime, green pepper and spicy and bitter leaves. This is a bit like a ceviche.

Fourth Course:

The second of the extra dishes - Gambero di Sanremo al naturale con mosto d’uva fragola, uva regina, foglie di perilla, perilla secca e pimpinella - these are sweet shrimp from San Remo, served raw on a strawberry grape reduction with fresh and dried Shiso and Burnet - the taste and texture of the shrimp is like nothing we'd had before.

Fifth Course:

Merluzzo e Piselli

Cod and Peas - sounds extraordinarily simple but wow, what an amazing dish. The cod was incredible - flaking away perfectly along the natural lines of the fish. The cod has first been lightly salted and then pressed.

Sixth Course:

Filetto al Pepe Verde

Veal fillet with green pepper sauce - they do like they aren't cooked but they are - extraordinarily tender

Seventh Course:

The last of the extra dishes - Rabbit Kidneys and Béarnaise Sauce

Every bit as good as it looks. Perfectly cooked kidneys, lovely well balanced sauce.

Eighth Course:

Risotto Porcini e Anise Stellato

How nice is it to enjoy a risotto that is properly made - the rice has been allowed to achieve that wonderful creamy characteristic. As they say, real risotto can't be moulded into a shape.

Ninth Course:

Agnello e Camomile

Lamb and Chamomile - such a simple description but wow, this is a piece of lamb we're going to remember for a very long time. I just love the dramatic presentation as a long, narrow slice but the tenderness  and flavour of this lamb was beyond compare. An amusing point - this is new zealand lamb!

Tenth Course

Spugna alla Nocciola - the dessert is called Hazelnut Sponge but it is so much more than that - it's a celebration of hazelnut and chocolate. Yes there is a hazelnut sponge - you see it on the right hands side, directly opposite it is Sardinian crispbread filled with hazelnut cream. There's a cloud-like hazelnut chocolate mousse in the glass and a creamy hazelnut custard in the white bowl.

By this stage we are extraordinarily content with everything that has been presented and we assume that this is probably the last dish. Aha, we didn't count on the Petit-Fours:

Another multi-plate and multi-part extravaganza

Popped Quinoa, Raspberry and White Chocolate Shards - Fresh mixed Berries

Close up of the traditional Italian biscotti (crescent shape is cornmeal based, the star is cherry chocolate) - in the paper cups, chocolate truffle and chocolate macaroon

At the rear - in the glass bowl, dark chocolate covered hazelnuts, in the glass - chocolate coffee foam

Warm milk with Grappa di Moscato - this is a bit like the best eggflip you'll ever have.

Paalo quite likes the look of the menu for the tea and coffee selections.

The verdict:

The reservation has already been made for the return visit.

The details:

Piazza Duomo
Piazza Risorgimento 4
12051 Alba (CN)

39 0173 366167

Lunch - 1230 - 1400
Dinner - 1930 - 2200

Sunday Night and All-day Monday
Sunday and Monday (June-July-August)
Monday (October)

Holiday Closure:
Mid December to January
2 weeks in August


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