Last weekend my mum came to visit me. I thought it was a great opportunity to enjoy a new fine dining experience. While I was checking my restaurants TO DO LIST (yes I have a to do list for restaurants to try), it comes to my mind that I wanted to check the restaurant of the cook that just did Top Chef and ended in Final…
I did some google search and got the surprise that if you were not opting for the full menu, the prices were more than correct for Milano. So I decided to book there...
Funny thing the first night my mum arrived, we went to La Taverna Gourmet (one of my favorite place for pizza in Milan) and guess who was sitting next to my chair ??? The winner of Top Chef Italia 2016. I immediately thought that in the same weekend, I would had the chance to see both of them.
Obviously I did not say anything or ask for any selfie, I just made a google search to show discretely to my mum. I always wonder how cooks take this sudden celebrity, if they like being "mediatized" or they just want to live as normal people and dine in peace.
Two nights later we were heading to Asola. The first thing I noticed was this big kitchen in the middle, show cooking style. And there was Matteo (the chef) and his tattoos. It’s quite striking to see how the 2 chefs that ended in final have similarities, same name (they are both called Matteo), working in same city (Milano), same heights/size, like if something were bonding them together. Indeed that night, on the table, there was a leaflet advertising a “dinner battle” between the two of them and they were standing in the same way on the pic.
Asola is one of those places where I fell immediately in love with the atmosphere. Those places were fabrics are used in a sophisticated manner like Pacifico, T’a Milano, Ceresio 7 or La Taverna Gourmet.
We were brought to our table located in the terrace surrounded by glass walls.
Though the feeling was cozy: brown wood deck, heavy beige curtains, tables top in green tempered glass, leather table-mats, red colored water glass, wood seats covered with fabrics.
The staff was pro and smiling, it’s like being in a high standard restaurant but the price of the risotto is the same as the one you can find downstairs in the most touristic place of Milan…
That night my experience was simply unforgettable: from the appetizers, the bread, to the risotto with the scampi and the service. For 45€, you can get 2 dishes per person and a bottle of wine in 2.
I did like it so much that I decided to bring back a friend the following week.
It’s always the problem when the first experience is SO amazing, you go back with HIGH expectation. Basically you compare pieces of emotions / sensations from the past with something concrete you live in the moment. Obviously, the experience did not go so well.
Starting from the service... When last time we experimented a “finedining” service level, the second time there were two nice persons, unfortunately lacking the proactive and discrete expertise that gives you the sensation all your needs are anticipated by a ghost. The appetizers arrived plated in a much less nicer way. The antipasti ? Well, honestly I think I cook better the salmon from Esselunga in my oven. The “salmone selvatico” arrived surprising prepared as a “secondo”, it was missing sauce, and definitely salt. The pity was that no specific aromas were standing out. I strongly doubt they had tasted it before. Same for my “anatra”, missing salt, and dry because overcooked and lacking sauce . Being French, we have a certain practice regarding duck and “magret de canard”. On the contrary, the risotto of my previous dream, was unfortunately too salty.
All this made me think that a restaurant experience will still be linked to the human factor. Maybe there were some less trained extras that night (as Xmas time), maybe there were more clients to serve, maybe the cooks forgot to taste before serving the dishes…
I always said that when they know who you are, you always eat amazingly. When not, you alternate occasions where perfection is reached and others, where you’re a bit deceived, because you were expecting perfection and you just get good ++.
I got this feeling once with Osteria Brunello and also Ratana.
I imagine only a certain level of restaurants are able to maintain a constant perfection. And it comes often with a certain price (and a michelin star)...
Anyway, you know what? I still think it’s a great place to go and eat: I fell in love with the scampi risotto and the decor. The quality/price ratio is good for Milan, you get some extras appetizers and sweets, and you can find affordable wine on the list (which is not always the case). Last, you can say to your friends : I saw top chef finalist !