Monday, December 1, 2014

Rustic Yet Refined - Ristorante Antine

We couldn't wait to explore the wonderful food and wine Piedmont offers after we arrived at our villa on Friday evening. Our first destination was Barbaresco, a village close to where we live known for their wines of course, at a restaurant called Ristorante Antine.

Looking at its rustic decors, an unassuming facade and downstairs reception area, then leading to the dining room on the top level with simple tables and wall decorations, I was expecting somewhat of a regional trattoria type cuisine, so I was surprised to see not one, but two amuse bouche dishes landed on our table in sequence, along with a bread "basket" served on *warmed* slate plate, like what you would more likely see in a fine dining establishments. Both amuse-bouches, first a small piece of duck breast cured in coffee and the second one a simple potato cream with sausage, were tasty and nicely presented, and we also loved the bread - 3 different kinds of rolls plus grissini on another plate - especially when they were freshly baked and kept warm!

I went for the degustation menu consisting of 4 courses of regional specialties. The first course was Vitello Tonnato, a cold appetizer of sliced veal meat served with tuna sauce. It's one of the classic Piedmontese dishes, and here, the veal was first poached, cooled and then sliced not-so-thinly, with tuna sauce wrapped inside like a spring roll (or crepes). On the side was dehydrated carrot and celery powders adding to the overall flavors. It was simple yet quite tasty, except I would love a bit more seasonings.

Pasta course was another classic dish called Raviolini “del Plin” - which looks like a combination of farfalle and ravioli. Inside the pasta was a mix of 3 kinds of meat - pork, beef and rabbit. This was amazing - it's served with just a tad of sauce made from the meat jus and butter but the dish was juicy just from the filling. I couldn't quite tell the individual flavors of the meat inside but it's unmistakably gamey.

The main course was "Coniglio e peperoni", meaning Rabbit and Bell Peppers. Again, it's a fancier version of a local specialty, especially at this time of the year during the game season. Rabbit was cooked 2 ways - in the middle is a roast rabbit ballotine with a rich meat jus and balsamic reduction, and served on the side, some slow-cooked rabbit with very tender texture (known locally as Tonno di Coniglio, or "Tuna" of rabbit) Also there were 2 different kinds of apple coulis, a bell pepper puree - kind of like romesco but without the nuttiness - and sprinkles of paprika powder adding to the beautiful presentation with a little spicy kick.

Our dessert was tiramisu, but as you probably could imagine, it's no ordinary tiramisu we used to see anywhere. It's more like a whipped mascarpone in between sweet crispy tuiles with chocolate sprinkles on top and caramel sauce at the bottom. I couldn't say I preferred this to the traditional tiramisu, but it's tasty and interesting. We were also stunned by the Liquid Apple "Ravioli" being served as one of the petit fours, along with other more traditional choices. It's basically a spherified apple juice, done El Bulli style. How about that for ending a meal with a bang?

The wine list was long in a small restaurant standard, dominated by local wines of course. We went for a Barbaresco made by Produttori del Barbaresco, a co-op winery literally just a few hundreds meters away down the road from the restaurant. They are considered one of the world's top wine cooperatives, gathering grapes from small growers in the region and produced a series of amazing wines. The 2009 riserva from the single-cru vineyard of Muncagota was soft and delicate with a slightly floral nose, licorice and tar on the palate backed by fine tannins. It's lively with good complexity and long finish, and very enjoyable at this young age already.

While this is probably not the most spectacular meals for the entire trip, it's definitely one of the good ones. We enjoyed our meal very much and got a grand introduction of the regional cuisine at this refined restaurant right in the middle of Piedmont. If you are looking for something comfortable but not over the top and you happened to be staying in the neighborhood, this is the one you should seriously consider.

Full photo album:

When? October 24 2014
Where? Ristorante Antine, Via Torino 34, Barbaresco, Cuneo, Italy
Menu Highlights? Coniglio e Peperoni (Rabbit and Bell Peppers)
Drinks? Produttori del Barbaresco Barbaresco DOCG Muncagota Riserva 2009

(This is the part of the Journey to Piedmont series, a writing project capturing our recent travel experiences to the region)

1 comment :

PauLine said...

Hi! Have been enjoying your write up about your trip to Piedmont. I travelled to the area shortly before the Truffle fair in October and had visited Barbaresco, too.

Absolutely love the Muncagota and brought two bottles back (and drank a few there). On the day I visited I actually saw trucks unloading grapes and they were juiced right in front of us. It was a pity that we didn't plan to dine there. Next time I visit, I would absolutely try to dine at Ristorante Antine.