Thursday, March 15, 2012

Wine and Dine - An evening at 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo BOMBANA

There are places that wow you with excellent cooking techniques, or fascinating combination of ingredients, and there are some that impress you with consistently high quality, spot on dishes day in day out, and Chef Bombana's Otto e Mezzo certainly has a lot of both.

A wine dinner organized by a local wine merchant featuring wines from Renato Ratti brought us back to our favorite Italian restaurant in town. Well we were lucky to be here on several occasions in the past, but this was a rare night when we came to celebrate well-crafted wines from Piedmont and food has inadvertently become the supporting role.
We had a "simple" 6-course menu this time - appetizer, 2 pastas, a main and then dessert - and the dinner's held in the private room at the back. It's tight for our party of 12 but I like the coziness. My favorite dish is the roast duck foie gras with hazelnut sauce, smoked duck and greens. I guess it's more common to see foie gras being matched with something sweet (cherry compote being the usual suspect) but it's amazing to see it goes equally well with the nutty Piedmont hazelnut sauce with just a hint of sweetness - well think Nutella in a savory way - and I think this version has more finesse, plus the it's beautifully presented.
One thing we adore this restaurant for is its consistency - no matter what time of year, whether you are a regular or first-time visitor, a casual dinner or for special occasion, or whatever you order - be it the delicate white truffle dishes which this restaurant has been famous for, or simpler ones such as the pumpkin risotto with braised pork cheek that we had this time, this restaurant always delivered food of top notch quality and true to the tradition. There's no surprise that this has become such a popular restaurant that one need to book months in advance to secure a table.
The best about wine dinner such as this is that, with the winemaker himself as the host, we always get to try some wines not normally found in stores. Before dinner we started with the simpler I Cedri Bianco made of 100% Sauvignon Blanc - which obviously is not a native Piedmont wine varietal. ("I just planted in a small lot and made the wine for fun", said owner Mr Pietro Ratti, and only less than 300 cases were made) The wine's surprisingly full-bodied and rounded - as compared to the more common sharp and crisp type made under cooler climate - yet has a summer feel to it, thanks for the stonefruit aroma.
After warming up with Barbera and Nebbiolo d'Alba as our evening went along, we did a vertical flight of Barolo of various vintages, from the most recent 2007 to as far back as the 1990, for which Mr Ratti brought them in just for this occasion. I could certainly see the potential the recent vintages could bring but my favorite of the evening was the 2000 one which was served with our beef main course - powerful, elegant with smooth and rounded tannin. It's a wine just at its peak - I don't even think it needs much decanting. Barolo is one of those wines that really require a lot of patience - keep them in the cellar for a few years and you will certainly be greatly rewarded.
Otto e Mezzo is definitely not one of those restaurants that we love but never managed to go back to. Looking at the frequency of our past visits, I doubt it would be long before we return, if God permits.

when? March 14 2012
where? 8 1/2 Otto e Mezzo BOMBANA, Alexandra House, Central
menu highlights: Roast Duck Foie Gras, Piedmont hazalnut sauce, smoked duck in dice, greens
drinks: (all Renato Ratti)
I Cedri Bianco 2010
Barbera d'Alba DOC Torriglione 2010
Nebbiolo d'Alba Ochetti 2009
Barolo Marcenasco 2007
Barolo Conca 2006
Barolo Rocche 2005
Barolo Marcenasco 2000
Barolo Marcenasco 1990


Past visits:

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