Food without memory is just digestion

Monday, 11 August 2008

Sprezzatura - L'Estasi

First things first - welcome to Jon, who has joined the ranks of the Eating Out bloggers with his Eating Out in Tokyo with Jon blog. He has a nice touch, and I'm sure you'll enjoy working with him to eat your way through Roppongi and Monzennaka-cho! Good call on Chartreuse, Jon!
I am sure by now, Gentle Reader, that you will have come to appreciate the wildly elegant Italian notion of "sprezzatura" [See the Wikipedia definition]. There is a marvellous book called Sprezzatura: 50 Ways Italian Genius Shaped the World by Peter D'Epiro and Mary Desmond Pinkowish.

Suffice to say that your Humble Correspondent has now given up all worldly ambition in pursuit of this sainted ability to make difficult tasks seem effortless ... my brilliant but risky approach is to exert no effort at all on difficult tasks and hope that people assume a certain negligenza about all I do. I have every expectation of success, and hope to one day sprezzature for Australia on the world stage.

Certain restaurants seem to resonate with sprezzatura in the same way that cats seem to be audaciously indifferent, and L'Estasi [Map] is one of them. The renovation of the former Sadler Estasi - itself a brand extension for the famous Milan 2-star - has paved the way for a reasonably relaxed venue which begs for o-makase much like a sole begs for MeuniƩre (I am sure that people as obviously gifted as you, Gentle Reader, know that meuniƩre means "miller's wife" and refers to the way one dredges the sole with flour before gentling cooking it in salted butter).

Other reviews seem to be relatively neutral or negative to L'Estasi, and I wonder if this is a result of relying too much on the English menu rather than encouraging Chef to have at it with all his might. As explained below in the secondi piece, this restaurant simply excels when left to its own devices.

My recent visit with The Expat (who'd like to reassure you all that there is a delightful tinge of gold in the marble of the mens' rest-room) tossed two lonely summer-bachelors tired of decision-making into the maelstrom of menu meditation. None of it! - we immediately recognized that our waitress was much better equipped to make these decisions and grilled her in Japanese about ingredients, styles, and plating.

We started with the sauteed Fois Gras (T.E.) and Grilled Summer Vegetables (Your Humble Correspondent), which were both well above average. The vegetables were crisp and warm, yet redolent of the garden and full of good nutritional, eat-your-greens-Terry self-satisfaction. Our wine, the very excellent San Gimignano Verdacchia Riserva 2001, was tooting its very special horn. Bravo San Gimignano, and God bless all of your towers!

Our shared Primi was a Ricotta and Parma Ham Calzone - ah, Toscana breezes wafted through what remains of my brain cells. This dish, prepared in the traditional flat style rather than falsely lifted and gastro-gothic, was excellent. Simply, excellent.

On, then, to Secondi. The Expat went for the Veal Marsala straight off the menu. He had failed to appreciate that there was the option to choose the ingredients and style for a variety of main courses (silly boy!). Hmm, a challenge! YHC asked about the 120-day-old veal, was reassured that it was wagyu, and asked for it to be lightly crumbed and gently cooked in a bath of melted butter, and then finished with a lemon sauce. I was trying to replicate a dish I had tasted in a trattoria just outside the walls of the Vatican City which, as I recall, was called Scallopine di Limone.

Time to take a deep breath, Gentle Reader. This dish was the ultimate sprezzatura, turned out with sublime simplicity and almost distainful ease by a very skilled chef. It brought The Expat to his knees, and he claimed the sorry crown of Diners Remorse - the gut-wrenching disappointment one suffers when one realizes that the item on your companion's plate is seriously better than the nonsense in front of oneself.

While dessert was an excellent Mango and Passionfruit Meringue, I was still far too overcome by the Scallopine to really appreciate the luxuriant texture and flavours. But it, too, was excellent and I shall be finding an excuse to try it one more time in the very near future.

Visit L'Estasi with friends and gastronomes, but be sure to push the menu to its furthest edges and don't be afraid to give the excellent kitchen a chance to show just sprezzatura it is.

L'Estasi [Map]: 3rd Fl, Roppongi Hills Keyakizaka-dori Gate Tower, Roppongi 6-11-1; t: 03-5770-4565
Rating: Food: 8; Wine: 7; Service: 8; Ambience: 8; Price: 7 ($$). Total 38/50

1 comment:

Resonate said...

Made me salivate Terry.

Bt what is with the Uniqclock thingy?

I understand the appeal of dancing girls, but post prandial surely, not while I am reading the blog!