Nov 14 2014

Osteria Francescana

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Osteria Francescana is the 3rd best restaurant in the world according to the St Pellegrino top 100 restaurant in the world awards and has 3 Michelin stars. As I had already been to number 1 restaurant in the world (Noma) and number 2 (El Cellar de Can Roca), it was time to get my friends together to fly to Modena, Italy and go to Osteria Francescana.

It was surprisingly easy to book Osteria Francescana. I still remember the tricks I had to use to get into Noma and the 6 months wait for El Cellar de Can Roca, so I was pleasantly surprised I could book a table at Osteria Francescana 3 months before our meal. We could not get a table for Saturday night though, but managed to get a table for Friday night for the 7 of us.

Modena is not one of the biggest cities in Italy, and you can’t fly there directly, so we had to fly to Bologna and then drive 1h to Modena. The main chef at Osteria Francescana is Massimo Bottura (he also owns the place), and I was pleased to see him in the kitchen on the night that we were there and he even came out and took a picture with us (after my friend told the waiter I was a food blogger). He first opened Osteria Francescana in 1995 and got his first Michelin star in 2002, 2 stars followed in 2006 and he got his final Michelin star in 2012. Massimo Bottura is thin and has named his latest book “never trust a skinny Italian chef”

The restaurant is located on a small street in the centre of Modena and is not big and has 3 dining rooms and we were put into one that only had 1 table, for us. The rest of the dining rooms have more tables and smaller ones, so I guess that was the only room where they could accommodate such a large party. What really attracted our attention was the modern décor. As we were walking towards our dining room we noticed some sculptures of birds on a rod, a sculpture that looked like a bin bag, very interesting paintings, and some glasses that seemed full and had a glass top. Despite this, however my dinner buddies, that had also gone with me to El Cellar de Can Roca, said that they preferred the décor there, and Osteria Francescana reminded you of a very good modern restaurant but did not have that wow factor.

The restaurant had emailed me before our meal and suggested we have their 9 course tasting menu “Tradition in Evolution” which had their most signatory dishes from their history and cost  €170 per person, with a cover charge of €5 per person, soft drinks charge of €5 per water bottle and the possibility to be matched with wine pairing at the price of €110 per person. We had the tasting menu (without the matching wine). Interesting to note is that restaurants like Noma change their menu daily and even when you are there give different dishes to different tables, but Osteria Francescana does not change their menu that frequently. I actually noticed that one of my friends that had a meal there 2.5 years before we did, had a lot of the same dishes.

Before the dishes arrived we were given a lot of different types of bread to try – a large piece of warm bread, smaller bread rolls of white bread and grain bread as well as bread sticks with their good olive oil. However despite the quantity, I did not think this was amazing bread, and even in less than 2 Michelin star restaurants, I have been given more creative and interesting bread.

The first dish was called “Memory of a mortadella sandwich”. Mortadella is a large Italian sausage made out of pork and very popular in Bologna. Like this pork sausage, Osteria Francescana used a lot of local ingredients from Modena, Bologna and the neighbouring regions. In this dish the mortadella sausage was transformed into a very light mousse and was served next to a piece of bread. It was impressive the sausage had been made into this mousse and it did taste like cured sausage and showed a lot of skill, and whilst all of us really enjoyed this dish, we were not blown away.

Next dish was called “An eel swimming up the Po river”, and we were served a saba-lacquered Adriatic eel served with cream of polenta, campanine apple jelly and burned onion powder. Saba is made from grape, a sweet and sticky black sauce (similar to balsamic vinegar) which perfectly covers the eel. The rest of the ingredients once again come from the neighboring area. I was skeptical when I first saw the eel, as I only usually like it in Japanese restaurants, but this eel was delicious, and one of the favourite dishes of the evening of my dining group.

The third dish in our tasting menu was called “From Modena to Mirandola” (Mirandola is a small city close to Modena), and taste wise it was probably my least favourite dish, and it used ingredients (as the name suggests) from Modena and Mirandola. The base of the dish was cotechino, an Italian pork product with almond biscuit and Modena balsamic vinegar (one of the things that Modena is famous for) and it was covered in zabaione (a light custard). The custard was too sweet for me, and I thought was a bit too overpowering for my liking.

