Famous Italian restaurateur Massimo Bottura has been at the top for decades but his style has risen in prominence since 2010, when his Modena-based restaurant Osteria Francescana was rated with three Michelin stars. Since then, he has won numerous awards and established himself as one of the world’s top chefs, known for constantly pushing culinary boundaries. His most recent success — receiving the Best Restaurant in the World award by the prestigious The World’s Best 50 Restaurants list in June 2016 — has catapulted him to the very top and made his restaurant the first Italian restaurant to receive this eminent title. I’ve been following his work for a while and while it’s hard to pick an absolute favorite, here are 5 dishes that completely blow me away:
1. Croccantino di Foie Gras
This preparation is just amazing as it incorporate the novelty of eating croccantino (an industrial icecream from the 80s) and the velvety sensation of fois gras. The beauty of Bottura’s cooking is that it reflects his understanding of how textures and flavors combine to produce a perfect melange of tastes and every grown up dream to eat croccantino again.
The Croccantino is a perfect example of this. By combining the crunchiness and light sweetness of the almond and hazelnut crust with the balsamic heart, Bottura elevates the flavor of the foie gras. To boot, the ice cream stick takes the snazziness off what would normally be a high-class dish and gives it a nostalgic feel.
2. Oops I Dropped the Lemon Tart
I love this dish because it destroys all of our preconceived notions of what a fancy meal is supposed to look like. Turned upside down and purposefully smashed, in this tart Bottura combines the avant-garde taste of haute cuisine with the casual nonchalance of a desert that didn’t turn out as expected.
Bottura’s recipe combines lemongrass ice cream, custardy zabaione filling and a delicious crust spiced with anise, black pepper, cinnamon and juniper. The different components give the dessert layers of flavor, combining the sweetness of the zabaione, the refreshing minty lime taste of lemongrass and the unassuming scent of the crust.
Overall, this lemon tart is an exotic yet familiar addition to any menu. I can’t wait to make it again!
3. Eel Swimming Up the Po River
This appetizer proves that all good food also has a story. The name of this dish references the voyage of the Estensi family in the 16th century from Ferrara to Modena — against the current, the eel gathers a number of ingredients from Veneto, Mantova and the countryside. The dish features a combination of polenta, apple extract, Amarone and saba making for a meal full of history and ripe with regional tastes.
I love this dish because of its feel for the local and its ability to transport you to another place and time. But in addition to appealing to your imagination and drawing upon history, Bottura succeeds in making an excellent dish, full of freshness and novelty.
4. Chicken Chicken… Where Are You?
This is by far one of my favorite recipes, inpired by Bottura’s little daughter, it combines an understated chicken taste with a variety of extravagant vegetables such as Koppert Cress, Daikon and Violet Flower in addition to classics such as Fennel, Scallion and Celery. The elaborateness of this dish is hidden in its style of preparation as well as the effort it takes to integrate a rich chicken taste into this variety of vegetables, but in fact you cannot find solid pieces of chicken in this preparation but just the scent, therefore “chicken where are you?”
5. 5 Different Ages of Parmigiano Reggiano
I love cheese and considering that parmiggiano reggiano is one of my favorite cheeses, I had to try this dish. It’s definitely very Bottura, combining the avant-garde with a firm connection with local history and tradition.
The recipe consists of five different textures of different ages of parmiggiano reggiano — a souffle, a galette, ‘air,’ as well as foam which all combine in spectacular ways considering that we are talking about the same product. Also, the recipe is easier to make than expected! The trick is to find the cheeses.