Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Review: Al Pont De Ferr, Milano

Al Pont De Ferr
Ripa di Porta Ticinese, 55, Milano
Phone: 0289406277
Prices: medium-high. Appetizers are around 12 Euros, main courses around 20.


There are places where the decor and the food go hand in hand —think steakhouses with dark wooden booths and green carpets or Mexican joints with bright wall hangings and sombreros. And then there are places where by looking at the dining room you'd never imagine what kind of dinner you are going to enjoy. Al Pont De Ferr falls into this second category. From the outside the restaurant is barely visible —a one door, one window facade that overlooks the Ripa di Porta Ticinese canal is hardly something to write home about since it's only one of, let's say, a gazillion establishments on that same street. Once inside it looks like an old osteria, with dark wooden tables, heavy chairs and unexciting and bare white walls. The menu and the food, though, are everything but. Both the quality and the presentation will wow you and your dinner experience will be something in between an actual dinner and a carnival ride. I swear.

See, when it comes to food Al Pont De Ferr's chef works not only as a chef to prepare delicious dishes but also as an illusionist that crafts foods that look like, say, an onion, but are actually made by caramelized sugar and goat cheese. Think I'm kidding? I'm not. Every appetizer on the menu —there are about ten— is pleasantly deceiving like that.
See? This red onion looks like a red onion, but, as I said, it's made of caramelized sugar on the outside and melting, tangy goat cheese on the inside. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is only the beginning. The chef also prepare a "fake egg", made with goat cheese and pumpkin that fooled all of us when it was presented at the table.
Some of the appetizers are slightly less deceiving, but always edgy and unique. The "oyster tree" is one of them. Mounted on a wire sculpture shaped like a tree are some arugula leaves that have been grown near oyster beds and therefore carry a faint oyster flavor. Four raw oysters are minced, mixed with seasonings like you would do to make a tartare and then put back in their shell and topped with a very delicate foam that mellows out the stronger flavor of the oysters.
Main courses, although less visually exciting, are definitely worth a try. The spaghetti with breadcrumbs, anchovies and crushed red pepper is a delightful entree —spicy, salty and tasty, it easily wins the 'best dish on the menu' award. Also amazingly good and quite interesting as a concept are the ravioli filled with olive oil essence and topped with Mediterranean flavors: fresh tomatoes and fragrant herbs.
The surprise, here, is that when you bite into one of the ravioli you don't get a spoonful of filling in your mouth. Au contraire, your taste buds are hit by a volatile yet delicious essence of fruity EVOO, while the herbs and tomatoes round up the dish making you feel as if you were tasting a slice of Italy itself. Yes, it's that good.
Desserts, needless to say, are fantastic and so pretty you almost feel like you don't want to ruin them by eating them. The above apple, of course, is not a real apple, although it looks one. It's a caramel shell that holds Al Pont De Ferr's rendition of a French classic, the tart tatin. Apples, caramel and ice cream... need I say more? As everything else at this small, rustic looking restaurant, the tatin was divine, the perfect ending to a fun, intriguing meal.

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