caprino cheese sugar onion, foie gras creme brulee, langoustine rose - trio at Contraste Milano

Contraste Milano | the reflection menu

Contraste is in a world by itself

Before visiting Contraste Milano, I similarly read on other blogs about how Contraste is in a world by itself – detached from the surroundings and hard to find. Indeed, I too do think that Contraste is a place which belongs to a hidden city.

I walked past Contraste multiple times thinking that Google Maps has failed me, before noticing the inconspicuous sign stating “Contraste”, just beside an equally nondescript door.

Using the intercom system, I was let past the iron door and into a small but beautiful garden. The quiet serenity of the garden within these walls are already so distinct from the bustle of the city streets just outside. There, I met a man in a suit, who led me into the Milanese house where Contraste is in.

Contraste Milano interior - tables
Interior at Contraste Milano - red chandeliers

Unlike the quiet and calming design of the garden, the interiors within Contraste are very much eccentric. Some people summarize it as Art Nouveau, which is not wrong. But that description is missing out the most important bits – what really what caught my attention were the pieces of furniture that seem inspired by mutation of alien organic forms (albeit tastefully done).

While Contraste is housed inside a traditional Milanese house, the interiors are far from classic. Instead, they were fun and quirky, with predominant features of white, cream, and bright red-orange hues.

Contraste Milano table centrepiece
Contraste Milano interior

We were promptly seated and then introduced to the concept at Contraste Milano. There is a more classic menu and also the reflection menu, which is what we decided to go for. At Contraste, the “reflection” menu is a meeting between the diner and the kitchen. The menu physically displays a mirror and the message is that Contraste seeks to deliver a menu that becomes a reflection – both as a form of thinking and also as a reflection of the diner’s tastes.

While somewhat inspired by the concept at ancient osterias where the host would listen to the diner and come up with customised recommendations, dining at Contraste is at the same time nothing like the ancient osterias – nothing here is what it seems to be. There is a continuous study, reinterpretation, and even reimagination of not just what tradition is, but even something as fundamental as what is “carbonara”.

introducing the il Riflesso, reflection menu

The Food and the Fun

We were given a jewellery box, and then presented a key.

First up, in a dramatic fashion and all at once, a locked jewellery box was placed before each diner. We were then presented a key to uncover the treasures within.

Jewellery box trio - Contraste Milano

trio of Sardines “in saor”, Zucchini croissant and Ricotta cheese, Watermelon and campari.

caprino cheese sugar onion, foie gras creme brulee, langoustine rose - trio at Contraste Milano

Next came the trio of “fake onion” caprino cheese in sugar candy, a foie gras crème brulee, and a langoustine “rose”.

Octopus-chorizo cake, carbonara, yogurt ice cream sandwich
Octopus-Chorizo Cake at Contraste Milano
carbonara at Contraste Milano
frozen yogurt sandwich made with “bread” of black olives and almonds

Another small array of dishes subsequently arrived, and this turned out to be my favourite set that night. Here we see the ideas and creativity at Contraste Milano. We had an octopus-chorizo cake with potato as the sponge, carbonara reimaged as a bite-sized spherical ball, and a frozen yogurt sandwich made with “bread” of black olives and almonds. All were exquisite, and the yogurt sandwich was the perfect ending to this set. Also extremely pretty to look at, but don’t take too long because the frozen yogurt will melt!

Coincidentally, I was talking to my mother about how we both missed Chinese food when the familiar fragrance of sesame oil whiffed by. We were then introduced to our next dish – scallop noodles, parmesan cheese, and dashi.

scallop noodles, parmesan cheese, and dashi

The scallop noodles were of a nice springy texture, while the parmesan cheese alongside sesame oil brought out an interesting contrast. I read an interview whereby Chef Matias Perdomo shared that the restaurant was aptly named Contraste because his restaurant serves to highlight the contrasts of the kitchen, between hot and cold, sweet and salty, between everything. However, at the end of the day, harmony reigns. In this dish, we see contrast in approaches, but they work harmoniously with each other and bring out the best flavours. Intensely satisfying.

