I’ve recently visited northern Italy with my girlfriend for a 10-day vacation. Exploring the beauty of Italian food, which has always been one of my favorite cuisines, was an important mission during this trip. Coming from New York City where you have a ton of awesome fine dining places as well as casual joints, I tried hard to have a balanced list of restaurants ranging from modern, haute cuisine palaces to traditional trattorias. I was especially mindful of the fact that my more successful Italian experiences in New York City tended to be more on the casual side with straightforward ingredients and techniques than places that attempted to bring something fancy to the table. My first stop of the trip was in Milan where Il Luogo has been gaining acclaims for a long time, with two Michelin stars. In choosing among many restaurants in Milan, I was intrigued by the forward-looking direction of the kitchen and wanted to see how the chefs put together a modern version of Italian cuisine as we know it. Overall, I had a pleasant experience but there were some misses in the “Grand Tour in Italy” menu of five dishes (at 95 euros per person) that made the meal less than perfect.
After a couple of delicious amuse bouche dishes, I thoroughly enjoyed the first course, a mix of vegetables including pureed legume that had very elegant balance of flavor with different ingredients working harmoniously together. Too bad the subsequent dishes, although solid on their own, couldn’t quite match the magical touch of the first one. Cod fish in a crispy bread crus was gently cooked for nice texture, but I felt it could’ve down way better without being inside the crust. I initially liked the wheat spaghetti with green onion and hot pepper sauce, but the sauce ended up being a bit too gooey to truly enjoy the pasta dish.
Lamb and its offals cooked confit in extra virgin olive oil was more successful, with delicately cooked meat that worked nicely with sauce of wild herbs and candied fruit. For the dessert, the kitchen put together a modernized version of tiramisu with yogurt and mascarpone cream, coffee biscuit, ricotta flavored with bergamot and Sicilian capers candied in honey. This interesting mixture of ingredients looked promising at first, but I was already starting to miss the more traditional tiramisu after a couple of scoops; the flavor of the dish was more on the funky side and not in a good way.
I made most of the restaurant reservations in Italy through concierge service for my credit card, so I’m not sure how difficult getting the reservation at Il Luogo is. I absolutely enjoyed the intimate feel of the dining space that makes you feel like you’re eating at a trendy art gallery, with colorful art pieces on the wall everywhere. There is an extensive wine list, of course, and I really liked the Italian cabernet sauvignon that the sommelier highly recommended. The service of professional staffs was up to the level of a comparable fine dining establishment. Would I have had better experience at Il Luogo with different dishes? It was hard to tell; maybe I should’ve tried their longer tasting menus. Overall, I appreciated the ingenious approach to classical Italian cooking that the restaurant was pursuing, but the execution could’ve been slightly improved for a more satisfying cooking.
- Creativity: 8.5/10
- Execution: 7.5/10
- Ingredients: 8.0/10
- Flavor: 8.0/10
- Texture: 7.5/10
Address: Via Privata Raimondo Montecuccoli, 6, 20147 Milano, Italia