Sunday, July 26, 2015

Another Evening in Milan; Another Pop-up Restaurant

It's already quite late when I finished the Italian Pavilion at the Milan Expo after an hour-long wait outside, so I thought it's time for dinner before heading back to town. Totally exhausted by all the walking and sweating under the sun, I was looking for somewhere comfortable that I could sit down and enjoy a quiet meal. Inside the Expo site, there are actually quite a number of restaurants offering something fancier than food hall-type of food, and I looked no further than Peck a Palazzo Italia located above the main exhibition of the Italian pavilion at the site known as Palazzo Italia.

Those having been to Milan before should be familiar to Peck, the upscale delicatessens in Milan's city center selling the best of food products from Italy and aboard. So there's no surprise they were chosen to be the Official Restaurant of the Italian Pavilion, as a showcase of the best of Italian cuisine at the event, and for the 6-month exhibition period, they operate this pop-up restaurant with full menu for breakfast, lunch, aperitif and dinner.

I was somewhat surprised that the restaurant was quite empty when I walked in after taking the elevator up to the 4th Floor. Only a couple large tables were occupied with visitors, plus a handful others. The main dining room was on the 4th Floor and there's an outdoor terrace for drinks upstairs. The room features a modern, minimalist design with Kartell furniture, and was spacious and comfortable. Of course what's most impressive was the view outside the window - the Palazzo Italia being the tallest building at the Expo site and the restaurant being on the top floor, you basically got best view of the entire ground, including the iconic Tree of Life sculpture stood not far away from the pavilion. I arrived at especially the best time as the sun slowly set.

The menu was an expanded version of their restaurant on the second floor of their downtown store, which leaned towards Northern Italian cuisine but featured dishes across the country. The same with the wine menu actually - there were good representations from various wine regions, a few of them carrying their own brand. I went for the Peck Rosso di Montalcino which was easy-drinking and just what I expected from a Sangiovese.

I was more exhausted than hungry by then, having spent two and a half week away from home and the last 2 days at the Expo under the gruesome heat, so I went easy with just 2 courses plus an espresso to end. But I was pleasantly surprised at both courses, the Milanese Risotto as starter course, then the Beef Tagliata. The risotto was done in the most traditional way, with the al-dente rice completely drenched in a rich and creamy sauce infused with threads of saffron giving the dish an enticing yellowish golden color. I haven't had any decent risotto since I left Italy last year so I was satisfied.

Likewise for the Beef Tagliata. The menu didn't say the source of the beef so I wasn't sure whether it's of the local breed of Fassona, but it was grilled perfectly with a charred crust with a touch of sea salt, cut in thick slices, and served with a medley of grilled vegetables. Nothing too fancy or anything, but they were delicious and the portion more than reasonable.  I also loved the bread basket served before my food arrived, with a choice of rolls and grissini served with their own extra virgin olive oil - nothing beat warm bread to soothe a worn-out soul, I guess. 

Tempted by the choice of desserts but knowing it's probably going to be huge - typical Italian serving size - I politely declined and just finished my meal with a cup of double espresso. That was my last proper meal in Milan this time and I felt good about having this simple Italian dinner at this pop-up restaurant inside the Expo. Won't beat the first one, I am sure, but it's a meal I enjoyed too.

When? July 5 2015
Where? Peck a Palazzo Italia, 4/F, Palazzo Italia, Expo Milano 2015
Menu Highlights? Beef Tagliata with rosemary and grilled vegetables
Drinks? Peck Rosso di Montalcino 2012

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