Review: Bruneau

16 December 2017

I got up feeling ropey, probably not helped by all the idiocy that was yesterday. The dinner at Sea Grill certainly didn’t help. And it was pissing down outside… I spent some time visiting the Cathedral of St Michael & Gudula, which for some reason had ridiculously kitchy and ugly nativity scenes BLOCKING centuries old relics and artwork that people wanted to see. I ended up being on the recieving end of complaints from an irate French tourist about how the crap is covering up the art — she thought I was a church employee…

Now when French tourists are complaining…

I left the church shaking my head, more frustrated about this disfunctional city in a disfunctional country. Many of the other sights I had less interest in, all keeping mind that so much of Brussels is built on atrocities committed by those under the greed of Leopold II

Oh well, enough pontificating. I wandered around more and eventually headed to lunch. Today my destination is the venerable Bruneau, the most classic of all Brussels eateries. Chef Jean-Pierre Bruneau, who opened the restaurant in 1975, has seen the dining world change beyond his wildest dreams (or nightmares) over the decades. He got his Michelin star here in 1977, and got his 3rd star in 1988. Then it’s gone down, losing one star in 2004 and the second in 2010. As of the end of 2017, it remained a 1-Michelin restaurant, and some of the reviews I read online were not very pleasant…

It’s old school in many ways. I got there and was first to be seated. However it filled up pretty quickly, all with locals. Service was smooth, unlike last night’s disaster. I ordered and relaxed with a glass of wine. Then Chef Bruneau came out to say hello, and it was an honour to shake the old master’s hand. He seemed pretty relaxed.

I enjoyed sipping on my wine when the first amuse bouche arrived, which was worrisome…

AB1-waffles

These “waffles” are supposed to be ham and cheese? Where’s the ham? Hmmm. I’m starting to worry and remembering some of the reviews I’ve read about the place recently… Then the next set of amuse was somewhat calming…

AB2-cod fritter brulee duck mousse

Not a bad set, which included a cod fritter, duck mousse and a mushroom brûlée. Again, pretty ordinary stuff, but at least the flavours came out okay. Let’s see what comes with the items I ordered…

01-smoked fish mosaic

The starter was the smoked fish mosaic, which featured jellied smoked eel and salmon. This was actually quite delicious, the jelly working perfectly between the two distinct smoked items. I wish the horseradish was a bit stronger, but overall a good dish. Then after a little break, and more wine, we get the main.

02-civet de lièvre

Oh my, this was a proper civet de lièvre, something I’ve not had in ages. Jugged hare is an acquired taste for many, but I enjoy it…even if it upsets people. Hey, I’m a bunny lover too, but again, as I’ve said enough times, I compartmentalise. But this was delicious and rich, classic cuisine done very well. Bloody good…and yes, that was me being punny.

I am far happier today for lunch than last night’s mess. This is old school in its most old school, but frankly it works. Then the dessert appeared, and I smiled…

03-chocolate cake

As a non-dessert person, I loved this. A very rich dark chocolate cake, not too sweet, just perfect. Again, old school done perfectly good. A really nice lunch!

Frankly the fact this lunch cost about a quarter of last night’s dinner says plenty. Excellent efficient service, solid classic cooking, what more can you want? I thanked the staff and headed out pretty satisfied. Pissing down outside, which brought me back to reality that I’m in bloody Brussels…

Bruneau
Broustinlaan-Avenue Broustin 73-75
Brussel-Bruxelles, België-Belgique

* I didn’t find out until way after this meal that Chef Bruneau was calling it a day and closing up this January…sad, but probably expected. I’m glad to have visited this legendary venue and being able to thank the master personally. I think this quote from Bruneau sums everything up well: “c’est une question d’habitude. Il y a des gens qui se lèvent le matin en étant déjà fatigués. Dans la génération actuelle, les gens veulent en faire le moins possible. Je ne sais pas après quoi les gens courent.”

