Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Eataly - Asti

The shop:
Eataly in Asti arrived about a year ago and we have been a little disappointed in the scale of the shop compared to Eataly in Turin. The Turin installment of Eataly is a mega-store and the Eataly in Asti is a more the size of a service station convenience store. Selection is limited and seems to be mostly focused on gift items like luxury chocolate and expensive jars of preserved vegetables rather than the raw ingredients that a serious cook wants to see. Gone is the huge vegetable stand and the beautiful salumis you see in Turin, not to mention the fantastic butcher's counter and fish market. In Asti we are treated to a half dozen different types of vacuumed-packed cuts of meat, an equal number of salamis and no fresh fish. In Switzerland when a big grocery store puts in a tiny convenience store they call it Coop Pronto instead of Coop or Migrolino instead of Migro. Eataly Asti is a mere shadow of Turin.
The restaurants:
On the up-side, they do offer two restaurants at the location. A trattoria that is open for lunch and dinner and a more formal restaurant that is only open for dinner. We met friends Canan and Umberto for lunch so our only option was the trattoria.
The trattoria consists of two rooms, both are light, airy and unpretentious. Menus for both restaurants can be found here
For starters:
Umberto ordered the Energetica vegetariana (picture below) a salad with mixed leaf lettuce, tomato, carrot, corn, fennel, artichoke and pomegranate, which he seemed to enjoy very much.
Canan, Melanie and I ordered La battuta di Vitello de "La Granda", which is essentially steak tartar accompanied with a mache, tomato, fennel and carrot salad decorated with a balsamic glaze. The Granda is an association of stockbreeders from the region around Cuneo raising the Piemontese breed of cattle. (only in Italian). Eataly is among their selected retail network. They do not feed their animals food from animal origin nor food stored in a way that modifies their pH (ie no fermented food as the silomais (corn choped and kept under plastic to promote fermentation) and they promote phytotherapy and vaccination rather than traditional medicines. La Granda is the best Piemontese beef available. Granda is the Cuneo province. The dish was delicious. (thanks Umberto for this information)
For the main course:
Canan ordered Faggottini ai carciofi al profumo di timo which turned out to be very under-cooked and was sent back after a "discussion" with the waitress. Apparently, she wanted us to believe that they are supposed to taste like flavorless little balls of hard dough!
Umberto really enjoyed his Agnolotti "Antignano prodotto tipico" alle erbe fini, which are small meat-filled ravioli made by a local company and available around the world at your nearest Eataly location.
Melanie and I had Filetto di Maile al pan speziato which turned out to be a piece of rather chewy pork coated in a non-descript, mushy, bread-crumb coating. There was a hint of Chinese five-spice in the sauce and I enjoyed the flavors but the presentation was weak because of the breading on the pork, a rather sad re-warmed baked potato and some dessicated aubergine.
The wine:
Eataly has a very good reputation for stocking good wine so we decided to opt for the house white and the house red. The wine list is viewable here.
We tried to order the house white but it was sold-out and they did not offer us a substitute, so we ordered a half-bottle of nondescript Gavi. I don't know how much it cost, there was no price listed.
The red was a Barbera Sfusa Cantina sociale Castelnuovo Belbo which was good but not remarkable. The pricing was curious however, 2€/glass, 4€/2.5dl, 5€/5dl and 6€/liter. Needless to say, we opted for the liter.

Just desserts:
The dessert selection was written on a chalkboard without prices. Melanie and I just had a coffee for dessert and Canan had creme brulée which was soupy and slightly curdled. (sorry, no picture) Umberto had coffee-flavored panna cotta which he thoroughly enjoyed.
Considering that the restaurant was only about 40% full, service was slow, mildly impersonal and we were disappointed that we had to debate the fagottini with the waitress. The total was 104 euros after we asked them to remove Canan's fagottini which was still calculated in. When we paid we asked the cashier to split the bill 50/50, which he did, but we were not given an itemised version of the bill, only told what to pay and then given a receipt for what we paid. We had no idea how everything tallied.

In summary:
Eataly prides itself on presenting exceptional quality food carefully prepared. We have eaten in Turin and it has always been a pleasure. Using the Turin model as a benchmark we were disappointed in our experience in Asti. It wasn't that bad but we had hoped for more.

Thank you to Canan and Umberto for taking  the pictures. (my camera's battery was dead)



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