Friday, November 24, 2017

HOSTERIA GIUSTI (MODENA, ITALY)

Hosteria Giusti
Via Farini n. 75
41100 Modena
www.hosteriagiusti.it
Tel: +39 059 222533
Cuisine: Italian
$$$$ ($50+)
Tues, 10/24/2017, 12:30pm reservation
     (4.5 Piglets)



After watching the second season of Master Of None, I was bound to make reservations at Hosteria Giusti. In the show, he meets a girl at the salumeria and they hit it off. I was now a single girl ready to mingle, in hopes of living the life the way Aziz Ansari did in the show.  

Hosteria Giusti happens to be Mario Batali's favorite restaurant. It also happens to only be open for lunch and caters to the lucky diners who manage to snag one of the four tables available. Yes, you read it right; there are only a total of four tables! I booked months in advance for this lunch and couldn't wait to try it. The restaurant itself was situated below my AirBnB (if you need recommendations, just ask me!) and luckily, I didn't have to dine alone.



The salumi

All the condiments

The store as you wait...

The dining room...only 4 tables
the kitchen

Upon arrival, you walk into the salumeria and check in with the staff to let them know you have a lunch reservation. The place itself is magnificent, with cured meats hanging from the ceiling and condiments after condiments all situated throughout the 4oo year old store. The hostess takes you through the store to the back, walking you through the kitchen until you reach your destination. The tables are rustic and you feel you're sitting in the dining room of a cute little European cottage. You're offered water and a wine list and the menu. Then the food comes....



We got wine...

Complimentary bread
MY FAVORITE DISH. FRIED DUMPLING WITH COLD CUTS (€12.00). Can I just tell you how freakin amazing this dish is? The bread aka the fried dumpling was light and airy and wasn't greasy for being fried. It was easy to eat and the cold cuts were delicious! It wasn't heavy and can be shared amongst your other party. I have yet to find something similar to this dish in LA.


MACARONI WITH "ZAMPONE" SAUCE AND POTATO MUSH (€18.00). I never had pasta that is paired with potato. The zampone sauce usually consists of shoulder and thigh meat as well as the pork cheek and skin. It is common and Modena and I can see why! It is delicious and flavorful. The whole pasta was cooked al dente (now I really know what al dente means). The flavor was delicious, light, and slightly rich without being overpowering. I actually enjoyed the potato at the bottom of the dish. It absorbed the sauce. I liked this dish a lot. Get it cause I have yet to find a dish similar to this in the States.

PUMPKIN RAVIOLI (€18.00). I mean, how can you go wrong with ravioli? It was light and the filling was smooth. It wasn't too sweet which can often happen with pumpkin. It was filling and yet, you find yourself wanting more. This dish was a good dish and fresh for the season.

SUCKLING PIG IN ROOM TEMPERATURE WITH ONION SAUCE AND AGED BALSAMIC VINEGAR (€18.00-HALF PORTION).  This was my least favorite dish. I felt the suckling pig was a bit too dry for my liking. I didn't love the onion sauce. It was a tad bit overwhelming in terms of acidity. Together, the onion sauce and the suckling pig were well-balanced but it still fell short of moistness and texture.

FRIED "COTECHINO" WITH ZABAGLIONE AND LAMBRUSCO (€18.00-HALF PORTION). This was my favorite main amongst the two. It wasn't what I expected. It was basically a deliciously, ground up, moist sausage that was fried and topped with a well-balanced sauce. It was crisp and the perfect size being the half portion. It wasn't overly heavy, so I appreciated that. 
COOKED PEARS WITH MOSCATO ZABAIONE AND TOASTED ALMONDS (€18.00). I picked this dish cause I thought it was something different. The pears were delicious and not too sweet. The portion size was a good size to be shared. I just felt that the dish wasn't amazing. It wasn't what I expected. It was a little sour and I just was hoping for something more. 
Overall, I can see why Hosteria Giusti is Mario Batali's favorite restaurant. It is unique and pays homage to authentic food of Modena. This was the first time I tasted what true "al dente" pasta meant. It was definitely something to get used to, but I now much prefer this mode of cooking pasta. I thought all the flavors were quite prominent at this restaurant and I loved the fact that it was intimate. They cater to you as though you're one of the family. Although I didn't love every dish at this restaurant, I thought it was a unique experience and I wouldn't mind eating at this place again. 