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Microcosm of Brussels Miserableté — Review: Sea Grill

15 December 2017

I left Kraków frustrated by not just some mediocre food, but just infrastructure issues. The annoying thing about discount airlines, of which Brussels Airlines is basically a glorified version of one, is that they keep costs low by not using jetbridges. This makes airports feel like bus stations…so bloody annoying… Kraków Airport has all the modern facilities, but it’s got a fleet of buses because airlines like Ryanair are so damn hcheap…

An annoying flight to Brussels, and more chaos there. There we were connected to a jetway, but — Sod’s Law strike again — it was broken. So we had to go down some hazardous stairs to a waiting bus. The bus sped through the airport, nearly colliding with other vehicles several times…absolutely NO caution being used here. The bus took us to an area that required another 10 minutes of walking to get to the baggage area…WTF… And of course, it took another half hours for the bags to come out.

Brussels is just such a fucking mess…and you wonder why people find it symbolic with the EU’s own disfunctionality… As much as I hate the concept of Brexit, you deal with this and you start to think about it…

Eventually I hopped onto the train and had to help a few foreign tourists lost. We rolled into Noordstation and I headed for the short walk to my hotel, constantly being reminded how shitty the area around the station is… Checked in and had a nice room, but had to get ready for dinner already due to the idiotic airport delay…

I walked into the centre and got to my dinner destination, the 2-Michelin Sea Grill. I got there and was led to a nice table. They tried to push some champagne on me but I declined, and they left the menu there. Within a short time, just as I was planning to order a cocktail, the amuse started arriving already. First up some mackerel, which was a bit meh…

AB1-mackerel

Looked good, but really tasteless — which is sad, because it’s one of my favourite fish in the world. This was just…no other words to describe it…but that onomatopoeic utterance of mediocrity… The second was salmon…

a

Even blander, if you can believe it…not boding well for this night’s dinner. And I felt so rushed as they quickly asked if I was ready to order…I had barely looked at the menu, but was a little puzzled why both tasting menus had so many similarities — including a main course that I really wasn’t interested in. So I decided to order ala carte…and my eyes nearly popped out at the prices. Oh well… I ordered and asked for them to pair the wines.

I relaxed, and thank goodness they brought out the first wine early on, so I had something to sip on. But the service seems a mess here. This seems as messed up as the service in France as I had a flashback to that ridiculous night at Le Chantecler in Nice… But soon the starter arrived…

01a-burning prawn

The prawn was set ablaze in Auchentochan apparently, and that goes with a plate that contains foie and mushrooms. Not bad, though the flavour of the whisky did not really go into the prawn; the left pix you can see wee bit of the flame, the right is it “done” a bit… One thing that annoyed me is that one of the slices of mushroom is glazed in edible gold. WHY?!?! Sigh…

The paired wine worked and it was pretty tasty, but frankly really cannot justify the price for this dish. It all went into the stupid golden mushroom… They brought out a different wine for the main course and that was a nice one too. Then the dish appeared…

02a-crab with rice

Mmmm, a simple tasting of crab, which was excellent. A bit of rice along the side, and it worked out well. Stupid expensive for what little was done to it, but it was delicious. I slowly worked on it and when my wine finished it took ages to get my server’s attention — which he proceeded to pour the WRONG wine into the glass…and did it so quickly he didn’t see me starting to protest. Ugh…what shitty service is this?

The wine was from the first course, so it wasn’t bad, but this is unprofessional. I finished the nice dish, just as I polished off the rice. This was good enough. I relaxed a little before the pre-dessert arrived…

PreD-marshmallow

Hmmm…this marshmallow tasted like when you have a mushroom cap that you left in the fridge for too long, and it’s partly dehydrated and crusty. This was awful…just awful. I told them I didn’t want a dessert wine as I’ve had about enough of this place. Once my dessert hits I’m out of here. And here it is, and I screamed in my head again…

03-mango

The mango is mango, but WHY ALL THIS FUCKING EDIBLE GOLD? IS THIS WHAT I AM PAYING FOR?!?!?! I removed all the edible gold and nicked bits of it that I could eat, and just asked for the bill. The number was ridiculous, one of the most expensive meals of this trip…ridiculous.

