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Image 1: A lovely, clear day – surprisingly warm for winter - find us heading for the East coast of Italy, just a few kilometres south of the old and picturesque port town centre of Senigallia. The beautiful, panoramic view of the placid blue sea from the restaurant makes us glad that we had followed their suggestion to have lunch here.
Image 2: From the outside, you would never guess that this is one of the top restaurants in Italy. It feels like arriving at someone’s apartment. Luckily, appearances can be deceptive!
Image 3: How interesting! We saw a very similar statue at Le Calandre, another of Italy’s top restaurants. Do pink wolves have significance in Italian cuisine, we wonder?
Image 4: An elegantly dressed table with a great window view!
Image 5: Welcomed by a well-presented amuse-bouche – a parmesan ice-cream sandwich, light and airy on the tongue, just the right hint of cheese.
Image 6: Now a Margarita ice, served on a tree branch bark. The aftertaste of sweet lemony tequila prepares the palate perfectly for the good food ahead. Particularly like the dusting of salt and chilli pepper!
Image 7: Chef Moreno recommends the 9-course lunch menu and while we wait, the superb smell of olive oil drifting toward our nostrils announces the arrival of the bread.
Image 8: Raw fish doesn’t have to be used with rice and soy sauce - it’s much more versatile than that. At least, that’s Chef Moreno’s view, and here he proves the point with an innovative dish of raw amberjack, basilica jello, leek, sweet lemongrass and a scattering of couscous for a touch of crunch. It’s got wow! Freshness, rounded off with a nice balance of nutty and fruity sauce.
Image 9: If you like oyster, you would love this! Served chilled, its blend of raspberry caramel on a bed of sour cream, covered in onion and smoked black tea pearl, sounds like it could confuse the palate. But no – it turns out to be a delicate mix of flavours, all acting in harmony. Beautiful!
Image 10: Seafood in almond soup , arrives – an eye-pleasing mix of moist scallop, bouncy prawn, crunchy squid, crispy bread, soft broccoli, red tomato and sweet almond sauce. And it’s as good on the taste buds as it is to the eye – an exciting blend of diverse textures. Once again, it has a mouth-watering freshness that reminds us just how close we are to the sea where they get their seafood!
Image 11: Poached egg, sea whelk, smoked potato purée, seasoned with sea bass bottarga. Somehow a very comforting dish, contrasting delicately with energetic flightiness of what’s come before. So far, so good – every course has been in tune with my palate.
Image 12: Ahh...enter a Lombardy classic – a cassoeula, a typical winter dish. Interestingly, Chef Moreno has chosen to use sea bass sausage instead of the usual pork, together with monkfish tripe, sea bass belly, black beans and sautéed cabbage. The result is lots of strong flavours, well differentiated, making a taste that’s powerful without being too rich. And there’s lots of fun textures, too: soft, bouncy, spongy, gummy. Needless to say, the freshness of the ingredients is obvious. Favourite course so far!
Image 13: Now served the first pasta of the meal. And it’s worth the wait - ravioli with fish, leek and carrot stuffing. The hint of sweetness from the popcorn sauce perfectly complements the suggestion of bitterness from the fried quinoa and spinach. What can I say? Great!
Image 14: More pasta. More innovation. And more great taste. It’s five tortellini clustered round a juicy chunk of raw veal, sitting on a bed of basil jelly and tomato. We’re told that, if we want to appreciate the dish fully, we should eat each tortellini with a bit of the veal, jelly and tomato. We take the advice – and immediately reap the reward. Rather than having, as usual, meat inside the tortellini, there is only parmesan cream – resulting in a small explosion of taste on the tongue, brilliantly enhanced by the other ingredients.
Image 15: It keeps getting better! Now we have a new Best Course So Far. It’s an Iberico pork pluma - haven't had such a high-quality meat dish for a while. Grilled to perfection, it has a beautifully crispy top and the perfect mix of fat and meat in the middle. Eating it is a journey – first the black garlic that hints of olive, then the crunchiness of the fennel cube, and finally the long, citrus finish provided by the tiny, but critical, piece of orange peel. Wow!
Image 16: The first disappointment of the day. We paid an extra €20 for an additional course of pigeon, but it’s not worth it. The meat’s tender, true, but the serving is tiny and the crab source has little flavour. There’s a slight aroma of anise. Courses which are optional extras rarely turn out to be spectacular and this is another example.
Image 17: And now another let down. As this tiny taster of Jerusalem artichoke gelato, garnished with artichoke skin, is listed first of the three desserts, I expect a full portion. Sadly, though, it’s just a small bit – very disappointing, although I enjoy the creamy texture and the original flavour.
Image 18: Now here’s a proper dessert! It’s called ‘Gunpowder’ - smoked black tea with combination of raisin, coconut flakes, caramelised almond, black sesame and cocoa, topped by cardamom mastika ice cream. Interestingly, its smell does resemble gunpowder! And it’s delicious with perfect texture – Italians are great with ice cream!
Image 19: The third dessert, according to the menu. And again, just a single bite. It’s a modern version of Panettone, a sweet Italian bread common in Christmas time. This version is “cooked” using liquid nitrogen at the tableside.
Image 20: Interesting gimmick, but not sure it adds much to the taste experience.
Image 21: Love this unique way to present food! It’s an Active Volcano theme, using tiny chocolate petits fours to represent flavours from 5 different regions, served on a map of thermoactive areas. Imaginative!
Image 22: The areas are: Japan (yuzu wasabi), Mexico (black bean peppercorn), Italy (pistachio anchovy), Greece (olive tomato basil), Africa (curry banana).
Image 23: And, finally...petits fours to finish. Not as good as they look. The anise ice is intense, and it tastes rather like medicine. Not all bad though – the ganache is super creamy.
Image 24: Sophisticated meal with some highly creative and imaginative combinations. I was blown away by the first half, but the Pigeon course marked a turning point – the courses weren’t quite so impressive from then on.
Image 25: Still, it’s an amazing location with a friendly staff and a talented chef – and the freshness of the seafood is outstanding. If you’re in the area, it’s a must-go.