Thursday, 25 June 2015

Restaurant review | Cantina del Baffo


I know in my previous post, I mentioned the pick of the restaurants in Limone and beyond, but I simply had to post this separately. Hand on heart, this was the best meal I’ve ever had and it will take something special to surpass. We booked at Cantina del Baffo a couple of weeks before we travelled to Lake Garda, so I’d been looking forward to it for a long time, especially as they have a five course taster menu, priced at 40. I apologise in advance for how image heavy this post is, but I don’t think words couldn’t even do the food justice (not that iPhone photography is excellent either).

Cantina del Baffo is a beautiful restaurant, built into one of the cliffs, offering spectacular views over Lake Garda from its al fresco terrace seating. The owner, a former Michelin-starred chef uses local and fresh product to create taste sensations – with wines paired to each dish. Our waitress for the evening was so friendly, speaking perfect English and talked us through every plate of food and the wine she recommended to accompany our meal. The taster menu, which changes weekly was fish-themed and as well as five courses, an aperitif and petit fours were also served – yes, that’s right, I ate SEVEN courses! Jake doesn’t like fish, so he selected from the a la carte menu (excellent that not all of the party have to choose from the taster), but more about those dishes later – I want to talk to you through my meal!

Aperitif – selection of homemade breads and breadsticks

Antipasto – sardine on fried bread, with leaf salad and a balsamic vinaigrette

No image of this one as I wolfed it down. A great way to start the meal: it was light, the flavours complemented each other well and it was executed with precision. I love grilled/barbecued sardines and the toast was so thin and crisp – it was beautiful.

Entree – Carpaccio of tuna, with goats cheese, leaves and a lemon olive oil dressing
Carpaccio of tuna, with goats cheese, leaves and a lemon olive oil dressing
Lots of fresh flavours together – the lemon oil wasn’t acidic and was lovely over the leaves and fish. I would never have thought to pair cheese and fish, especially something delicate like tuna but it really worked. Like every dish, this was presented perfectly. The fish was sliced so thin, it melted in the mouth and required no chewing.

Primo – chub with capers and olive oil, served with polenta
chub with capers and olive oil, served with polenta
I’d never even heard of chub, but it was a nice soft, flaky white fish. This dish was simple, but presented well, which made it enjoyable. There were so many flavours and textures, every mouthful was different. I actually like capers and polenta, which I didn’t know before.

Primo – ravioli three ways: with parmesan, with goats cheese and with red wine & goats cheese, served with herring caviar and basil puree
ravioli three ways: with parmesan, with goats cheese and with red wine & goats cheese, served with herring caviar and basil puree
Incredible, fresh pasta, packed with filling. The caviar was amazing – it really isn’t as fishy as people make out, nor did it really pop. My favourite was the goats cheese & red wine, which was oozing bright purple and went so well with the basil. Look how big it is though, I couldn’t manage it all (the only food I left *oink*).

Secondo – white fish (caught in Lake Garda), served with wild greens and wild flowers
white fish (caught in Lake Garda), served with wild greens and wild flowers
The waitress explained how the chef had paired each piece of fish to a wildflower he had collected in the mountains, to enhance the flavour – and it really did! The greens were a cross between kelp and samphire, quite salty but really healthy (not the right adjective). Another simple dish, executed well and incredibly tasty.

Dolce - vanilla ice cream with babà al rum
vanilla ice cream with babà al rum
Desserts seriously don’t get much better than this. I got to choose from the a la carte menu and as I was almost unable to breathe, we shared – which was good, as the bowl was huge! Two pieces of boozy baba were surrounded by a mountain of vanilla gelato (which tasted like and had the consistency of clotted cream). The perfect end to a perfect evening.

Piccola pasticceria – orange cherries in cherry liquor, sugared red & green grapes, sugar-coated rose petals and angel cake cube
orange cherries in cherry liquor, sugared red & green grapes, sugar-coated rose petals and angel cake cube
As if I could eat anymore, we got a plate of little treats to finish with. Despite all the sugar, nothing was too sweet. I loved the rose petals which were crunchy but not overly floral. The boozy cherries were very nice too.

We paid 150 for my taster menu, Jake’s three courses, two drinks, two bottles of water and a bottle of wine (and tip) – more than reasonable. This was the only place in Italy which didn’t include service charge, which I thought was incredible – but I’m glad as it let me give what I thought the meal was worth and the staff deserved.

And I’ll leave you with Jake’s meal, he ordered from the a la carte menu – and wrote little captions in my notebook... someone’s watched too much Masterchef (ha).

Carpaccio of beef with asparagus, served with mango, parmesan and a passion fruit drizzle – a very fresh dish; a good contrast of flavours
Carpaccio of beef with asparagus, served with mango, parmesan and a passion fruit drizzle
Chicken breast in filo pastry – grilled chicken in a hay bale of string-like pastry. Served with dehydrated vegetable chips and pickled beetroot
Chicken breast in filo pastry
Veal in a cereal crust – expertly cooked, with finely diced potatoes, side salad and mustard dressing. One word: incredible!
Veal in a cereal crust
I hope I’ve not made you too hungry and if you've got this far, thank you and well done!

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