I headed out unhappy and the service head greeted me as I left. If I wasn’t so annoyed with everything today I may have just thanked him and went, but I decided to stop and give him my two cents on what went wrong this evening. From the wrong wine to the ridiculous edible gold, I just went all out. He seemed ashen when I was done…

I’m sorry, this is not what I consider fine dining. Poor service, crazily overpriced, mediocre cooking, and just a ridiculous overuse of edible gold. This is EXACTLY why I’m this close to being done with Michelin-starred places, especially in this part of Europe.

What a shitty day and night…just glad it’s fucking over…

Sea Grill
Wolvengracht-Rue du Fossé aux Loups 47
Brussel-Bruxelles, België-Belgique

* And OF COURSE, it wouldn’t end there. Went for a nitecap at my hotel bar and the bartender had such a ridiculous attitude I nearly abandoned my glass of wine… This damn disfunctional town, especially during the weekends…

Kraków’s One Shining Star — Review: Copernicus

13 December 2017

Of my trip to Kraków, where the food was somewhere between mediocre and poor, there was one bright star in all the touristy-driven mess — Copernicus. This high-class hotel restaurant clearly chose the other direction, shooting for quality instead of quantity. I had dinner here my second night — and it was a fantastic evening.

I made the walk across Kraków’s stunning Old Town that second evening, enjoying the sights glowing by night lighting; remember sunset here in December is around 4pm. I got to Copernicus and immediately I see a smoothly-run service, a delight from my experience here so far.

I sat at the table and quickly a well-made martini I ordered arrived…ah, I can relax now… I looked over the menu and decided to go with the 7-course tasting tonight. They didn’t do a wine pairing per se, and I was keen on doing something local…yes, Poland makes quality wines now. You can blame global warming, but it’s here. With the varied stuff on the menu, I went with a rosé.

I relaxed and as I finished with my martini the first amuse arrived — based on cucumber.

AB1-cucumber

Nicely done, a crispy yet light citrusy base with a little bit of salmon. Really nice. Then the second amuse…

AB2-shrimp

Also nice, another light yet tasty tomato broth with chickpeas and shrimp. Good balance. This put me at so much ease after the mess the night before at Pod Aniołami! Plus, that rosé worked perfectly well so far with these two items. Service has been smooth, and — just to test them a bit — I asked them to do the food description in both English and Polish. I do this at places like the fabulous Ö in Tallinn to keep them at their toes, as most of the time they work in English.

As I nibbled on some bread and sipped at my lovely wine my first item appeared — tasting of beets.

01-beets

I love beets, so this was a pleasure to see. Lovely quality beets here, though the pumpkin was a little understated. Again, perfect with this wine. Good start. Next up, smoked goose.

02-smoked goose

The goose is lovely, perfect texture and smoky taste. The cranberry gelato was a nice touch, though the foie didn’t quite work here. But overall a good dish. Next up, veal tongue.

3

Good dish again, the grains adding some interesting texture to the tender tongue, with plum being the flavour here that balanced it all out. Not bad, sorry for the bad photo. Then we have the consommé.

04-mushroom consommé

They were very proud of this dish, a consommé of wild forest mushrooms. And they should be, as it was deep and rich, earthy to the core as you would want in a strong mushroom soup. Excellent. I’m enjoying this meal quite a bit today. Then next up, cod from the Baltic Sea.

05-cod_edited

I’m usually not a great fan of cod (fresh or smoked), but this was excellent. One of the best cod I’ve had in years to be honest. Perfectly cooked meat, full of flavour. Love the wee sprouts here too. Excellent dish, best dish of the night.

