This week is amazing – it started in a very special way – with a fabulous dinner at the Bulgari hotel in London. It was a great pleasure being invited to join a selected group of guests for a dinner cooked by Luca Fantin, the executive chef of the Bulgari hotel in Tokyo, who visited London in the occasion of the launch of his book.
Luca is Italian and he calls his cuisine Italian, even if it is so much more – it is a cuisine with a very strong personal signature developed slowly from the moment when he moved to Tokyo. His cuisine which was at the beginning created with the ingredients imported from Italy, started to change after he got acquainted with his new environment discovering that the climate, which is quite similar to Italian, offers wonderful local produce which inspired him to create something unique and very personal.
The first dish of our dinner was raw tuna belly from Ooma-machi with spices and beetroot – a beautiful red composition made of red ingredients which were recreating the colour of tuna. Red onion pickles, beet vinaigrette with raspberry vinegar and a beet jelly made from an infusion of beets, ginger, garlic, onions and red paper.
This was followed by the wild mushroom flan with broth. Mushrooms used for this dish – porcini and chanterelles, which are less known in Japan – were from Mount Fuji. The flan was beautifully creamy and intense, prepared with chicken broth and wild mushrooms. It was steamed and topped with more wild mushrooms and a delicious mushroom consomme which were all together technically simulating a classic Japanese dish but with a very Italian soul – by keeping flavours strongly Italian.
What would be Italian cuisine without pasta? Luca has decided to present the classical Italian ingredient in London through spaghetti Monograno Felicetti with sea urchin. The dish was his version of alla carbonara but made with sea flavour. The sea urchins he was using were from Rishiri, in Hokkaido prefecture, very sweet and meaty, without the acidity and bitterness of the Italian variety. They were also pureed into the sauce which is even more creamy than the one made with eggs and which gives to the dish wonderful flavours of the sea.
The next dish was a surprise – an additional dish which was not part of the original menu. The chef was pampering us with wonderful flavours and perfumes of autumn through a delicious risotto made of Vialone nano rice, cooked with chicken broth and chestnuts and covered with fantastic white Alba truffles.
As the main dish came to the table venison with salsify roots. For this dish Luca Fantin normally uses the Japanese Ezo deer from the North of Japan. In London he used British deer which was a bit drier than the Japanese, so he slightly modified his original recipe to add the missing texture. The beautifully tender and flavoursome meat was served with salsify prepared in three different ways: pureed, fried and in a form of crispy cannoli. The idea of presenting it in two plates was based on separating the main ingredient and the garnish. The elements of the garnish – herbs, root vegetables and red berries – were representing the elements eaten by the deer in his natural habitat.
The dinner concluded a dessert with a very simple name – fresh milk. It looked simple and sounded simple, but it was not at all that simple. It was a very sophisticated utterly delicious creation with a wonderful texture and flavour based on unpasteurized microfiltered milk which was made into a mixture of semifreddo with cream, untoasted pine nuts, milk ice cream and granita. A fantastic finale.
Thank you, Luca Fantin, Andrea Petrini (the curator) and Bulgari hotels for this wonderful Italian-Japanese experience in London.