Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Casual Degustazione

Remarkably, we saw a few new restaurant openings despite all the restrictions imposed during the pandemic. Testina was one of them, a modern trattoria-style restaurant at the corner of Lyndhurst Terrace with collaboration with the team from the popular Trippa in Milan and chef Marco Xodo hailed from Bombana Shanghai. 

We have not been to Trippa ourselves but heard good things about this casual, contemporary eatery which opened a few years back. Testina apparently followed the same traits for their modern approach to traditional fares, with more emphasis on Northern Italian cooking, obviously. The restaurant wasn’t particularly big but definitely spacious with the semi-open kitchen on one far end and plenty of natural lighting from the window overlooking the busy street downstairs. The countryside color tone and furniture did remind me of those trattorias in Tuscan towns we adore. 

Menu was a la carte-based but there’s also the option of the degustation menu, described as “Let Chef Marco take care of you with a selection of Testina’s best dishes”. Sounds perfect for us as there were quite a number of dishes we would love to try. We munched on the items in the excellent bread basket while the first course of Chicken Liver Parfait arrived with more bread in the form of toasted panettone. Didn’t know what I craved for more – the buttery toast or the smooth and creamy liver parfait served in a jar (topped with toasted pumpkin seeds and jammy grape must), but anyway, we finished them in no time. 

I count vitello tonnato (a traditional Piedmontese dish) as one of my favorite Italian dish, and here Chef Xodo turned this classic with a twist, using veal tongues rather than cooked veal slices and served with a lighter and airy tonnato espuma with garnishes. While one might say “if it ain’t break, don’t fix it”, I actually quite enjoyed this more refined version, with the a much tender tongues served in paper-thin slices while retaining the traditional taste, a rather “strange” combination of meat and tuna. Roasted Montoro Onions was another classic dish given a facelift, with the thick slices of the sweet onion (a special type from Campania region) served with capers and croutons on top and potato puree underneath. It was amazingly sweet. 

Two pasta courses were served back to back. The duck ragu was spectacular, sauce full of heaty meat flavor and tossed with the equally good homemade tagliatelle. I was salivating just by the thought of it as I looked back. The lamb ragu was the special off-menu item of the day and chef brought us a smaller portion to try. It’s a notch richer with the gamey lamb shoulder slow-cooked, and I like that balance with the sweet dried fruits mixed in and the broad peas for a touch of color and texture. This time the dish was served with the thicker pappandelle, also perfectly done. 

We shared two main courses. The “Codfish Tripe” was the surprising one. I did have a small question mark on my head when it’s first brought to us and described as braised fish maw served on polenta, but it turned out to be super tasty. The codfish tripe was cooked with the spicy nduja sauce giving it a nice kick, and the light and velvety texture of the polenta gave the dish a nice contrast. The restaurant name of “Testina” means “head” in Italian, and our second main course was the namesake dish, presented with Pig’s Head meat served with Salsa Verde. The meat was fat, rich and super tender with a slightly charred crust from the pan-searing, and spooned on top was the meat jus, salsa verde and shaved horseradish crumbles. The sauteed radish leaves underneath did remind me somewhat of Chinese mustard green (choisum), giving the dish a touch of rustic aftertaste. 

I was secretly hoping for the hazelnut dessert (cake and zabaione) but instead we got the cherry cake. But I reckon it’s equally delightful with the moist cake and sweet cherry coulis which I thought was the perfect lead-in to the hotter days ahead. 

There were so many other items on the menu that I would love to try – including the Trippa Fritta that everyone was talking about or the grilled bone marrow. Not to mention I could have the duck ragu over and over and over again, or the hazelnut dessert that I wish I had this time. So a return visit is definitely in order, when and if we managed to get another booking. 

When? March 30 2022
Where? Testina, 3/F, 8 Lyndhurst Terrace, Central
Menu Highlights? Homemade Tagliatelle with Duck Ragu
Drinks? Champagne Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve NV

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