I was pretty happy and frankly the service, despite the place adding a few more tables, did not slack at all. I had just finished my rosé, perfect timing, and they brought out a wee palate cleanser and they poured me a generous glass of red as we have the final savoury dish — venison.

06a-venison

Good stuff, you can taste the venison for once. Too much venison we get these days are farmed, and this one is clearly from the wild. Lovely taste, though the texture was a little mushy as they can be. Anyway, pretty good close to this series.

07-cottage cheese

After a small pre-dessert the main item arrived, cottage cheese with orange glaze. Really nice, light and delicious. Worked well with the nice vodka I ordered. A rather lovely dinner to be honest. I stayed for a little while having a few more drinks and chatting with the staff, as this turned out to be a surprisingly good oasis in this food-challenged town.

I thanked them and headed out eventually for the long walk back to my hotel — which is much needed after all this food and drink. If Kraków is ever going to join Warsaw on the Michelin list, this is a candidate to get the first mention. The service is already good enough for a star, and a little push on the food could get them there. I hope they keep at it instead of dumbing down for the ShitAdvisor-style tourists that flood this town.

A pleasant surprise!

Copernicus
Kanonicza 16
Kraków, Polska

Has the Food Improved in 20 Years? Case Study: Kraków…

12-14 December 2017

I flew out of Venice for the first time, having always arrived by land, ironically taking a boat to the airport. Nothing too exciting as I got to Kraków after the short flight. The last time I was in Kraków was in 1994…

I was excited to see how much have changed in over 20 years, but of course when I got to the airport train station I was greeted with a sign proclaiming massive cuts in service due to works… I didn’t want to wait an hour for the next train, and the directions for the replacement bus service was ambiguous at best, so I reluctantly took a taxi…and got caught in a messy traffic jam…

Got my my hotel far later than planned, so today was pretty much shot. I haven’t eaten all day, so I was hungry. I had booked ahead at a place that is know for their roast meats, Pod Aniołami. I knew I would be hungry as I would have not eaten all day, so I am looking forward to a good and filling meal.

I got there and was led to a busy basement dining room. Steps are rather hazardous, especially for heads…I’m not that tall, and I already nearly decapitated myself… My server came to take my order and I blinked twice…this young man had the WORST BODY ODOUR I’ve smelled in years… Goodness, why not use some deodorant? This was really foul…so I ordered quicker than I had planned, just to get him away…ugh…

He brought me my glass of wine and I had thought I should have just gotten a bottle so he didn’t need to keep coming by, but too late now. I relaxed and listened to the inane conversations from several other tables. One of the fun things in these environments is to simultaneously follow 4 bad conversations in English, German, French and Italian… Then my first item arrived.

a-1-cep cream soup

This mushroom cream soup wasn’t bad, but with the interior utterly boiling it was just way too hot… But I was hungry so I finished it quickly. Then next up we have some pierogi…

a-2-venison pierogi

Ugh, it’s never good to have bad pierogi in Poland. Not easy to do, but Pod Aniołami has managed it. I don’t care if it was venison inside, it was just not good. Plus it seems like it sat around, as they all had different temperatures… Piss poor this… I wasn’t too enthusiastic at this point. Plus, the horrible body odour of the server was starting to make me retch each time he came by… I had already lost my appetite by the time my main course came, and I knew I made a mistake…

a-3-porchetta

I had ordered the roast pork, and this was basically a cross section of a log that should have been put in the fireplace. Just awful. I abandoned it and asked for the bill…while trying not to breathe… I got myself out of there. What a disastrous evening of dining!

I was too tired to go anywhere else, so I just walked back to the hotel and got myself some sleep. I had a long day the next day up at Wawel, getting there as it opened in the morning. Sadly the Cathedral has maintained their no-photo policy inside, so there was little reason to go down to the crypt again since the only addition since my last visit is something I’m not very happy with… And goodness, why so many goons around enforcing the no-photo policy?

