I started off the day feeling uneasy because, on the way to work, I realised that I had put on my stockings backwards. I kept thinking about it as the day progressed yet did nothing about it because I knew it was going to be a good day. You know why? It was Jason's birthday (31st of May if anyone's interested..) and, for months, I had planned for us to go to Barolo for dinner!
Status: arrived at work a little overdressed and then at uni where I was also a little overdressed. I reassure myself that it'll be OK once I get to fancy restaurant.
After a slaving away at our literature reviews (poor Jason, he always has to study on his birthday), it was finally time to cast them aside and head up to Barolo in my little Nissan March. I'm just going to take this time to gush about valet parking -it's the best! We just got out of our car and left it trusting that it would still be there when we came back. And it was. Life is good.
We were warmly greeted by the staff and led to some very comfortable corner seats which allowed us to sit closer together while observing the rest of the patrons. The room was scattered with tea lights and the foreign background music did much to set the mood. So far so good.
|Chef Alberto advertising his selezione menu|
Being our first visit to Barolo, we opted to try out chef Alberto's personal 'selezione' menu for two which is a five course meal, for $99 per person, including:
• Four entrees
• Two primi piatti
• Two main courses
• A dessert tasting platter and
• A tasting platter of Langhe cheeses
Exciting, I know. What's more exciting is that we don't find out what we're having until it arrives at our table!
|Sparkling wine -$17 per glass|
At our waiter's assistance, we started off with two glasses of New Zealand sparkling wine made from Hunter's Sauvignon Blanc. The wine was quite fruity and full bodied and we found that it suited our tastes superbly.
|Pesto, olive oil and freshly baked breads|
We were eased into our meal with a variety of freshly baked breads with pesto and olive oil from the table while we waited patiently for our food to arrive. At this point, some very casually dressed people are seated a few tables over and look very out of place. I am extremely glad that Jason and I dressed up for this.
|Rabbit terrine, salmon, beef carpaccio and goat cheese tart|
After we devour our bread and dip, our very attentive waiter brought over our first course: the four superbly presented entrees. We started off with a pork scented rabbit terrine with grappa, truffle and hazelnut, toasted focaccia and aged balsamic. Might I just add that this was in my top two favourite dishes of the night? The terrine itself was simply delightful and the balsamic complimented it perfectly without being too overpowering. We then turned to the salmon which was accompanied by grapefruit and watercress salad and drizzled in a Chardonnay vinegar syrup. How fancy -even the salmon hater (Jason, not me) couldn't hate on this one.
|So fancy that their soft drinks are water|
Next was the beef carpaccio accompanied by a Parmigiano and garlic crostini and a light lemon dressing which proved to be Jason's favourite. And lastly, a caramelised pear, onion and goat cheese tart, beetroot jelly and microsalad. The pastry crumbled and melted in just the right way while the beetroot jelly was a cute little addition. Failed to see microsalad. Very micro indeed.
|"Agnolotti del plin al sugo di arrosto" and "Gnocchi al Basilico, saltati al pomodoro, zafferano e aragosta"|
Don't be scared by the names. They are delicious.
|aka Pinched agnolotti pasta stuffed with marinated beef and beef jus|
After the Antipasti came the Prima Patti -the pasta course. We were lucky enough to try two pasta dishes off the menu and Barolo certainly put their best foot forward. We started with an agnolotti pasta stuffed with beef and covered in a beef jus. We found the filling to be a little grainy, but the beef jus was delicious -sticky and sweet.
|aka Basil gnocchi with saffron in a lobster tomato bisque.|
This was, hands down, my favourite dish. I had originally been afraid that we would miss out on the lobster gnocchi by choosing the mystery menu, but I was very relieved when the smell of the flavour packed bisque came our way. The hand made gnocchi was soft and chewy and the flavour of the lobster bisque penetrated right through the center-oh the lobster bisque. Mmmmm. This is how all gnocchi should be done.
By this time, I was feeling quite full and we were only half way through our courses. We take a little rest before our next course comes, wondering what will come next.
|Filetto al Blue di Langa and Pancetta brasata alle nocciole|
The Secondi consisted of a grilled eye fillet and braised pork belly. The eye fillet came atop a bed of creamy polenta, silverbeet and beef jus. The beef was very soft and the dish very rich.
|aka Grilled eye fillet, soft polenta, silverbeet, Blu de Langa, beef jus and Pork belly braised in hazelnut milk, fennels, Jerusalem artichokes, baby radish|
After this, we moved on to the braised pork. The crackling became a bit chewy because we had allowed it to cool down while we tended to the beef but the rest of the meat was very soft and came apart quite easily.
Status update: near bursting. Jason had to eat about 20% of my meal.
|From left: Tiramisú, Plum and apple crumble, Caramel semifreddo, Hazelnut and chocolate mousse, red wine poached pears and Orange scented pannacotta. And a candied nut line. Don't forget the candied nut light.|
Despite being near bursting point, we were still looking forward to the next courses. We sat like eager little kids for the dessert platter to arrive and I couldn't wait for the waiter to bring it to our table so I could dig in. Everything was presented beautifully, and it was hard to decide where to start!
|Orange scented pannacotta, liquid toffee and candied orange pieces|
I'm in love with citrus flavoured things so of course we had to start with the pannacotta. The crunchy toffee was a very welcome addition to the soft, creamy texture and mouthfuls of candied orange provided nice bursts of extra citrus flavour.
|Caramel semifreddo, lemon broth and wild berry coulis|
I have to admit that I didn't eat very much of this. As well as being very full, I found that the coulis was a bit too tangy for my tastes so I stuck to the semifreddo while Jason worked on it. We try the candied nut line with each of the desserts and find that it's the perfect accompaniment.
|Hazelnut and chocolate mousse, red wine poached pears|
One of my favourite elements of the dessert platter were the red wine poached pears. They were soft and provided a nice alternative to the very creamy desserts that surrounded them. The chocolate mousse was the equivalent of eating a cloud made of hot chocolate -so light and bubbly with a soft sponge base.
|A degustation of six Piedmontese cheeses with mustard fruit and crackers|
By this time we were so full that we became a little delirious, giddy and barely had the capacity to form full sentences. An incomprehensible mumble told our waiter that we were ready for the last course -Formaggi (aka cheeses).
|And then I realised that the cheeses were the main focus of this course.|
"Start from the left and work your way clockwise from the mildest cheese to the strongest" suggested our waiter. The cheeses were all very creamy and I would have asked what each one was called had I been in a state to form proper sentences.
Status update: We have now been at Barolo for 3 hours -we were the first ones to arrive and are now the last ones here.
"Best meal of my life" -Jason 2011
"Best meal of my life" -Jason 2011
If you, too, want to have a real eating experience, Barolo can be found in the Langham hotel on 83 Symonds St, Auckland, New Zealand.