Better than never, let’s have a quick review on the food dishes on a special event by one of favorite chefs Jess Barnes of Opposite Mess Hall, who was a guest chef at Sorrento for this occasion.
There were 5 dishes for our dinner course tonight.
Start with appetizer that wowed us at the minute it landed on the table: Grilled Octopus, Skordalia, Bottarga, Agrodolce (550.-)
I’m not a fan of this seafood, but as I knifed through the octopus tentacle, I was surprised as to how smooth the flesh was. No tough and chewy part. No question the octopus was cooked to perfection and well seasoned with soaked cranberries and olives. The taste came out as sour and refreshing, every bite filled with fragrant herbs. At the bed lied the Skordalia (garlic and potato puree), which enhanced the seafood at the herbs even further, pushing it to reach the top note easily. This, indeed, was one of the best dishes we have had in a long time, and the best one of the night.
Next small plate came next to the first, equally stunning with the presentation: Pesce Crudo, Caviar, Royal Projects Herbs, Togarashi (360.-). The purple and smaller flowers as well as the small leaves of Asiatic pennywort that were carefully placed on the crudo were too pretty that it took us some time before deciding to eat. The sashimi was fresh, coated nicely with olive oil, but wouldn’t make it higher without the togarashi chilli sprinkles and the small black sesame seeds. It went to show that even the smallest elements of the dish could escalate the flavor depth of the dish immensely.
We ordered Lamb Shoulder, Tomato, Reggiano, Pangrattato, Banana Flower (650.-) for main dish. The lamb came in 4 juicy cubes topped with tomato sauce, basil leaves, crispy croutons, sweetened shallots, and the most interesting element of all: banana flower sliced so fine it resembled onions. We managed to finish the first 2 cubes easily but the 3rd and 4th came as a challenge. It was getting heavy as so much was compressed into one piece. The banana flower slices were a star that we couldn’t get enough of, though.
The pasta dish of the night was the Strozzapreti, Rabbit, Green Peppercorn, Nduja, Basil (360.-), ordered just because we wanted to try this new kind of pasta and the rabbit meat. The strozzapreti are an elongated form of cavatelli, or hand-rolled pasta typical of the Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany, Marche and Umbria regions of Italy as well as in the state of San Marino (Wikipedia). Its shape resembled that of a twisted towel. The rabbit meat was generously provided as well as the peppercorn. Luckily it came last after our taste buds have tried everything as the flavor was so strong that it overpowered other delicate items. It was spicy — to the point where we thought they were making us Kaprao noodle! The pasta was soft and nicely done. The rabbit, however, was a bit tough and lost its original taste, overwhelmed with the spices. One reason we couldn’t finish our lamb pieces.
After resting our tastebuds for a while, we decided to end our meal with a dessert menu: Campari Granita, Crema Pasticcera, Camomilla, Black Sesame (280.-). The red-orange apéritif granita atop the custard cream and sprinkled with sugar-thickened sesame crumbles and small flowers pleased the eyes even before the nose. We were so taken aback by the presentation again. First took each element on its own and then combined a few of them together to experiment on the taste. The custard was soft and mellow, enveloping the granita and melting it in a second after reaching our tongue. The sweet sesame crumble was a good balance to give us an accent of flavor while chewing. The combination was fresh and new, a good twist to an alcohol dessert. I just wished the custard was a bit less, so I could retain the granita a bit longer to clear my palette.
In summary, we dined for more than 2 hours, deep-diving into the experience of Jess Barnes’ creations. The courses presented us with vibrant colors, great use of techniques and a blend of local and imported ingredients. They were also very cute: flowers and herbs had made the dishes very female-friendly. Jess has definitely demonstrated how we actually ate with our eyes, then with our tongue…