Dinner begins with the interlude. As the pianist plays a concerto, the chairs are pulled back, their legs sliding along the surface of the black and cream marble floor. The parties are seated, the chairs now pushed in, and Chef Stefano Zaninelli, the Milanese mastermind of the kitchen at Don Giovanni, pays a visit. His sense of humour is as redolent of his Italian upbringing as his dishes are. “I never eat foie gras,” he says with a laugh, “that’s why I keep people around me: to try my food.”
Although a veteran of the foreign circuit, Zaninelli’s concept rarely strays from traditional Italian. The menu is full of home-style recipes. Along with the neo-classical décor, the chef’s culinary approach lends Don Giovanni a decorous air befitting its operatic name.
It’s a shame that the chef doesn’t like foie gras; it means he never enjoys his own, and he certainly knows how to cook it. A starter of pan-fried foie gras on wild mushrooms, topped with grilled Williams pears and a bouquet of rocket, covered with a Marsala wine and truffle sauce reduction (B850), is luscious, awash in a medley of juices. With its richness cut by the fruit’s sugar and acid, the dish remains on the lighter side of decadence.
The foie gras kick continues as the menu eases into mains. Handmade half-moon ravioli, filled with summer truffle and potato concasse, and topped with pan-fried foie gras, Parmesan, and brown butter (B580), marries sharp and robust elements in a pocket of pasta bound by similar textures. The ingredients in the filling complement one another, but the foie gras, again, is the centrepiece.
Zaninelli has more up his sleeve than duck pâté, however. Squid ink risotto, coal black in hue and fringed with dollops of tomato basil sauce, a bed for pan-seared calamari and king prawns, (B760), brings the flavours of Naples to the fore. It’s a simple dish. The rice has the perfect bite, and the fresh brine of the seafood speaks for itself. Though less Italian than French, the pan-roasted Australian beef tenderloin topped with grilled tiger prawn (B1400) provides an interesting take on the surf and turf combination. One look is enough to make mouths water; a bite confirms the optimism. Underneath the succulent meat lie sautéed root vegetables and rosemary potatoes with morel sauce, a rare treat.
Tiramisu served in a cappuccino cup (B180) offers a twist at the end of a meal: it features dark chocolate rather than cocoa. As elegant as the surroundings, it’s a proper send-off.
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