Via XX Settembre number 50 Colle di Val D'Elsa SIENA - ITALY
Arnolfo has been one of my favourite restaurants since the first time I came here about seven years ago. This is …Rating:
Arnolfo has been one of my favourite restaurants since the first time I came here about seven years ago. This is now my third visit, and it was once again a lifetime experience. I don’t want to sound as if I am gushing, nor do I want to sound as if I have not much to compare it with, therefore making grandiose and sweeping commentary because of some sort of naivety. This place is just incredibly special. It also has two Michelin stars, so I am not the only one who thinks so either.
Two brothers, Giovanni and Gaetono Trovato, run the restaurant. Gaetono is the chef and the Giovanni is the front of house and a sort of visual director of the space. We had a wonderful conversation with Giovanni, who is elegant, warm, and incredibly knowledgeable about the area, the food, and the wine.
The room is a blank canvas, with touches of colour beaming from the bright orange handmade glasses and plates from Berlin. There are beautifully picked lush bouquets of flowers on each table, and two stunning Parisian chandeliers commanding elegance over the room. The restaurant is small and cosy at the same time, almost making one feel like they are a guest in a grand home somewhere in Tuscany. The attention to detail and simple style of the décor lends itself to showcasing the art of which is the meal.
An elegant array of bread and cheese sticks arrive, alongside two miniature onion and tomato foccacia tarts. The amuse bouche was a tiny cone made of flour and water and stuffed with a smooth broccoli crème and an elegant whisper of anchovy butter, then dipped in poppy seeds, imitating a doll’s ice cream cone. A wonderful thing to ponder as you tasted something entirely different. A gentle neutral opening to what lied ahead.
Tiny little plates started to appear beautifully displaying the food in various shapes and sizes. A raspberry prawn and celery salad in one, balanced with a dash of salt to bring out the sweetness of the berries, proving to be an excellent combination. There was a small sliver of John Dory, served with Artichoke cream puree, a tiny infant artichoke, and artichoke jelly all placed perfectly on a neat square cheese cracker. A sublime portrait of the power of the artichoke. The textures and flavours were soft, subtle, and perfectly balanced.
Then there came a delicate chicken leg with crispy skin and its jus, served with a very nutty leek puree and crispy fried rice. A delicious combination of sticky, soft, and creamy.
Next came a sublime little plate, which consisted of a crispy skinned Angel fish, chickpea puree, a fried squid ink rice cracker and tiny fried capers. A gift for your mouth.
…and this was only the beginning.
We “started” with the tiger prawns, which were injected with caviar in a line down the centre of the body. It was served with a cuttlefish croquette bursting with its ink as it melted into your mouth. Underneath the prawns were neon green swirls of pea puree creating a dish that looked like some sort of pornographic painting. It was daintily spotted with fresh peas, sugar snap pea pods, and little swirls of pea tendrils. Everything adding up to a delicate symphony. A dish that will live in my mind and mouth for a very long time.
We also had the Suckling Pig, which was essentially pork three ways. In Tuscany they are famous for the quality of their acorn fed pork, and this was certainly an excellent example. There was a perfectly squared piece of pork belly with crackling skin, a small piece of the rack, and a bit of the shoulder with dots of baked prosciutto. To garnish, a trio of Jerusalem artichoke. First pickled and diced to add texture and background, and then to carry on, a puree, and then fried into crispy delicate chips. The artichoke felt like a perfume for the pork, enhancing it and making the flavours more graceful and romantic. There was also something so simple about the dish, but gleaming with beauty, like a gorgeous woman without makeup standing in a crowd.
Next came a saffron risotto, looking, well, like a cadmium yellow painted ear on a sparkling platter. Three quinoa crusted langoustines stood proudly at the centre of the dish. There was a hint of foie gras throughout, used almost like a cheese. Tiny delicate leaves of herbs dotted the dish as if they were new sprouts growing from the earth of the risotto. A harmonious and daring ensemble, the texture and contrasting stages of smooth, crunchy, and creamy creating a sensual feeling as it went into your mouth.
To continue, A Lobster, which was straight sliced and glazed with lemon syrup and lobster oil. It was nestled on a bed of Foie Gras, which was then blanketed by a rich and creamy potato soup-like sauce. There were hints of ginger, which created an interesting contrast in combination with the lemon confit. Alongside the dish, as if there could possibly be anymore added, there was a lobster tartar topped with a fried foie gras croquette. There was something so intensely graceful about the dish, yet at the same time, passionate and alluring, combining rich decadence with striking elegance.
To finish, we tried a variety of tuscan meats. The dishes were presented like tapas (but from somewhere from above) and they worked with each other to create a fascinating swirl of flavours, colours, and concepts. There was a veal loin delicately placed beneath white and green asparagus and fragrant sweet veal jus. It was held together with a puree of white beans, framing it softly. There was a veal tartar, with an array of pickled vegetables and passion fruit. Painterly stripes of primary colored powders lined the plate to dip at your will and season for yourself. And finally, the beef cheek. A heavenly meltingly creamy chunk of beef that could easily be your last taste on earth. It was simply placed on top of a bed white bean puree and jus.
Arnolfo is an experience one can never forget. I consider myself lucky to have experienced such a pinnacle of haute cuisine. A special thank you to the Trovato brothers for giving all of us such an incredible experience.