Monday, June 30, 2014

First Impressions: Ristorante Italia d'Massimo Bottura

Update: Unfortunately Ristorante Italia d'Massimo Boturra closed at the end of November 2015 in Istanbul. 

Dear readers,

I believe that "first impressions" are very important in the dining and wining scene (of course in other areas of life too)... it can make it or break it for you! Whether you have a good or bad experience will determine whether you will go back or whether you will recommend the venue to your family or friends... Although I prefer to right about places after visiting them a few times and I find them worthy of a write-up, sometimes I also like to rely on my "first impressions" and my "gut feelings" haven't proven me wrong yet! 

As a big fan of Eataly since it opened at Zorlu Center in Istanbul late last year (see my post on Eataly), I had been hearing the buzz that a "fine dining" restaurant was going to open just like at the other Eataly's around the world...

We learned that the "who" was going to be Massimo Bottura, the internationally acclaimed chef and owner of the 3 Michelin Star 12-table Osteria Francescana open since 1995 in Modena, Italy. Moreover, this restaurant is the "3rd Best Restaurant" and "Best Italian Restaurant" on 'The World's 50 Best Restaurants' list! The "when" was very recently - Ristorante Italia d'Massimo Bottura, his first restaurant outside of Italy, officially opened at Eataly at Zorlu Center on May 27, 2014 after a week or two of "pre-opening" tastings for the media and social circuit.

I wasn't invited to one of the pre-tastings and thought I would try this new fine dining Italian restaurant after it had been open for a while. A fine dining restaurant is not the type of place you go to on a "whim" or at the "last minute" for a quick bite to eat: you have to plan a special evening as far as I'm concerned.  

However, plans do change! Last week Wednesday (June 25), I received a call from my friend Burçak Desombre (a wine consultant and certified sommelier) who asked if I would be her "+"1" (her husband couldn't make it) that evening for an event organized at the restaurant by the Ministry of Economic Development, Embassy of Italy and Italian Trade Agency, to which I said "sure" as I didn't have other plans.

So, I made a mad dash home, quickly changed and got into the "fine dining" mode! Cocktails were at 7:30pm, followed by a "Chef Table" dinner.

Located on the 2nd floor at Eataly, the restaurant also has a separate entrance accessible from the parking lot via an elevator...

Ristorante Italia d'Massimo Bottura
The entrance is very impressive as you can see and is also adorned with lovely paintings, floral arrangements, parquet floors and elegant wood-paneled walls.

Since it is now the summer, the indoor dining area is closed and the restaurant has moved outdoors to the terrace which offers a magnificent view of the Bosphorus strait and Bosphorus Bridge from some of the tables...

With our glasses of prosecco in hand, Burçak and I started socializing with the other guests while the elegantly dressed (in black) waiters and waitresses walked around serving appetizers to tide us over until dinner.

I realized afterwards that most of the appetizers we had were miniature versions of some of the starters from the restaurant's menu and included "Beef tartar seasoned with capers, olives, hazelnuts and Villa Manodori Essenziale black pepper oil (absolutely delicious and very flavorful) ...

 "36-month aged Parmigiano Reggiano cheese served with Villa Manodori Artiginale Balsamic Vinegar (the tartness of the vinegar and cheese was a great combo), "mozzarella cheese", "zucchini tempura" and "black cod fillet" were just some of the other delicacies we tasted. I unfortunately was too busy eating to take photographs!

After a speech by our hosts to welcome us, dinner service began...Once again, all the dishes were from the menu and not specially prepared for the evening's event. But, most importantly, chef Massimo Bottura dubbed one of the "foremost ambassadors of modern Italian cuisine" was "in the house" and in the kitchen having made a trip to Istanbul for this event! 

Our dinner included 4 courses... and all were paired with white and red Italian wines.

A specialty from the Lazio region, this was by far my favorite dish of the night because I do prefer seafood to most meat dishes. The full explanation of this dish is "Grilled octopus served with artichokes, confit cherry tomatoes, purée of peas and fresh ricotta cheese".  The octopus was moist and cooked to perfection and the vegetables were very fresh and properly seasoned and complemented the dish just right.

Our second course:

This is definitely a very "rich" dish because it includes saffron, chopped beef and bone marrow sauce, but I did notice that most of the guests wiped their plates clean although it was a nice sized portion! This dish is a specialty from the Lombardia region.

Our main course...

Don't let the "small" size of this dish fool you... it is more than satisfying because the slow cooked (48 hours) and fork tender beef tongue, a specialty from the Piemonte region, is very robust and is an acquired taste. It was served with sauteed greens. 


This is not the typical tiramisu you might be used to in appearance, but it was absolutely yummy and light! I particularly liked the side of coffee ice cream and tons of whipped cream!

At the end of our meal, Chef Bottura made a very nice speech and we applauded his entire team. I had the opportunity to chat with him at the end of the evening when a small group of us had a final drink before calling it a night... and of course, we took a picture as a remembrance of the evening.

Burçak Desombre, Massimo Bottura, me (Left to right)
For all his fame and recognition in the culinary world, Chef Bottura is very down to earth, friendly and it's very apparent that he loves what he is doing! It was a pleasure meeting him. 

So, my "first impression" of Ristorante Italia d'Massimo Bottura? I thoroughly enjoyed it! The service was impeccable; the food divine and the atmosphere of course elegant and sublime! The benefits of being invited to an event is that you get a chance to taste a lot more dishes than you would normally try if you went on your own. But, I would like to remind you that this is a "fine dining" Italian restaurant, so of course, it is more formal and expensive. Starters and pasta dishes range from 40 TL to 70 TL and main courses between 60 TL and 150 TL. There is also a 5 course tasting menu for 190 TL/person. So, if you are looking for very "typical" Italian dishes and are not a bit "adventurous" in trying new tastes, you might be disappointed! But, on the other hand, if you want to taste delicacies from the Piemonte, Lazio, Puglia, Lombardia, Liguria, Campania, Abruzzo, Veneto, etc. regions of Italy, this is the place to try them in Istanbul! 

Ristorante Italia d'Massimo Bottura is open Tuesday-Sunday for lunch and dinner. Reservations are highly recommended.  Tel: (0212) 336 66 66

Buon Appetito!

Stay well,

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