I ended up going to the smaller, less-visited Salwator Cemetery towards the west. One of the more prominent individuals buried there is the great Andrzej Wajda, who had passed only a year earlier. Then I headed back via tram towards the centre and headed to lunch.

My lunch stop was at a place called Morskie Oko, a kitchy place much like last night’s destination — albeit with a Tatra feel (Morskie Oko is a large mountain lake up on the Tatras). Less overheated, but another hazardous cellar restaurant. The decor is…well…let’s just say there’s a giant working water wheel in the cavernous basement dining room…

I ordered my lunch and had a beer to relax. Already a bit frustrated with Kraków to be honest… Soon the food arrived, and first up was some kaszanka

b-1-kaszanka

Okay, now finally something good. Done nice and rustic, with quite a good amount of smoked bacon within the black pudding goodness. Love this, something I eat every time I’m in Poland. A good start, a pleasant surprise after last night’s disaster. But the service was shaky, probably not helped as the restaurant was nearly totally empty… Eventually my main course arrived…

b-2a-mutton

Roast mutton, but probably just lamb. A bit overcooked, but far, far better than last night’s porcine mess. Not bad, with a good side of beets. Just the right amount of food. I was pretty happy when I was done, but I had to get up to hunt down my server, who was just playing with his phone. Sigh…

This all reminds me of the region’s biggest cities back in the 1990s, like Warsaw or Tallinn. Terrible service, kitchy tourist traps with shaky food. How Kraków is managing this is in 2017 is beyond me, but probably due to the general lack of business tourists compare to the dregs that remind me of cruise tourists towns in Alaska

I headed out satisfied, not happy, but satisfied. An afternoon of book shopping and I headed to my dinner at the best restaurant in town, Copernicus. I’ll chronicle this in a full review next, but needless to say it was light years ahead of anything else in town. I went to bed happy that night.

The next day was another early morning as I spent the morning exploring the historic Rakowicki Cemetery. Again, unseasonably warm in Kraków, so I was actually a little sweaty after the 3-hour trek through this large cemetery. I headed back towards the centre and made my way to my lunch destination today, Jarema.

I’ve heard some good things about this place, which focuses on Kresy cousine. My server came to take my order and was extremely efficient, bringing my drink very quickly. I relaxed a little for this late lunch, as only a few tables lingered. She returned soon after and the first dish we start with galareta

c-1-aspic

A good, rustic aspic starter. I love this. Some find jellied meat unpleasant, but I love it — especially a rich, meaty one like this. A nice start for sure. My excellent server was quick to remove and bring my main course, the pork tenderloin.

c-2-pork tenderloin

This is an interesting dish, a paprika-laden cream sauce that has a stroganoff feel about, which worked well with the large helping of kasza. Nice and filling, really good. The nice server was extremely efficient even though I see the staff having their family meal, so I thanked her and headed out happy. Good stuff.

Had a bit of logistics to deal with and some packing, so spent most of the late afternoon in the hotel. I see the airport train was still not running right, so had to work out something else. Then headed out to dinner, the only night that I didn’t make a booking…

And that was a mistake. The first 3 places I walked into all rejected me, although they didn’t look full. All said they were booked solid. A winter Thursday night? Sigh… So after the fails I found a place called Pijarska 17 that was booming with tourists but managed to squeeze me in.

I then happily ordered, and my server brought me my bottle of wine. A nice local red…yes, Poland’s wine industry is really growing and it’s got quality now. Server seemed a bit overwhelmed with all the tourists around, and at one point I asked her why she kept speaking English to me when I always replied in Polish — she said with so many tourists it was hard to keep track. From that point on we conversed in Polish, which made both of us smile.

I enjoyed that red before my starter arrived, some traditional Polish herring…

d-1-Śledź

As someone who lived on the Baltic Sea for many years, this is such a usual thing to have. Always good, always makes me homesick. Enjoyed that. Then soon the main arrived, beef tongue.

d-2a-tongue

Meh, tho a generous portion. The sauce wasn’t really needed, but all of it wasn’t bad. The place was still hopping and I see others waiting for a table, so I finished my bottle of red and thanked my server. I ended up chatting with some of her colleagues at the door as they heard us speaking, and was pleasantly surprised to be able to speak Polish this evening (as was I). A nice close to this trip, even if the food was mediocre.

