Perbacco

Sunday, July 22, 2007

My friend who had recommended Jeanty at Jack’s also recommended Perbacco, just a few blocks away from the hotel, and I walked over for a late dinner after my long day on the bridge.

It’s a lovely narrow place, with exposed brick on the wall behind the long bar, and booths opposite the bar along the other wall. Further back there are tables, but I was seated at a generous 4-person booth so could watch the action up front. It’s also possible eat at the bar, although most people seemed to just be having drinks and a light snack so it may be a limited menu there, or possibly just the late hour. The most unusual feature is a meat locker behind the bar: glass-fronted like a wine or beer fridge, but with salamis and other cured sausages and meats inside. A woman behind the bar was meticulously slicing the meats, presumably on order for the salumi plates.

Although I had cracked open the Rioja back at the hotel for a pre-dinner drink, I ordered a 1/4 l of the 2005 Barbera d’Alba from Piemonte, served in a slender, angular carafe. My appetizer was a salad of roasted red and gold beets — the red ones were a bit tough, but the gold ones were perfectly tender — with baby arugula and a sprinkling of Castelmagno cheese with a vinaigrette dressing. The Calabrese-style roll served on the side was delicious and fresh.

For a main course, I had the risotto, prepared with duck conserve (lighter and less salty than a confit), carmelized onions, sweet corn and baby spinach. The texture was not quite right, as if it had been made with the wrong type of rice, or rushed; considering that it arrived about 20 minutes after I initially ordered, I think that they cheat in the preparation somehow, as most restaurants must do with a time-consuming dish like risotto. The sweet corn was unexpectedly good, delicate kernels bursting with flavour. Overall, the risotta was a good mix of flavours, but could have been improved by a grinding of black pepper, and possibly a bit of a pungent cheese shaved over the top.

I refused dessert, but my waiter brought me a plate with four tiny sweets: two chocolate-hazelnut, like Nutella with a thicker consistency more like fudge, and two Italian nougat with pistachio. The chocolate bits were perfect with the last of the Barbera, and the nougat finished the dinner off nicely.

I was, of course, saving myself for the Recchiuti chocolates that I bought at the market the previous day, and enjoyed those back in my room with another glass of the Rioja. I was expecting firm chocolate throughout, but they were more like filled chocolates with centres of a truffle-like consistency. They were all good, although the cardomom was especially delicious.

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