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Image 1: It's been 6 years since our last visit.
Image 2: Similar to last time, we checked out Chef Massimiliano's gourmet shop across the street before the meal.
Image 3: www.alajmo.it Chef: Massimiliano Alajmo
Ingredienti: €225 (8-course) Grand Classics: €200 (8-course)
À la carte menu: About €50 first course and €60 second course
Open Tuesday to Saturday, lunch and dinner.
Image 4: The interior was completely different now where their upscale dining area has transformed into a rather minimalist room.
Image 5: Chef Massimiliano was one of the first 3-star chefs who decided to remove tablecloth from his dining room. It was such a radical decision for a 3-star restaurant at the time to tone down the formality of the dining room.
Image 6: Awaiting already on our table were airy parmesan crackers…
Image 7: … and some bread sticks.
Image 8: An unusual table with a dip in the centre…
Image 9: … where they later replaced the centrepiece with bread!
Image 11: They welcomed us with a small array of treats - a warm stockfish and potato ball, a rice taco with shaved carrot and the cuttlefish ricotta sandwich. The sandwich was the best item of the three with an intense roasted cuttlefish flavour.
Image 12: They returned with a small booklet for us containing the menu choices for the evening and a wine list which was presented on an iPad! Having tried the Classic menu on our last visit it was obvious that we had to go with the seasonal Ingredenti menu. They were thoughtfully presented as the lady's menu did not contain the price and the dessert section was split into dairy and non-dairy!
Image 13: More amuse bouche before the first course. An unusual steamed pizza with tomato, mozzarella, and basil. The thick and bland bread base was weird.
Image 14: The first course, naked and raw, was served without plate reminding us of Achatz's dessert. A soft Fassone, Piedmontese beef, with diced seafood fillings, a piece of raw langoustine topped with avocado cream and a delicate white fish poached in seaweed broth. A very elegant start consisting of a complex mix of textures.
Image 15: Followed by red shrimp resting on chopped cuttlefish garnished with eggplant purée and capers. The fragrance from the smoked tea sauce was very subtle, but the texture of the cuttlefish was enjoyable. Obviously the chef had a love for cuttlefish as it appeared twice already and a few times in our Classic menu last time.
Image 16: Served on a stone bowl was a neatly stacked cold spaghetti with oyster cream underneath and finished with caviar on top as a natural seasoning. It also had pieces of raw sea urchin, cubes of cuttlefish, and shredded oyster leaves which amplified the intense flavour of the sea.
Image 17: Definitely the best course of the meal - the pasta was al dente, the aftertaste of oyster was brilliant, and natural seasoning from the caviar was spot-on. Cool presentation too!
Image 18: A modern version of his classic, olive oil risotto with bottarga, preserved mullet roe. The rice was cooked in olive oil instead of butter and there was a surprise element of a pistachio sauce enclosed in the centre of this disk of rice. Interesting! Though the texture of the rice was perfect, the sweet pistachio and the juicy watermelon were hard for me to accept with rice.
Image 19: Moving on to the meat segment of the menu. First up was sweetbread katsu with a very distinct sauce of sweet curry and liquorice! Great textural contrast between the velvet sweetbread and the crunchy breading.
Image 20: The second meat course was fried lamb chop with tempura of tomato and long bean served with black olive cream. No cutlery was provided as the idea was to eat with our fingers but the food was very hot. Secondly, I was not sure why both main courses had to be deep fried. Lastly but most importantly, my lamb chop was medium-well while my partner's was completely overcooked!
Image 21: A small refreshment of green apple and celery granita with liquorice dusts. Really good combination!
Image 22: Stylishly presented were skewers of apricot, watermelon, mango and almond "tofu" which was made using almond milk, vanilla and sugar.
Image 23: Then an unusual dessert: In.time (chocolate game 2013). Firstly, they instructed us to put on ear plugs…
Image 24: … while eating the crunchy chocolate. Sounded gimmicky but it did have a point. The crunchiness was much louder than I expected when eating with the ear plug on.
Image 25: They then set a timer though I had no idea what its purpose was . It started counting down very quickly and then suddenly slowed down to real time. We continued to have the dessert which were more like petits-fours. A wild mix of sweet treats from wild mushroom chocolates and pineapple popsicles to coffee truffle.
Image 26: And a chocolate lipstick to finish. We completed the dessert with still about 10 minutes left on the timer. They cleared our table without providing any explanation about the timer, and we didn't bother asking. Strange!
Image 27: A unique tea cup used for our infusion but there were no petit-fours! Or maybe that dessert was already our petit four?! They then placed an iPod behind my chair which produced the sound of owls. I guess it meant it was time to go home!
Image 29: We came back the next morning to their casual restaurant for an early lunch before taking off. A plate of cicchetti to start - pickled egg, baccala with fried polenta, eggplant mariapia, meatballs, chicken saland, saffron rice ball and octopus.
Image 30: A tagliolini with a generous portion of mussels, clams, and sea urchin.
Image 31: And a superb "il calandrino" steak tartare to finish our trip! Although the dinner finished on a low note, the delicious lunch was just enough to make up for it!