Tag Archives: has at least one 5/5 dish

Osteria Alle Testiere, and Alfredo’s Fresh Pasta to Go | Venice

11 Jan

In a recent trip to Venice, I had the fortune of trying two of the best meals I had while in Europe.

Alle Testiere, near San Mark’s Square, offered an incredible lunch, one of the very best I’ve had on my Europe trip

  1. Gazpacho with Grilled Little Octopus (5/5) – Just crispy little octopus in a (hot) gazpacho with crisp carrots and cucumbers, and fresh tomato
  2. Potato Gnocchetti with small calamari and Cinnamon Scent (5/5) – Incredible sauce, cinnamon used prominently in a sauce that is savory, and tastes akin to tamarind, but isn’t tamarind.
  3. Dessert – Chestnut pudding (4.5/5)

It was the French lawyer and gastronomic philosopher Brillat-Savarin who quoted Charles Townsend Copeland as saying “To eat is human, to digest divine”. I have rarely had a meal that sat better with me in the afterhours of that lunch.

It’s an extremely small and cozy place with 8 tables, but the place is a highly-recommended in my book. If you can, get the cookbook (19 Euros) as a souvenir to go with the Venetian masks.

For dinner, I had what Tripadvisor called “the way local Venetians really eat” Alfredo’s Fresh Pasta to Go. The owners make the sauce every morning on site at the store, and they discourage patrons from mixing and matching the types of pasta they want – offering instead a carefully curated set of pairings. I tried:

  1. Rigatoni with Bolognese (5/5) – the best bolognese I’ve ever had. Fresh tomatoes, succulent beef, went well with the large-penne that is rigatoni. 
  2. Spaghetti with Squid Ink (3.5/5) – a bit too salty, meagre on squid. Spaghetti was cooked to al dente perfection though.

Both entrees were highly affordable – with the Bolognese clocking in at 6 Euros and the Squid-Ink Spaghetti at 7 Euros. Alfredo’s is another very small place in the high-rent lagoon of Venice – 5 bartop seats to be exact. The upside of course, is relative affordability.

Thank you Tripadvisor!

Overall Rating (Osteria Alle Testiere): 16/20

Overall Rating (Alfredo’s): 14/20

Charlie Trotter’s | Chicago | 12/07/12 | “last hurrah”

24 Jul

Address: 816 W Armitage Ave, Chicago, IL 60614

Phone: (773) 248-6228

One of the better meals of my life. Much has been written about Charlie Trotter’s closing his restaurant after 25 years in operation. But the menu is delightful. The kitchen tour afterwards surprised me. It was cramped and in a small space, and it was a wonder that so many dishes were able to come out of that small kitchen.

One of the breads was incredibly delicious. It was a crispy bread drizzled with maple syrup on the outside, and had tender bacon cuboid strips on the inside. I dub it the “Baconator”.

Big Eye Tuna with Charred Red Onion & Mussel Vinaigrette (5/5)
Wine: Champagne Pehu-Simmonet “Selection-Grand Cru” Brut, Verzanay NV (pairing: 3.5/5)

Boston mussels, sweet pea sauce.

Hamachi with Green Tomatoes, Avocado & Kalamata Olives (5/5)
Wine: Santorini Assyrtiko Domaine Sigalas 2011 (pairing 4.25/5 – sweet I think)

Avocado-lime sorbet. hamachi with squid ink. Incredibly tender, white hamachi.

King Salmon with Sweet Potato, Horseradish & Myoga (4.5/5)
Wine: Parr “Sanford & Benidict” Chardonnay, Sta. Rita Hills 2008

King salmon and myoga (Japanese ginger) paired well. King salmon lightly seared to perfection The salty horseradish and sweet potato lent body to the dish, but the horseradish amount could have been pared down. It ended up being a bit starchy for my taste.

Muscovy Duck with Smoked Coconut, Spring Onion & Venezuelan Chocolate (5/5)
Wine: Amarone della Valpolicella Classcio Tomasso Bussola 2006 (5/5)

A crisp lightly caressed of duck fat appeared on our slices of duck. Coconut, Chocolate were supporting actors for this play. Wine was deliciously complex, as if all the noxious fumes of uncracked petroleum were transmogrified into sugars.

Elysian Fields Farm Roasted Lamb Saddle with Toasted Espresso, Crispy Veal Tendon & Boudin Noir (4.75/5)
Wine: Soliste “Out of the Shadows” Syrah, Bennett Valley 2008 (2.75/5)

Tender veal. The lamb had a background sourness that only looking at the menu in hindsight I realised was espresso. The pea ravioli next door (you can spot the dark green ravioli peeking out behind the cracker) was delicious.

Wine tasted like a generic red.

Raspberry Sorbet with Lemon Verbena Cream & Raspberry Tart (4.75/5)

The tart was made like a baklava. An ode to raspberry.

Thyme-Glazed Brioche with Georgia Blueberry Compote & Lavender-Blueberry Sorbet (5/5)
Wine: Jorge Ordonez & Co “Victoria-#2” Moscatel, Jorge Ordonez, Malaga 2005 (5/5)

Triple Criollo Riviera Cake with Lemon Balm Puree & Strawberry-Tonka Bean Sorbet (4.75/5)

Wine: Dash “Late Harvest” Zinfandel, Dry Creek 2009 ()

The Tonka Bean sorbet tasted like an artificial strawberry candy, but the riviera cake sandwiching the lemon balm was divine.

Verdict: A fantastic meal, a great triumph. Some of the best classical cooking in Chicago.

Memory: Blueberry Compote with Thyme Brioche,

Overall Rating: 17.5/20