Top NYC dishes of 2014 are coming up next, but first I have to tell you all about the meal of the year and quite possibly the best meal we ever had.
To give you an idea of what I’m talking about… Its well past 3 pm and we’ve been seating there for three hours, alone now in the back room. We are starting to feel a bit agitated that we havent received our bill, and we still have yet to get a tour of the magnificent cellar. Mrs Ziggy is now playing Candy Crush!! When Mrs Ziggy starts to play Candy Crush on her phone it means things are not going very well, unless she finally beats that crazy difficult level that makes her forget sometimes she has children. This kind of inconvenience would normally put a big damper on roughly 99% of our meals, but not even a dent in this one. 30 minutes before Candy Crush I was telling young Giampiero (the son) about how much fun we were having and that we did not mind sitting there for such a long time (we really didnt at the time). He either took my comment a bit too seriously or more likely rightfully shifted his attention to other patrons. That same attention we were so greatly enjoying the previous 3 hours.
I hope any of the Corderos reading this will only see the previous paragraph as the compliment it was intended and nothing more. Over 10 courses of absolute delight, with each dish and each item on each plate showing brilliance we have yet to witness anywhere. I vividly remember the lone caramelized fig sitting in the corner of the Veal Cheek dish, like the little shy girl that no one wants to dance with. That unassuming little thing carried surprising intense flavors, wow moment #8 or so. The same kind of attention to detail and top notch raw materials followed throughout without any hiccups whatsoever. A rare (for us) perfect blend of Slow Food and Michelin (1 star). We are very fortunate to visit places that lean one way or another, but very rarely, perhaps never, we’ve witness this kind of marriage
The room was well lit and simplistic. Not a whole lot decor wise. An American couple somehow stole our reservations but they still managed to accommodate us and seat us directly facing that couple. So we were able to give them the stink eye! The best way to experience Il Centro fully is for one to go for the tasting menu while the other A la carte. The tasting menu is basically 3 starters, and one primi, secondi, dolce that you choose from the menu. On to the food…
While I had plenty of steak tartars in my life, this was my first ever Carne Cruda – a Piedmontese specialty of chopped beef, not as finely minced as tartare. Helped by a shaving of White Truffles (26 euros fixed price) this was a top dish of the trip nominee, and led the way to more Carne Crudas to come. For those brainwashed and scared of raw meat, Carne Cruda is perhaps the best way of self hypnosis.
Porcini in a Parmigiano cup was another big winner. The delicate perfectly cooked Porcini went very well with the flavors and crunch of the cheese. It was like eating Porcini for the very first time. The attractive Pepper plate stuffed with tuna a bit overshadowed by the other two but would have easily been a hit anywhere else. Faraona (Guineafowl) was simple yet quite exquisite. The best compliment I can give to any dish is that it changed the way we order in other restaurants. Like the Carne Cruda, this Faraona led to three more during the trip
Tajarin with ragu was rich and pleasant. Not as explosive as La Torre in Cherasco but still quite good. Ravioli stuffed with beef and topped with sausage and chicken liver ragu was even better. The liver especially elevated this dish to another level. Another wow moment came with the veal cheek caramelized with figs. Sweet, deep lasting flavors, and as tender as veal can get. And the aforementioned little fig in the corner was an eye opener. Codone beef (top), essentially a hazelnut loving local breed accompanied by a fragrant fruity salad was another revelation. The secret to happiness is happy cows
The best thing I can say about the hazelnut dessert trio on top of the menu is nothing, because I don’t want to spoil the surprise to those who will experience this. It’s like telling you the ending of Breaking Bad. A must get, along with the gelato
We drank a 2010 Cascina Val Del Prete Nebbiolo d’Alba, a winery based locally in Priocca. One of the best wines we drank the entire trip which was filled with great Barbarescos and Barolos
A visit to the magnificent cellar was the perfect finish to a most memorable meal. Bravissima!