Tuna empanadas
Mussels, cheese, and black pepper
Ravioli of a zafron risotto

Tuna empanadas, Mussels, cheese, and black pepper, Ravioli of a zafron risotto

veal sweetbreads, macadamia, and pesto

I have two individual favourites that night – first would be this dish of veal sweetbreads, macadamia, and pesto. Nice crisp on the outside, with a delightful fattiness within. Aromatic without any undesirable smells. Fragrant pesto too, and a nice tinge of sour that works well together, cutting through all the richness.

veal sweetbreads, macadamia, and pesto
Eel with polenta
Beef fillet with

Eel with polenta, Beef fillet with “hay” and “grass”

Italian Pork Scallops

Finally, my other favourite will be this amazing delight of Italian Pork Scallops. Inspired by the Milanese pork cutlet, this uses meat that alternates between muscles and fats (as clearly seen!), making it extremely soft and tender. All held in place by a thin squid ink batter.

Super delicious, served drizzled with a rich pork gravy. Didn’t expect much given the dull presentation, but this was full of flavour and blew me away.

Desserts at Contraste Milano
Pulp fiction at Contraste Milano
Apple Tarte Tatin
Lego dessert at Contraste Milano

Black forest, Pulp fiction, Apple tarte tatin, and Carrots Cake.

Rose cake
Rose cake - soft and fluffy

We ended of the meal with this Rose’s cake, a simple and well executed cake made from egg, sugar, and water. Nice and fluffy with a light lingering sweetness.

Contraste Milano - a must visit restaurant in Milan

The Secret by Matteo Pugliese, at Contraste Milano

As we enter and as we leave, we see at the main door a statue by Matteo Pugliese, known as “The Secret” and widely seen as an icon of the restaurant. This sculpture is based on the idea of keeping Contraste Milano well hidden ; but truthfully, everyone knows of the restaurant since this place comes so highly recommended.

A must visit restaurant in Milan; I’m happy I managed to visit despite it being the very busy Milan fashion week.

Contraste Milano

Via Meda 2, Milano
T. 02 49536597

il Riflesso menu at Contraste Milan, the famous reflection menu

Sea urchin carousel at Piazza Duomo Alba - there's sea urchin in different forms. As mayonnaise, sauces, sheets, and even as a sea urchin sorbet!

Piazza Duomo Alba | Getting on the Carousel

Ristorante Piazza Duomo – what began as a search for perfection.

Ristorante Piazza Duomo is a name that often comes up whenever people speak of fine dining in Alba, Langhe, Piemonte, or even Italy.

What I felt equally noteworthy is the story behind Ristorante Piazza Duomo itself, that which is both ambitious and visionary.

The Ceretto family has been producing some of the best crus of Langa since the 1930s and Ristorante Piazza Duomo began with their desire to create a great restaurant in Alba. After purchasing a magnificent building overlooking Piazza del Duomo in the Alba city centre, they sought to find a head chef who can take charge of the kitchen in this project. In 2003, Bruno Ceretto set off on a long journey all over Europe to find the right candidate and eventually was led to Enrico Crippa through Carlo Cracco, another one of Italy’s most famous chefs.

The rest is history and Piazza Duomo ristorante was opened in 2005 by chef Enrico Crippa with the backing of the Ceretto family. The day before our dinner, we had the privilege to visit the Ceretto wineries and seeing the Ceretto family’s pioneering work in the wine industry further built up our anticipation for this dinner.

What started as the Ceretto family’s sincere desire to create a great restaurant in their region was led by their pursuit of perfection and today Piazza Duomo ristorante consistently ranks amongst the best restaurants in the world. Not just having been awarded the coveted 3 Michelin stars, Piazza Duomo Alba has also consistently ranked highly on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, taking 29th place in the 2019 edition.

Piazza Duomo Pink Dining Room, designed by Francesco Clemente

At the heart of Alba

The Piemonte region is a renowned foodie heaven and Piazza Duomo ristorante is located right in the city centre of Alba, the small yet especially famous town where many say offers some of the best food in Italy. It is in the Piemonte region where the Slow Food movement in Italy was founded and the region is also famous for its superb produce including Fassona beef, Fontina cheese, Tonda Gentile hazelnuts, and of course, some of the finest Italian crus. In particular, Alba itself is renowned for its white truffles and the International White Truffle Fair. As such, at the restaurant's doorsteps are some of the best ingredients that many chefs just dream to work with.