Notable Dishes: Fried Dumpling with Cold Cuts and Macaroni with "zampone" sauce

Friday, November 17, 2017

CIOCCOLATI ITALIANI (MILAN, ITALY)

Cioccolati Italiani
Via San Raffaele 4
20121 Milan
Cioccolati Italiani
Tel: +39 02 89406651
Cuisine: Gelato
$ (under $15)
Sun, 10/21,2017, 8:00pm walk-in
     (5 Piglets)



Anyone who knows me knows that gelato is my favorite food or meal of the day. I always look forward to eating gelato. The last time I was in Italy, I ate 20 different flavors in a matter of 3 days. Yes, in 3 days!!! This time, I knew I had to pace myself and didn't want gelato to be my only meal for each day since I was no longer a poor grad student traveling through Europe. 


Once I landed in Milan, I knew I wanted gelato that day. I searched and searched and found Cioccolati Italiani via Yelp. It had amazing reviews and it was just around the corner from my hotel near the Duomo. 

I entered the gelato spot with no line. Apparently, just an hour before, the line went around the corner but since I went at dinner hour, the line was non-existent. There was a chocolate fountain for a window display. Their main ingredient is chocolate. The unique part about this shop is if you desire, they top off the gelato with Nutella. Even watching them scoop the gelato is an artform. They also serve a customer every 60 seconds. You'll see...


The cashier with lots of goodies


The kitchen

The line! Lots of peeps

GRANELLATO FINO A 3 (4.50 EUROS): I got strawberry, hazelnut, and coffee with nutella on top. This was ridiculously good. When they scoop it, it's an art form. The nutella adds a nice difference to all the other gelatos you eat. I absolutely adored it. It was smooth and creamy and had the perfect texture. I loved how they added the waffle cookie to it as well to give it some crunch. Inside the cone is a coating of chocolate as well. Delicious!
Overall, Cioccolati Italiani is an awesome place to get gelato if you're in the area near the Duomo. The wait can be long, but it goes by pretty quickly. I love all the different options they have here, including crepes and various cones. The fact that they put Nutella on top of the gelato is a plus. It's authentic, creamy and delicious. And if you come during an odd time, you may just be lucky enough to avoid the queue. 

Notable Dishes: Any of the gelato! 

Saturday, November 11, 2017

BERNERS TAVERN (FITZROVIA, LONDON, UK)

Berners Tavern
The London Edition Hotel
10 Berners St
London W1T 3NP
www.bernerstavern.com
Tel: +44 (0)20 7908 7979
Cuisine: British
$$$ ($30-$45)
Fri, 10/20/2017, 2:00pm reservation
    (4 Piglets)

I landed in London and was extremely exhausted from the flight. I just wanted to sleep. I checked into my hotel at the London Edition (which I absolutely love love love!), and was feeling peckish and wanted to pass out. The staff recommended their restaurant Berners Tavern for lunch, which is under the guidance of Michelin Starred chef Jason Atherton. They made reservations for me and I went to take a long nap in my most comfortable bed ever (the bed reminds me of the Four Seasons).
The bar

Dining room

Upon arrival, the restaurant was packed. It looked like this is a common place for people to have lunch meetings. The d├ęcor is classic, like an old library with a bit of sophistication put to it. Photographs with beautiful frames line each wall with a beautiful chandelier set in the middle of the space.  The chairs were so comfortable. I wanted to order something small cause I knew I would be splurging and gorging on food later that evening at Restaurant Gordon Ramsay. This is what I got:



TRADITIONAL BRITISH PORK PIE SERVED TABLE SIDE (£17.00): English Piccalilli, Pickled Vegetables, Mustard. This was just ok for me. I prefer a flaky crust. I thought it was going to be warm, but it was cold. It was more like a thick pate. The pickled vegetables were good to cut through the fat. I got a bit of all the mustards. The traditional dijon was my favorite. 

