Osteria Francescana Reinterprets the Classics

A previous post covered Osteria Francescana’s traditional menu. Now it’s time to look at the classic tasting menu. Many of these plates were modern interpretations of classic regional dishes.

Along with Japanese Sous Chef Yoji Tokuyoshi, Chef Massimo Bottura applies some Eastern influence and aesthetics to many of the menu items. A good example is the Aulla Tempura made with Carp and served with a tart savory ice cream. The small sliver of fish is encased by a very light and crispy tempura batter, and the frozen savory cream provided a contrast of textures:

Next was a Saba (a predecessor to Balsamic vinegar) lacquered Adriatic eel. Italy’s longest river, Po, is famous for its eels. As a nod to the traditional version of this regional dish, the fish is served with polenta and grains of salt:

The playfully named Tribute to Thelonious Monk is an example of how an unlikely source like jazz influences the food. In this video on their website, Chef Bottura explains that jazz is all about improvisation and that Monk excels in technical execution. The homage to the master jazz pianist was delivered as a crispy skin black cod served over green onion, celery, carrot and daikon “noodles” in a squid ink katsubushi dashi broth (made with bonito flakes and cod broth). Not sure if it was intentional, but the finished product is visually reminiscent of a piano key:

Along the Po River from Cervia to Modena was a dish that featured local vegetables like leeks and cardoons topped with aromatic black truffle shavings:

Their signature dish, Five Ages of Parmigiano Reggiano in Different Textures and Temperatures, delivered on it’s lengthy description. It was a great way to show off the regional cheese from Parma. Aged from 2 to over 4 years, the 5 different cheeses were served as hot cream, cold gelato, mousse, lacy crisp (frico) and foam forms. Truly unique, this might have been our favorite dish of the evening overall:

Compression of Pasta e Fagioli is Chef Bottura’s tribute to 3 great chefs: Joel Robuchon, Alain Ducasse and Ferran Adria. At the bottom is a Creme Royale made using classical French techniques to create the layer with sausage and foie gras bits. The middle layer contains ingredients typically used in the peasant soup: red radicchio braised in wine, crisp pancetta glazed in the Balsamic Vinegar of Modena and Parmegiana cheese. The layer on top of that is a hot cream sauce made with cannelini beans. Lastly, Ferran Adria is represented by the rosemary foam topping. This was a very upscale, elegant and perfectly balanced modern take of the soup:

Bolito Misto – Not-Boiled captured the essence of the typical Northern Italian boiled meats dish, which is usually served with different sauces (salsa verde, mustard, salt, etc.). The different pork and beef squares, which included pork belly and cotechino sausage, have been cooked sous-vide rather than boiled in order to preserve the full meat flavor:

Coming from California where goose liver is now banned, we were very pleased to get the delicacy in the pasta e fagioli compression and again with this Foie Gras Crunch. The delicious mini liver-pop was coated with hazelnut, almonds and the Traditional Balsamic Vinegar of Modena:

The “Oops! Broken Fruit Pie” dessert was an upside down ‘shattered’ fruit tart with lemon zabaione (sabayon). Served on a specially made plate, it evoked modern art:

As if we had enough room to eat any more, various petite fours were served at the end of the meal. We could only stare at the beautiful plate:

Ranked as the #5 top restaurant of the world, Osteria Francescana definitely would rank in our Top 5 experiences which include dinners at Alinea, Momofuku Ko, Benu and Mugaritz (sadly we never made it to El Bulli).

The intimate setting was very serene with muted grey and cream tones where long stemmed floor to ceiling lamps lit each individual table. With only 3-5 tables in each of the 3 rooms, conversations were quiet enough that it was possible to hear the jazz music playing overhead. The food and service were excellent throughout the meal. Our only regret is that we didn’t have room to eat the ‘experiments from the kitchen’ tasting menu. This just gives us an excuse to return again sometime in the future, and we know we will since Emilia-Romagna remains mostly undiscovered for us.

Note: The BarFlys are vacationing in Italy. SF posts will return soon; in the meantime, please enjoy these travel-related posts.


Related Posts
Fast Cars, Slow Food and 3 Michelin Stars in Modena (Nov. 26, 2012)
Franceschetta 58: Bistro with a Pedigree (Nov. 28, 2012)


4 responses to “Osteria Francescana Reinterprets the Classics

    • Ilaria, thanks for the comment. Some of the portions were bigger than others, and many of them were very rich — there was no lack of cream, butter or some form of fat in almost every dish (no complaints on that front). We even tried to stay away from eating the bread. Maybe the massive bistecca we ate at Buca Lapi the night before was still taking up space.

      • I always wanted to try this restaurant so popular internationally, I know the effort and work that are behind every dish and I know they should be awesome.
        But the thought of those 3 Cotechino cubes (I’m doing an example) compared to those large slices that I could eat at a Trattoria or other restaurants to a lowest price (with the same heavenly papillary level result) has always made me choose differently.
        But I’m very curious and I definetly have to try one day, anyway thanks for those nice pictures, it was like we were there with you!

        • Ilaria, Thank you for the very nice compliment. We understand that this kind of dining is not for everyone — it is a splurge (è costoso) for sure. From your blog, it looks like you are a very good gourmet cook so I am sure your meals at home are just as nice.

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