Thursday, October 30, 2008

Buriani - Bologna

Should you ever happen to be visiting Bologna, you would be facing the issue of finding a good restaurant in the area. 'Cucina Emiliana', the local cuisine, is very popular across Italy with dishes such as tagliatelle, tortellini, lasagne alla bolognese. You can find these pretty much everywhere, but most likely you would end up in some touristy sort of restaurant where you are going to be served very average, disappointing food.
If you are up for something more special and adequate for a gurmet palate, I would like to recommend this restaurant which I had the pleasure of visiting during my last trip to Bologna. Ristorante Burani is not located in the city centre, and you need a car to get to the place. The location is Pieve di Cento, about 40 minutes drive from the city centre.
This restaurant has been awarded "1 fork" (on a scale of 1 to 3) by "gambero rosso", which is a very significant award within the Italian culinary scene.

As in any respectable Italian restaurant, you will be served a selection of bread specially prepared by the chef. The bread was of good quality, although not absolutely the best.

This 'zuppa di carciofi con crostini' (artichokes soup with crostini) was served for 'free'. Although I am not a big fan of artichokes, I could enjoy this thick soup because of its mild flavour. The bits of crunchy bread could either be enjoyed with their crispness or soaked into the soup.

The 'flan di polenta in zuppetta di squacquerone con porcini arrostiti' was a slightly experimental version of a very traditional combination. The polenta was a lighter and fluffier version of the real thing (a pudding made from cornflour). Squacquerone is a typical local fresh cheese, which was filtered into a thick soup to create an appetizing base for the polenta.

As a starter, I ordered the 'Insalata di mare tiepida con verza e profumo d'arancia' (tepid seafood salad with cabbage and orange scent) which was better than I anticipated. The delicate flavour of a tepid melange of seafood was enhanced by underlying leaves of savoury cabbage. A lot of attention was put in the way the cabbage was seasoned, most likely with some fish/seafood stock. A well balanced orange zest tang added a kick to an otherwise fairly standard dish.

As a first course, my friend ordered the 'tortelli di ricotta e scalogni con castagne e fonduta di pecorino' (tortelli with ricotta and spring onions with chestnuts and melted pecorino cheese). Unfortunately these disappeared from his plate so quickly that I didn't get a chance to taste them. I won't be able to provide a detailed description, but he looked very pleased with them.

I had the 'spaghetti freschi ai ricci di mare con broccoli, schiuma d'aglio e peperoncino' (homemade spaghetti with sea urchins and broccoli, garlic foam and chilly). Needless to say, this was the highlight for me as I always tend to prefer pasta and I love sea urchins. I enjoyed the irregular texture of these handmade spaghetti, which enabled them to absorb the 'sea flavour' released by the sea urchin roe.

The 'spiedo di calamari e scampi gratinati al rosmarino con zuppa tiepida di fagioli' (squid and scampi skewer with rosemary gratin and tepid bean soup) was grotesquely presented, but I interpreted it as a touch of humour from the chef. Extremely soft scampi and squid were covered by a rosemary flavoured crunchy breadcrumb layer. Crusty bits of bread with beans are a very typical Italian 'home cooking' combination, but not usually presented with seafood.

The 'filetto di ricciola scottata con zucca al sale affumicato e olio ai crostacei' (amber jack fillet with pumpkin seasoned with smoked salt and crustacean flavoured oil) was a nice creation, fresh and well cooked. I wasn't incredibly excited by this dish as it wasn't particularly innovative except for the pumpkin mash, the sweetness of which wasn't the best match with the ddelicate flavour of the fish fillet.

This 'zabaglione al mascarpone' was on the house to close the meal. A very small portion (but you wouldn't want it any larger) of egg yolks and mascarpone topped by a few bits of meringue hiding a pool of chocolate sauce. This is the perfect dessert for those who feel too full after a full meal and yet wish to close it with a sweet bite.

The 'coconut cake with banana and lime sorbet' was a great finale. In particular I liked the crispy and bitter layer of caramelized chocolate and coffee, which balances the sweetness of this rich dessert.

We ended up spending 120 Euros ($240 SGD) for two people, which is very reasonable for a restaurant of this calibre. Although it's not centrally located, any Italian food lover would not be disappointed with the quality of Buriani's food and service.

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