Saturday, August 27, 2016

Chef Kitchen (Milan, ITALY) ★★☆☆☆

One thing that I really like to see some improvements on was the dining options at MXP (Milan Malpensa airport). I have been here almost every year for my transit flight to different parts of Europe and every time I found the number of decent restaurants in the boarding zone quite applauding. Chef Kitchen is probably one of the better options out there but it's still nowhere up to par (Well the seats are comfortable but the food menu and service...).

My fettuccine with zucchini and prawns was everything you would expect from an airport restaurant. No surprise there.

It's been a wonderful two weeks in Italy and France. Time to head back home while I plan for my next trip!

Food Rating: 3.5/10
Price: €€
Address: Areoporto Malpensa, 21010 Ferno, Italy

Friday, August 26, 2016

Al Pont De Ferr (Milan, ITALY) ★★★☆☆

For months, I have been trying to come up with the perfect venue for our final meal on this trip to France and Italy. But after two spectacular three-Michelin starred lunch (Maison Pic and La Maison Troisgros) and the breathtaking view at Mirazur in Menton, what else is left? Canal-side wining and dining?

We decided to spend our last evening in the heart of the trendy and lively area of Navigli right by the touristy Naviglio Grande canal.

The Navigli district is a bustling area best known for its bars and al fresco dining overlooking the grand canal but fine-dining is never its forte. So, I was both surprised and relieved to find a Michelin starred restaurant here, an osteria serving contemporary Italian slow food.

At Al Pont De Ferr, we can still find traces of the old warehouse before the time where it became a rustic restaurant.

I didn't know much about Al Pont De Ferr's head chef Vittorio Fusari other than the fact that he's been raised at the Franciacorta vineyards. He did some great works at his first restaurant, Il Volto just a stone's throw from the Iseo lakefront and was awarded with a Michelin star.

Whatever chef Vittorio Fusari has been doing, he has Al Pont De Ferr trending in the right direction. His creative cuisine has made the restaurant one of the most popular dining destinations in Navigli.

The Degustation menu (130 Euros) would have been a great way to experience the chef's borderless cuisine but that would be too heavy for us considering that we had just finished an amazing meal at Restaurant Le 1920 not too long ago.

Some amuse bouche to warm up our palates first. First up, a small tartlet filled with tomato paste. There's a cute little drop of green pea gel on top.

Beetroot macaron with foie gras. A perfect match of richness and acidity.

They were followed by more small nibbles. The dumpling with salami was an interesting fusion which was pretty decent. I didn't enjoy the deep-fried meatball (thanks to the olive flavor) as much although the wasabi mayo had my palate dancing in joy.

After the amuse bouche, we were offered some homemade bread. The grissini was really nice and so was the flaky brioche.

As attractive as the omakase tasting menu was, we ended up going for the a la carte menu instead (otherwise, we will be having this meal until 11pm at least). I had the homemade linguini, tossed with what they called a sea water emulsion with prawns, mussels and rock fish. This wasn't bad. The sea water emulsion was a little on the salty side but I love the pleasant, slightly chewy texture. 

Jelloman had the Pluma of Iberico pork which was finished off with some pork jus on top. There were small dabs of sea urchin sauce and burrata there as a dip. Decent but some pieces were noticeably more undercooked than others. On a typical night, I would've voiced it out to my server but not tonight.

Dessert was probably a good idea (I have seen pictures of their amazing desserts) but at this point, both of us were way too sleepy to carry on. Plus we had bags to pack and an early flight to catch early next morning. So, we quickly settled the bill and started jogging back to our hotel (there's a major construction going on in the area so we had to do some zigzagging).

With this final meal in the books, we have pushed the grand total of Michelin stars up to 12 for this trip. Not bad for a little more than a week's work (I'm not looking forward to my credit card statement). Looking back, there were seriously amazing meals on this journey but unfortunately tonight's not one of them. I thought the creative edge was definitely there but the execution had room for improvement. 

Food Rating: 5/10
Price: €€€
Address: Ripa di Porta Ticinese, 55, 20143 Milan, Italy
Tel: +39 02 8940-6277

Cioccolat Italiani Lab Navigli (Milan, ITALY) ★★★☆☆

I didn't expect such a long drive from Annecy but all in all, it took us more than 5 hours to get back to Milan, the same city we started this trip more than 10 days ago. 

Following a relatively quick check-in at Hotel nhow Milano, we wasted no time storming out to the Navigli area, named of course after the famous Naviglio Grande canal. First thing first, we decided to get our first gelato out of the way fast.

Cioccolat Italiani Lab is a stylish Italian gelateria next to the canal that has quickly garnered our attention.

Some signature cones consisting of different combination of flavors.

Not a very long list of flavors but there are some interesting ones including a number of chocolate ones with various degree of richness.

This certainly looks promising, a very eye-catching "bouquet" combining a fresh fruit crepes and ice-cream cone together called Temaki Crepe.

This has to be one of the most instagrammable ice-cream cones I had the pleasure of holding on my hand. Not surprisingly, it was a little difficult to actually taste the flavors of our pistachio gelato thanks to all these different layers (waffle cone, crepe and mixed fruits) on the outside.

Yeah, it looked much nicer than I tasted. That's my final verdict.

Food Rating: 5/10
Price: €€€
Address: Alzaia Naviglio Grande, 44, 20123 Milan, Italy
Tel: +39 02 8457-5828

nhow Milano Hotel (Milan, ITALY)

I thought I had the accommodations for this trip all planned out months ago but a few weeks before we took off for Milan, I got some bad news from Hotel Magna Pars Suites that they had some emergency repairs to take care of. As a result, their premise would be closed during our visit.