Well, clearly Kraków is nowhere near Warsaw when it comes to food. These 4 meals I had were somewhere between piss poor and good, but mostly mediocre at best. Jarema was by far the best, Morskie Oko not bad. But Pod Aniołami was just a bloody disaster that represents the worst of tourist traps…

I just wish Kraków can move beyond this kind of establishment that caters to the Ryanair-flying, ShitAdvisor-reading types, and grow up a bit. Not easy to do, but it can be done. Lots of promise here, since the city definitely gets the visitor numbers, but it needs help. And it needs locals dining out, which is what really changes the market.

But sadly the conclusion is that the food in Kraków has not improved much in 20 years, and it’s light years behind Warsaw in that (and so many) departments…

Oh well, time to go. Sadly my next destination is…Brussels…ugh…

Pod Aniołami
Grodzka 35

Morskie Oko
Plac Szczepański 8

Jarema
Plac Jana Matejki 5

Pijarska 17
Pijarska 17
Kraków, Polska

Review: Al Vecio Bragosso

11 December 2017

I knew my luck was gonna turn at some point. You can’t spend 2 days in Venice without things going pear-shaped… I spent the afternoon exploring more churches, but so many of them have such utterly ridiculous lunch hours…they are worse than the old Eastern Bloc “sanitary hours” for goodness sakes. One church was closed from 11am to 4pm! What kind of utterly stupid hours are those???

So many of the churches on my target turned out to be me banging not a hammer to nail a letter to the door, but banging my head in frustration… Oh well. Thank goodness for that fabulous lunch at Osteria da Alberto, or else today would have been totally shot… I ended up doing some book-shopping instead. Again, doing it all in Italian, always fun to discuss Italian regional history with the bookmonger and her cute shop-cat. Cats love me…

I had to do some packing, so went back to deal with that and all the joys of online check-in and stuff that is much better done without running down my quickly-draining roaming data allowance… You EU folks really have no bloody idea how problematic this is for everyone else. You Brits are gonna learn soon…

Dinner tonight is quite close to my hotel. Again, this hotel (Ca’ d’Oro) is fantastic, highly recommended! I headed out in the light rain and arrived at Al Vecio Bragosso. I was a little nervous about this place as it’s on a busy road and is one of the busiest of places in Cannaregio. I’ve been having good luck with small places the last 3 meals, and this was one of those that everyone goes to…

I got there and I almost started to regret it already. You can tell this is a place that caters to only tourists, and no locals come here… I took my table and ordered a nice bottle of local red…which you can’t do wrong, thank goodness. I ordered and chilled out… After a little my starter arrived, and I sighed…

01-cappalunghe

Cappalunghe (razor clams), but sadly overcooked… Really sandy, and so dry… Piss poor, to be honest… I guess my luck has run out… I slowly finished these and my disinterested server just took them away… This is the Venice I dislike… Then the first appears in a little while…

02-Tagliatelle

Tagliatelle with porcini and scallops. Not bad, pasta done very well. Not as good as lunch at Osteria da Alberto for sure, but it’s good. This relaxed me quite a lot, as things may not be as bad as I feared. I had to force my server to use Italian as they are so used to speaking English to tourists…

Finished the pasta and drank faster than usual, not helped by an idiotic conversation I’m hearing from the next table full of confused academics (are there any other type?). Then my second arrived, and it was huge…

03-mixed grill

A nice mixed grill of seafood here, again a good selection. Some of it unfortunately was overcooked again, like the antipasto. But does its job well. Again, nowhere as good as the stuff Boccadoro did, but it’s filling. This is clearly the least good of the 4 meals in Venice, but after a hat trick you gotta get blanked sooner than later…

