Restaurant: Osteria Francescana
Location: Modena, Italy
Date: June 6, 2011
Rating: Amazing Italian Molecular!
Our first fancy meal of the trip was at Osteria Francescana, a modern Italian in Modena with 2 Michelin stars. Francescana has an unusual and creative take on Italian. Most of the dishes have as their basis traditional ones, and the finest local ingredients (in a land rich with fine ingredients), but then they mess playfully with the forms, flavors, and textures. You’ll see.
The restaurant is located in scenic old Modena.
Here is the formal dusgustation menu. There is also an extensive ala carte. We put together a custom (and lengthy) molecular omakase.
We asked the sommelier for recommendations in interesting Italian wines. He started us with this Nero D’Avola, which surprisingly, tasted like a good Burgundy! Arianna Occhipinti bottles Frappato and Nero d’Avola. The two grapes are traditionally blended to make Cerasuolo di Vittoria, which in 2005 became the first style of red wine in Sicily to achieve DOCG status. Only 2 percent of Sicilian wine even merits DOC status (a tier down from DOCG) and only 15 percent is even bottled on the island. Native grape Nero d’Avola gives darkness, and Frappato provides uncommon fragrance. By utilizing native yeasts to begin fermentation, ageing in older and larger oak barrels and farming in adherence to the tenets of biodynamics, Occhipinti finds grace in the fields surrounding Ragusa and Vittoria.
This first dish is meant to represent “rock of the sea” and it’s colored and sweetened with squid ink. Mom says: the black sponge needed more flavor! To be fair, there were supposed to be clams inside, but they were removed to accomodate dietary restrictions.
This is “foam of mortadella di bologna.” Mortadella (seen below) is a classic traditional meat. Here it is basically whipped into a mousse-like consistency and served with a wonderful bit of toasted bread. The meat is spread on the bread and eaten, and it retains the exact flavor profile of the original. This is essentially a baloney sandwich.
Various homemade breads and grisini.
Mackerel and salmon eggs.
With a pea soup.
One of my favorites. The Fois Gras lollipop.
Inside is fois gras, coated with toasted almonds, and injected with a dab of aged balsamic (from Modena of course). This was rich, but pretty much incredible!
This wine was so rare the label is scotch taped on. It tasted like a cross between a Tavel (Rose) and a Pinot Noir, with strong tones of rosewater.
A “tart” of shallots and leeks, with Italian white truffles. This was absolutely delicious, and tasted a bit like Eggplant Bharta, the traditional cooked down eggplant and onion dish from India.
We also mixed in this Moscato, which while still sweet had more subtlety than most of the breed.
This is cod, with sicilian pesto and pistachios. The pesto was tomato and eggplant based. Also yummy.
Parmesan, five ways! This wonderful statement of the varieties of local Parmesan involves taking five different ages of the cheese, and processing them into five different forms and textures. Mouses, foams, sauce, crisp, etc. A very cheesy dish!
This dish was meant to represent a “cow in the pasture.”
It had various spring vegetables, and some fresh cream! Not the most exciting, just lots of types of peas!
This is a “compression of pasta and beans.” There is some fois gras in here too. Which perfectly fine, this was my least favorite dish of the evening.
This 1999 Barbera was rich and smokey, aged such that it had considerable sediment. It tasted like an old barbaresco!
This pasta is a fairly close reinterpretation of Pasta con Sarde. There were anchovies, breadcrumbs, and pesto. The pasta was al dente and the very flavor very refined.
Two raviolis contain cotechino (a very interesting cooked salami-like product) and lentils. The pasta itself was nigh on perfect, and the inside a traditional combination generally eaten at new years in Italy for at least 2500 years – festive pork and beans!
Black cod with potato confit.
A molecular reinterpretation of “bollito misto” (mixed boiled meats). Starting with the clear one at the bottom, and moving clockwise, we have: head, tongue, cheek, belly, tail, and cotechino! This last and the tongue were my favorites, the head and tail my least.
The pre dessert. Yogurt almond galette ice cream, goat cheese, drops of strawberry, mint. Very tasty. Sharp.
The first “real” dessert. Vanilla ice cream, chocolate cake, and a sort of gelatin cover. The taste was a bit like cassata.
Vanilla ice cream.
With fresh local cherries! My wife loved it.
An indication of the damage.
The petite fours, cheesecake, profiteroles, chocolate truffles, passionfruit gele, chocolate with cherry and tea, something with lemon and maybe shiso!
Our meal was so long that we emptied out the room!
This was a fantastic dinner. I happen to love the playful nature of modern molecular cuisine, which you can also see at my reviews of Calima, Saam, and La Terraza. You can also check the other two Michelin 2-star takes I sampled in Italy: La Frasca and Arnolfo. Like Osteria Francescana they both reinterpret their local cuisines (Adriatic seafood and Tuscan respectively) through a modern culinary lens.