A month ago, I was close to throwing in the towel on the September issue. It’s not much of an excuse, but a bathtub was holding me captive at the just opened palatial hotel Dimora Palanca. Fortunately for readers (and my CV), release, revival and reassurance that the edition would be put to bed (on a blissful Simmons mattress, no less) came from the audacious cuisine at in-house restaurant, Mimesi.
Low lighting, neutral tones, leather fauteuils and fine linens greet diners in the former basement pietra serena kitchen, now the fine dining restaurant, of the 19th-century palazzo. Primarily Italian wines line a nifty side space, all handpicked by experienced restaurant manager and sommelier Paolo Manoni (Borgo Santo Pietro and La Bottega del Buon Caffè): think yeasty Chardonnay bubbles from Tuscany, luscious lakeside Lugana whites and juicy micro-winery Rosso di Montalcino. First up, a quartet of amuse bouche is served on marble slabs of all shapes and sizes: a piquant rice crisp, unctuous quail’s egg and ceviche chocolate set the taste buds tingling and the brain cells whirling. On stealing a gaze into the kitchen, I see chef Giovanni Cerroni, fresh from his first executive posting in Puglia, concentrated on the Maillard reaction blast to come: an onion poised in a frothy duo of pecorino and red wine butter. And then a dazzling surprise: tap open the faux olive and the liquid salad of marinated sardines explodes with a potent vinegariness that has nothing to do with the balsamic variety and everything to do with pickling. The crunch of fried capers is a touch of chef wizardry.
Cerroni’s magic wand is waved again for the pasta course: a sleight-of-hand feat of table trickery in the form of red tagliatelle and Calvisius caviar, whose “wine” pairing consists in a sublimely smoky Armagnac consommé. But it’s the risotto that perplexes and intrigues in equal measure; it’s beyond my British powers of perception to the point that the ingredient shiso warrants a quick Googling over dinner (apparently it’s a herb with a citrusy, minty, liquorice flavour, a real chameleon) and a conversation with the chef over a perfect eggs Benedict breakfast. “I wanted to take a classic Italian dish like risotto, elevate it with smoked oysters and add the Japanese influences that I find inspiring.” Bright and original, appreciate it or not, this bolt of creativity reveals the chef’s emboldened cuisine, a talisman of his evolving culinary destiny.
Without wanting to get myself into hot water (having eventually extracted myself from the bubbles in the bath before dinner), I’d place a wager on this establishment gaining culinary ground swiftly, infinitely quicker than my morning-after run in the Cascine.
Tasting menus start at 100 euro; wine flights from 45 euro
Mimesi at Dimora Palanca
Via della Scala 72
055 0317816 / 055 295369