Oh, and a rather sad (yet pricey) vegetable side… I finished the plate and also finished up my wine and for some reason I opted for a dessert…

04-carrot chicory cake

A rather good carrot and chicory cake. It was actually the best thing all night… I had my usual grappa and espresso and headed out. This was the most expensive food of the 2 days here and the least impressive. I should have heeded my own warnings, but oh well…

I wandered around a little before I went back to my hotel. The temperature has risen dramatically today into the evening, going from below freezing to over +10c, so I had about enough myself. Anyway, not a great way to close off Venice, but that’s the breaks. I’d give this one a pass, folks…

But overall, Venice had treated me (for once) quite well.  Off to Poland tomorrow…

Al Vecio Bragosso
Strada Nova 4386, Cannaregio
Venezia, Italia

Review: Osteria da Alberto

11 December 2017

I slept well after that nice Boccadoro dinner, and it’s surprisingly quiet here in Cannaregio with the windows open. Woken up by church bells, I was ready to go. The jetlag is dissipating a little, so that’s always good. But for some reason I just felt sluggish… I headed out to explore several key churches, though it was a little annoying so many of them were not lit at all just because it was Monday morning…

After a bit more exploring, I headed back to my hotel quickly to do some logistics for my trip out tomorrow. Then I headed out to lunch at a place not far away called Osteria da Alberto.

This is actually a standing bar in front, very popular with locals grabbing a quick drink and snack. But there were a few tables in back, and being early I got one of them. A simple menu, and I knew quickly what I wanted. I ordered and relaxed. Soon a nice half bottle of local red appeared. I sipped it slowly before the antipasto arrived…

01-folpetti

Mmm, folpetti, a real Venetian delicacy. These baby octopi, with all its innards, are just delicious. The joy of good folpetti is the insides…mmm… Can’t get these things anywhere else, so I was so happy to have it after 16 years! A great start! I enjoyed a bit more wine before the first arrived…

02-spaghetti neri

Oh my this may be one of the best pasta dishes I’ve ever had… A humble spaghetti with ink done absolutely perfectly, with cuts of seppioline. Just lovely, simple and honest, done to absolute perfection. I was just loving this… And my server smiled seeing me finish this, and dropped off some wet-wipes as she cleared my dish. This is excellent service, since ink is ink after all…

I’ve done well to not leave a mark on my white (!!!) shirt eating ink spaghetti, but that’s just experience! I enjoyed more wine and jokingly asked my server if there was still visible ink on my face. As much as my Italian is functional but nowhere near fluent, I enjoy these moments of banter… Not long after, as I sipped on more wine, the second appeared…

03-fritto misto

A huge plate of fritto misto here. Again, a good selection, perhaps even better than in Trieste the other day at Nerodiseppia. Here you have quite a nice selection of crustaceans, and all fried in-shell. Harder to do right, far better tasting. Lots of nice dish under this too. A lovely and filling selection!

A third excellent meal in a row in Venice, what is going on? Am I actually liking this place? Maybe because it’s winter? Who knows, but I’m on a lucky streak with this hat trick so far, so I’m not jinxing it. I thanked my server and headed out, extremely happy with yet another good lunch!

Highly recommended, and so is booking ahead!

Osteria da Alberto
Calle Giacinto Gallina 5401, Cannaregio
Venezia, Italia

Review: Boccadoro

10 December 2017

After that excellent lunch at Vini da Gigio (the crudo, the pasta, the eel…oh my…), I had to walk it off. So I headed to the vaporetto again and headed out to San Michele to visit the unique cemetery there. Lovely ride out to the cemetery island on this early Sunday afternoon.

