Saturday, January 24, 2009

Water, water everywhere

So I was in Venice recently - people kept telling me it was super touristy (true, but it was better 'cause this was super low season and the rain was pretty horrible) and that food isn't that great (not so true). About the latter, I have to say I ate better in Venice than I did in Milan. Cost-wise, the bacari / cantina (wine bars) offer a free spread of antipasti in Milan while their Venetian counterparts have a paid tapas-like selection, but apart from the free, fresh mozzarella so often found in Milan, I'd easily pay 1-2 euro for some Venetian baccala (salted cod that is whipped to a creamy paste - delicious) or polpette any day.

Some highlights:

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.

Il Ridotto
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.

Da Fiore
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.

Al Covo
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.

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