Osteria di Santa Marina
A trattoria lookalike serving creative, yet still traditonal Venetian/Italian fare. 'New Comfort' is probably what I'd call it, for lack of a better phrase in my current jetlagged state. Fresh pastas were lovely as I had one of the better seafood crudo plates here.
Modern - from the decor to the cuisine, but not molecular or, god forbid, fusion. Very refreshing for a place so steeped (and tied down) by tradition and history. Had our best wine of the trip, a 2004 Brigaldara Amarone della Valpolicella for only 50 euro! (That's a complete bargain in Hong Kong terms). The surprise menu with 4 courses is also good value at 50 euros, considering mains are around 25 euro. Mains were the main let down (beef cheek slow cooked with cinnamon and cloves - was a bit dry and taste was not as exciting as I'd hoped, the fish (sea bass?) was average, a little overcooked), other dishes were well done and creative without going overboard.
It's one of only two restaurants in Venice to have a Michelin star (the other is the Met Restaurant at the Metropole Hotel) - whatever - but the food (mostly seafood) was actually good, though don't go in expecting frills and foams a la francaise - the best thing I had here was a simple roasted eel served with raw celery shreds and it was divine.
Written up in just about every tourist guidebook, this place is probably a wee bit overrated and the service a wee bit 'over-enthusiastic American' for my taste (one half of the husband-wife ownership is American), but nonetheless they have an enjoyable, seasonally-aware menu.
Ate lots more, like nougat and hot chocolate, but will have to leave it till later to elaborate...
top to bottom, left to right:
osteria di santa marina: chestnut ravioli with black truffle and pumpkin sauce, fresh pasta with duck (?) and tomato sauce; il ridotto: squid ink ravioli and shrimps, beef cheek on mash, warm panettone-like cake with vanilla bean ice cream; da fiore: roasted eel with raw celery shreds; al covo: very rare top round beef.