il Ristorante Cracco, Milan

June 11, 2008

Carlo Cracco is said to be one of the world’s most imaginative and innovative chefs, although he does not yet have the fame of Ferran Adrià, Heston Blumenthal et al. He is aware of what they are doing, but he makes his own discoveries and puts them into the idiom of Italian cuisine. Linda and I dined at his restaurant on June 4, 2008.  We had been in this underground space with minimalist decor many years before when it was Peck, the restaurant arm of the fine food store just around the corner. In 2001 Peck hired Carlo Cracco as its chef, giving him free rein and renaming the restaurant Cracco-Peck. It soon earned two Michelin stars and a listing in the Fifty Best Restaurants in the World. Cracco bought out Peck last year and renamed the restaurant. He had worked for many of the big names in cuisine in France and Italy, but was now finally on his own.


That morning we had been shopping at Peck to look at the gorgeous displays and to stock up on good things. We were happy to walk back to the neighborhood in the evening. There are two rooms and we were seated with the other foreigners, but they were quiet and well behaved, if not well-dressed. The English-speaking sommelier in our room was particularly chatty and helpful. The restaurant was only half full that night, which made all my efforts to be sure we had a reservation seem a bit silly. 
  

                          ..

 There were two menus at €130 and €160, (plus à la carte.) The first was more traditional; the second, our choice, was larger and more creative. After considerable discussion with the sommelier, we ordered a Cantina Terlan “Quarz” Sauvignon from the South Tirol and a 1996 Rocche dei Manzoni (Vigna d’la Roul) Barolo. They were both excellent and went well with the cuisine.

 


The amuse gueule was two litttle fishballs for each of us with chips that had retained the flavors of the vegetables: yellow and violet potatoes, carrots, zucchini, beets, celeriac. We were also given two little boxes of the chips to take home.

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Linda asked for a substitution for the oyster starter and was given a Russian salad between two transparent wafers. It was held in the hand and eaten like a sandwich.

 

Ostrica cotta al sale con cavalo cinese e zucchero filato alle alghe

I had the starter of a fresh and delicious oyster. The frothy seaweed spun sugar was an unusual combination, but with the slightly bitter curly kale leaves it was interesting.

Marinara di pesce in foglie con verdure croccanti


Linda is being shown the gelatanous “leaves” made of essence of various fish. Strips of these were then tossed with a few thinly sliced vegetables and a green salad dressing. It made a flavorful seafood salad with a consistant texture. Very nice.

Insalata di aloe vera, ricci di mare, nocciola e nero di seppia

This salad combined dabs of sea urchin with pieces of squid, squid ink and aloe greens. It was enjoyable, but didn’t really bring out the sea urchin flavor.

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Piselli in insalata, garusoli e vaniglia
The peas were served warm in some kind of gel which brought out their fresh flavor. The sea snail and vanilla mayonnaise garnish were subtle.
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Punte di asparagi bianchi e tuorlo marinato
I have read that Cracco has discovered new tricks with egg yolks by marinating them in salt and sugar. I guess that the orange bases come from this technique while the underlying sauce was more conventional. In any case the egg yolk flavor was accentuated and went well with the white asparagus tips.
 
Misticanza ghiacciata al sugo di crostacei

A reduction glaze of shellfish shells had been tossed with salad greens, fresh tarragon and dill. It was then frozen and served. I thought this was superb. The flavors really came through as they melted in your mouth. I don’t think I have ever had such a fine flavor from tarragon.
 
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Ravioli di zucca cotti sul rosmarino, calamaretti e grani di senape

Light pumpkin mounds were served with pieces of baby squid and bunches of mustard seed. This was pretty, but it did not inspire me.

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Petto di piccione al vapour con asparagi Verdi e bianchi

I know that the chef likes to be different, but steaming was disappointing for me with a pigeon breast. It did somewhat bring up the flavor of the meat, which is usually lost in the process of making the skin nice and crisp and that was interesting, but I still would have preferred some inventive way of serving it with a crackly skin.

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Midollo con tapioca, fave e pomodoro

The big piece of bone marrow balanced on top of a tapioca mound with the help of a colorful thin slice of tomato was an unctuous pre-dessert.



Linda asked for a substitution for the chocolate dessert and was given this light, crunchy mound. We have forgotten what they said it was, but it might have been based on mascarpone.

Cioccolato, insalata di cocco e noci con sorbetto alla birra

My dessert was thin slices of fresh coconut with a square of chocolate cake and dark beer ice cream to provide a nice cool bitter contrast.

Lenti a contatto al caffè

These coffee “contact lenses” are a signature item for Cracco. After opening them one just dips out the coffee gel with a finger and pops it into the mouth. There is no residue on the finger.

 

Mignardises


There were little crunchy chocolate truffles, petit fours and dried fruit slices. They were all excellent, but we were not still hungry.

We had a most enjoyable evening. For me, only the seafood “leaves” salad, the egg yolk concoction with the asparagus tips and, especially, the frozen salad were excellent cuisine, but it was all interesting and enjoyable. I have found very few detailed reports of meals at Cracco. This may be the first serious foodblogpost. But what I have read did not include any of the dishes we were served, except for the “contact lenses.” The peas and asparagus were right in season and there was nothing out of season. Cracco must be constantly experimenting and integrating the new items into his menu to see how they work. He has said that he will never copy anyone. We will certainly return whenever we are back in Milan and expect to have another fine, but different, experience.
Addendum: For an excellent blogpost on the more traditional tasting menu two weeks later see:
il Ristorante Cracco
via Victor Hugo 4
20123 Milano
tel: 02.876774
fax: 02.861040

 

 

3 Responses to “il Ristorante Cracco, Milan”

  1. Andy Says:

    looks great! I’ve never even heard of the place.

  2. Galen Leong Says:

    Except for the pigeon breast, each dish looks like an abstract work of art. It all looks fascinating.

  3. fooddesigner Says:

    It looks absolutely amazing. I am tempted to go straight after my last exam in Milan! Any other Milanese restaurants you would reccomend?


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