The fourth dish of our tasting menu extravaganza was called “Caesar salad in Emilia” which got a lot of attention as one of our dinner buddies was called Emils. At first the dish seemed very simple and we were given a large lettuce leaf, but upon closer inspection you could see that within the salad leaf 22 other ingredients, like bacon, toasted bread, vinegar, parmesan cheese, mustard and dill, were hidden. The salad was very light, and did not have that heavy dressing Ceasar salad usually has and the other ingredients added a light hint of flavour. It was not a particularly impressive skill-wise dish, but I did enjoy it, especially as a lot of the other dishes were quite heavy and this one balanced out the menu.

The fifth dish was called “Five ages of Parmigiano Reggano in different textures and temperatures”. It was a beautiful dish, in pale white and neutral colours with various time matured parmesan cheeses in various textures and temperatures. We were given a 24 month aged Parmesan mousse, 30 month aged Parmesan as a foam, 36 month aged as a sauce, 40 month aged as a galette and the oldest, 50 month, as a Parmesan air. I did like some of the parmesan textures, not all, some felt a bit too overpowering and some of my dining buddies found it overwhelming to have a plate of cheese to eat, it was not a light dish. But I did think the thought behind the dish and the skill were amazing.

The sixth main course was my personal favourite, the “Tagliatelli with ragu”. Some of us, including me, were really looking forward to having an amazing plate of pasta. It was a wonderful dish, so full of flavour, and the right not too overpowering flavour, wonderful. The dough for the pasta was prepared with a higher than usual proportion of egg yolk to give a slightly firmer pasta. The pasta was cooked just right, to the second, it was firm, but was not too a la dente, just perfect. The ragu consists of pork sausage with cheek, tail, tongue and belly, and the pork sausage was cooked separately to the other ingredients. I personally could not taste all the other extra ingredients, to me it was just a delicious ragu.

Our main course, last dish, before the deserts was “Beautiful psychedelic, spin-painted veal not flame grilled”. The veal was very nice and soft and all the men loved it, it tasted very much like beef. It was made to look like flame grilled, but was actually cooked sous-vide and coated in charcoal ash, which I did not think would taste nice, but it actually had a pleasant taste, not too much like charcoal. The plate was dressed with balsamic vinegar, red beetroot and potato puree. A lot of the people around the table thought this was their favourite dish, as the meat just tasted superb.

After this dish we started moving into the desert territory, and as an in-between dish we were given the “Fois gras ice cream bar with traditional balsamic vinegar from Modena”. We were given a lollipop made out of fois gras which was coated in hazelnuts and almonds and as you bit into it you could feel the traditional balsamic vinegar from Modena.  This dish divided opinions, I personally loved it, and thought the flavours and the dish were super creative, but not all my dinner buddies agreed. It was another dish of strong flavour.

Our dessert was called “Vignola” and we were given a small chocolate cake with cherries from Vignola and larger, not real, but made cherries and when you bit into these larger cherries, they had a flavour inside of them, each had a different one, the most memorable for me was coffee. The cherries had sticks in them and the waiter told us they were not real and asked us to remove it. It is unusual in a high end restaurant to be served something in-edible on the plate. I liked the dessert, but my boyfriend was complaining about Osteria Francescana only offering 1 dessert in the whole tasting menu, which is unusual and usually you do get more than 1 dessert if you have such a long menu. After our main course we were also given petit fours and a tea or a coffee.

We had a great time at Osteria Francescana, we stayed late and were one of the last people to leave the restaurant. Another wonderful surprise happened when we were leaving, all the women in our dining party were given an actual old balsamic vinegar from Modena, which I still have at home and I am scared to open as I think it is probably very expensive. I did very much enjoy my meal at Osteria Francescana, but my boyfriend is less keen and thinks it did not have as many memorable dishes as the other top 10 best restaurants in the world. Also the same dining buddies that have been with me to Noma and El celler de Can Roca thought that these restaurants were just a bit more impressive and memorable than Osteria Francescana, and I can see what they mean. I had an excellent meal at Osteria Francescana, but this would not be my top 5 restaurant in the world.

Date: 14/ 11/ 12
Location: Modena, Italy
Price: it was around €220 per person

Maija rated: 

4.50

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Osteria Francescana
Via Stella, 22, 41121
Modena
Italy
IT
Osteria Francescana Reviewed by Hungry Bee Maija on . Rating: 4.5