So, I had to scramble for an alternative in Navigli but I already had one in mind - nhow Milano.

Nhow hotel is a boutique hotel chain I know fairly well of, from my days in Berlin. I didn't actually stay at one before but I have dined there a couple of times and was always intrigued by its shall-we-say "unusual" design.

In case you're wondering, nhow Hotel is a hipster offshoot from the NH Hotel Group, one of the largest hotel group in Europe with more than 350 hotels worldwide. 

This one in Navigli district of Milan is located in the Tortona design district, about a 10-minute to the grand canal but far off from the touristic Duomo area. So, if you're looking for a quiet place to stay and don't mind all the traveling back and forth, this might be the perfect choice for you.

While the hotel lobby is light-flooded and inviting, the same cannot be said about the hotel corridors. It's really dark once we stepped out of the elevator and for a moment, we thought we were inside a museum~!

There were also these weird-looking metal pillars everywhere.

The rooms were fine if you're into designs of love hotels. 

Again there's not enough natural light around but we just told ourselves that's romantic.

Not the most comfortable bed in the world.

Thankfully, there's sufficient light (and space) in the bathroom so we won't be tripping over anything like we did in the bedroom.

It's not the most comfortable stay we had on this trip. 

Rating: ❤❤❤
Price: €€€
Address: Via Tortona, 35, 20144 Milan, Italy
Tel: +39 02 489-8861

Restaurant Le 1920 (Megève, FRANCE) ★★★★★

For decades, Megève has been the playground for the rich and famous thanks to its abundance of luxury spa hotels, chalets and ski resorts. The indulgence doesn't stop there. Imagine all the exquisite fine-dining options in the area, too and you know it's worth a visit at least once in a lifetime.

After a short drive from Annecy, we finally arrived at 5-star hotel Chalet du Mont d'Arbois in hilly Megève.

We have been looking forward to this lunch at Le 1920, the fine dining restaurant of Le Chalet du Mont d'Arbois since the beginning of the trip. Chef Julien Gatillon has been a great story since arriving at the restaurant in 2012. After sharpening his skills with Michelin 3-star chefs Benoît Violier and Yannick Alléno, he brought his game to Le 1920 earning him 2 precious stars in the Michelin Guide in the process.

Chef Gatillon's cuisine is all about respect for the best local produce and traditions. On the menu, we were able to find traces of the great French dining tradition including Bresse chicken, line-caught sole meunière, classic Paris-Brest and of course, Rothschild traditional soufflé, a signature dessert at Le 1920.

It was a gorgeous day out there so we decided to take it outside at the outdoor terrace.

Unfortunately, I still have a long drive back to Milan in the afternoon. Instead of the full blown tasting menu, we opted for a shortened version called "Initiation Menu" which was comfortably priced at 90 euros per head.

Our amuse bouche consisted of 3 interesting nibbles including a savory puff filled with fish in the middle and a green pea panna cotta topped with shredded ham.

But I like this one the most, foie gras and passion fruit chutney on a piece of crispy toast.

The first course from the Initiation Menu was lightly seared salmon fillet served with watercress coulis and "mimosa" condiments which was a nicely decorated set of mayo made with egg white (white), egg yolk (yellow) and parsley (green). I really enjoyed this dish tremendously with the earthy flavors from watercress and parsley elevating the seared salmon to a whole new level.

This was followed by green zebra tomato with creamy buratina. Before they served up the zebra tomato, they made sure that the plating was right on the money with condiments like pesto sauce, sun dried tomatoes, crispy croutons, shaved cheese and marshmallow (made with cheese) all in position. 

Now, they're ready to place the green zebra tomatoes onto the serving plates.

Very lovely presentation...!

This was a very sophisticated dish with light mozzarella cheese and tomato mousse stuffed into the middle of the green zebra tomato. I thought the flavors really harmonized each other perfectly. What a wonderful dish that was.

Our main dish was roasted young duck from Vendée, a region in the Southwestern part of France.

The first part of this dish featured the roasted duck served in gorgeous pink, along with candied cherries, chanterelle mushrooms and a sauce made with cherries and red wine.

Comparing to the Challans duck, this was almost equally flavorful but the meat was noticeably softer.

Then, we had the leg which was simply served with mashed potatoes and garden salad. We watched as they slowly poured the duck jus on top.

For dessert, they went back to the basics with this Rothschild traditional soufflè.

The texture was perfect especially with the orange zest. 

The soufflè was served with a small bowl of orange granita on the side.

Lastly, a very nice petite fours including a small tartlet with Piedmont hazelnut, mint macaron, black tea tart and chocolate raspberry choux pastry to wrap things up.

In between courses, I made sure I had enough time to admire all those beautiful paintings on the wall.

We were given a brief guided tour of the hotel following the meal.

I could probably spend an afternoon chilling out on this balcony with a cup of coffee in my hand.

This meal ranks right up there with the ones at Maison Pic and Maison Troisgros as three of the most memorable meals on this trip. Now that we're done here, I can focus on driving us back safely to Milan.

<Note: Le 1920 has been relocated to the new Four Seasons Hotel where Chef Julien Gatillon continues to work towards his third star.>

Food Rating: 9/10
Price: €€€
Address: 373 Chemin des Follières, 74120 Megève, France
Tel: +33 (0)4 5021-2503