I explored the historic cemetery over the next few hours, visiting some quite important figures such as composing great Igor Stravinsky. But most importantly, I came to find the grave of US diplomatic legend and son of Ithaca, New York (where I lived for 4 years), Eugene Schuyler. Schuyler, for all his amazing accomplishments, was a hero to Bulgarians by his vigorous publicising of Turkish atrocities against its Bulgarian population, which in turn led to the eventualy independence of modern Bulgaria. And in a more personal way, Schuyler also had the odd distinction of being the final US Consul in Tallinn (then Reval), my adopted “home town” before the scandalous Grant Administration closed the legation due to cost-cutting (you can read more here from a piece I wrote earlier this year for Up North e-magazine).

Unfortunately, with the same tourism hoardes you get in the centre of Venice, you get some of them in San Michele too. I found a bunch of moronic English-speaking youngsters walking on top of graves, and I told them off. They acted like they didn’t care, but clearly did not want a confrontation with an angry, bearded fellow English speaker; one came back later to apologise to me, so at least one of them had a bloody conscience. I bet this episode ended up on social media with them cussing me out…fucking millennials…

Anyway, I headed back after another hour of wandering just as the sun was starting to set. Got to my hotel and unpacked and chilled out a little, just to see the clouds break and it starting to piss down pretty hard. It was just above the freezing mark, so it was just wet as hell. I zoomed out in the damp night and headed to my dinner destination, Boccadoro.

I had found this place doing research into places in Cannaregio, choosing to focus on this area for this entire trip’s eating, and again the menu looked good. I was hoping as good of a meal as lunch.

I got to Boccadoro and was seated quickly. They asked whether I liked an apertif and they suggested their house Negroni, so went with that. I dried off a little and just as I was looking at the menu it came.

Negroni

Pretty good, a nice large glass that worked well as the interior heat was pretty strong… The restaurant was not very busy, with only half of it occupied on this nasty Sunday night. I reckon most tourists stayed close to their hotels further south, or the Italian tourists have gone home after the long weekend. Nevertheless some excellent service and I ordered and chilled.

I kept sipping at the Negroni and was just finishing it when my antipasto arrived… Sorry for the shadows in the photo, but oh my…

01-antipasto

Slightly different from lunch as this selection was cotto, this was yet another wonderful example of local seafood… Got another nice cannocchia here, as well as some excellent crab, scallops and baby octopus. As lovely as lunch, fantastic stuff!

In the meantime my server opened up a bottle of Lagrein, one of my favourite wines. Again, cooler than room temperature, just the way I like it. Worked so well with the seafood… I’m shocked, I’m actually enjoying eating in Venice? I finished the antipasto and chilled out with a smile. Then after a few minutes with my lovely wine, the first appeared…

02-gnocchetti

Apparently I didn’t get my fill of gransevola (spider crab) from the antipasto so here it is with gnocchetti. Quite filling, though I wish the crab stood out a little more. Not as good as the first from lunch, but still good. I enjoyed the wine immensely and then the second made its appearance, San Pietro…

03a-San Pietro

Mmm, it may not look like much (sorry, the angle didn’t help), but this was a delicious John Dory. Meaty and flavourful, cooked perfectly. Lovely artichokes here too (they had run out of zucchini flowers, and I happily accepted this substitution). A wonderful close!

At this point I was having fun, so I ordered a dessert. I finished off my wine at this point when the sweet dish arrived…

04a-5 chocolate mousse

Mmm, chocolate… This was actually a mousse made of 5 different types of chocolate. So rich and delicious… A wonderful closing number! I ended up chatting with the server a bit, all in Italian of course; in fact the entire 3 days in Italy the only English I used were at the hotels… At least 1 set of foreign tourists dining found it curious to see 2 Asian-looking folks conversing in Italian…

Anyway, my server brought over a special grappa for me (in a huge magnum!) and I enjoyed two of them and a double espresso before I headed out into the downpour. I thanked my server, threw my hoodie over my head (yeah, yeah…), and headed into the dark wet night. Venice, you are surprising me, pleasantly for once… Again, much recommended. That antipasto

Boccadoro
Calle Larga Widmann 5405/a, Cannaregio
Venezia, Italia