The dish

TRIPLE COOKED CHIPS (£5.00): I was quite disappointed with my chips. They weren't anything like Heston Blumenthal's triple cooked chips. They were a tad bit soggy. 

COFFEE: It was delicious and creamy. I would order it again. 
MY FAVORITE DISH. CHOCOLATE AND HAZELNUT FLAMNG ALASKA, SPECULOOS, AND COFFEE CRUMBLE, HAZELNUT CUSTARD (£18.00). This dish is freakin amazing. It totally made my lunch that much better. It arrives plain and then they add an alcohol and light it on fire and pour it over the ice cream and whipped cream. It starts to flame and it brulee's the top part of the baked alaska. 
Overall, Berner's Tavern was good but not amazing. It took awhile for the staff to take my order. I almost felt they ignored me since I was dining solo. The food was good, but I think I expected much more. The saving grace was the baked alaska. It was one of the best baked alaska's I've had in a really long time. Sure it's boozy, but that's the fun of it. I loved that it was also conveniently located within my hotel. Would I come back? Possibly, but I would order something else other than the pie. 

Notable Dishes: Baked Alaska

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

CHUTNEY MARY (LONDON, UK)

Chutney Mary
73 St James' Street
London, UK SW1A 1PH
Chutney Mary
Tel: +44 020 7629 6688
Cuisine: Indian
$$$ ($30-$45)
Sat, 10/21/2017, 12:30pm reservation
     (4.5 Piglets)

London is one of my favorite places to get Indian food. It is probably considered to be the best place to find curry outside of India. A friend of mine told me to check out Chutney Mary's. I made reservations for two online and couldn't wait.


The restaurant is fairly sophisticated. It isn't a hole in the wall restaurant. It's somewhere you would want to take a person on a date, a work meeting, or impress someone. My date and I sat down in the far back corner of the restaurant. It was lunch time and the place was slightly busy. 

INTERIOR

INTERIOR
FISH PAKORA: Fresh Whiting, Tamarind Chutney. Surprisingly, this was delicious. It wasn't my first choice as an appetizer but my date wanted it. Thank goodness he did cause it was so good. It was moist and juicy and the outside was super crisp. A must get. 
SAMOSAS. OMG! It was so good. It was light and crisp and not heavy at all. I think this was one of the best samosas I've had. Loved every bite! 

GRILLED PRAWNS: Marinated with Green Herbs. This was so good. There was so much flavor and the prawns were super succulent. It was cooked perfectly. There were enough spices and it wasn't too spicy hot. 
MY FAVORITE DISH. BUTTER CHICKEN METHI MASALA: Fresh Menthi Leaves, Cornfed Chicken Thigh, Carmelized Onion and Tomato. This was my favorite. It was so creamy with tons of flavor. The chicken was moist and delicious. I loved soaking my naan and rice with this dish. It's so worth it.  

YOGURT AND HONEYCOMB ICE CREAM. Who would've thought an Indian restaurant would have amazing desserts?! This ice cream was so spot on. It was creamy and had texture from the honeycomb. I liked that it wasn't too sweet.


PASSIONFRUIT TART: This dessert was delicious as well. There was a bit of tartness from the passionfruit, which cut the creaminess and sweetness of the tart. I loved that it came with ice cream. It was a perfect combination. This is also a good dessert.

Overall, I thought Chutney Mary's was great! It's a little bit on the pricey end compared to other Indian restaurants I've been to, but it's so worth it. The service was great and the food was fantastic. There was not a single dish I didn't like and it was somewhat different than the usual Indian food we have here in Los Angeles. If we had anything remotely close to this in LA, I would be there all the time. I highly recommend this restaurant for a visit.




Notable Dishes: Butter chicken and Grilled Prawns