However being located in a region where you can easily eat well at the many excellent osterias, trattorias, and restaurants make creating a truly outstanding restaurant a real challenge.

Showcasing the best of local produce

Piazza Duomo Alba works in close contact with local producers and proudly uses mostly regional ingredients from within a radius of 50 kilometers. Not just that however, at the foot of the Ceretto winery is the vegetable garden of Piazza Duomo where the three-starred chef cultivates raw material for use at his restaurant.

Chef Enrico Crippa is inspired by local produce and they guide him towards how to best present each item. With which, his experiences, having worked in France and Japan, leads him towards creating his idea of contemporary cuisine – that which is both light and beautiful to the eye.

The Concept

I always am most intrigued by strong concepts and well-developed culinary philosophies – it is not just the food alone but how ideas are presented and everything comes into play.

The chef’s idea of bringing out each ingredient's best characteristics and reinventing traditional food is evident in his menus – one was his signature degustation, one his reinterpretation of Langhe’s regional cuisine, and the last was the “Carousel” menu.

Seeking to try the seasonal flavours and to taste some of the chef's most creative ideas, it was an easy choice for me to get on the Carousel. The Carousel is said to bring together facts, thoughts, and ideas - sounds like an abstract concept that I wonder how the chef will present through food.

Carousel “In the Kitchen” - a seasonal menu at the Piazza Duomo Alba

The Carousel “In the Kitchen” menu showcases a whimsical whirlwind of ideas coming through in 8 phases. Each phase takes a certain core ingredient and presents it in a multitude of ways. Whether you interpret carousel as the merry-go-round or the historical definition where knights competed and demonstrated their equestrian skill, here both interpretations seem to fit. The kitchen carousel features creative use of seasonal ingredients, with each “round” being a demonstration of chef Enrico Crippa’s ideas and techniques, presented through a myriad of dishes.

Amuse Bouche at Piazza Duomo, featuring sweet corn crunch, foie gras cream, foam.

We kickstarted our meal with this round of amuse-bouches, its highlight being the beautiful layers of foie gras cream mixed with sweet corn crunch, before being topped off with foam. Smooth and rich foie gras cream, this time complemented with crunchy corn which brought a contrasting texture and adds a light (and somewhat unfamilar?) sweetness.

The First Carousel: Sea Urchin

Sea urchin carousel at Piazza Duomo Alba - there's sea urchin in different forms. As mayonnaise, sauces, sheets, and even as a sea urchin sorbet!

Sea urchin sheets, sea urchin cream, sea urchin sauces, and an insane sea urchin sorbet.

None of the typical sea urchin sashimi here! All were delicious and umami-rich as sea urchin comes to be, but here we have sea urchin reimagined in all kinds textures, forms, and temperatures even.

The Second Carousel: Cucumber

Seabass cucumber carousel at Piazza Duomo
Cucumber carousel at Piazza Duomo
Cucumber carousel at Piazza Duomo
Cucumber carousel at Piazza Duomo
Cucumber with little flower

The Third Carousel: Beetroot

A jelly-like beetroot film covers the beetroot tartare beneath, a pink sandwich stuffed with fresh cream and caviar, and finally a beetroot gazpacho.

The third carousel showcases the many ways of serving beetroot - pretty in pink, each of these dishes perfectly match the famously pink dining room at Piazza Duomo designed by Neopolitan artist Francesco Clemente.

Beetroot tartare at Piazza Duomo Alba
The beetroot carousel at Piazza Duomo Alba - pink beetroot sandwich with cream and caviar
Beetroot gazpacho for the beetroot carousel

The Fourth Carousel: Prawns

The prawn carousel at Piazza Duomo Alba, paired with carrots
Prawn carousel at ristorante Piazza Duomo

Prawns here are paired with local carrots. Look at the beautiful attention to detail – not just does each carousel revolve around a certain main ingredient, they also follow a particular colour theme.

Also, pay attention to the fried prawn head with bisque of prawn – do you notice that the prawn claws are opened before being fried?

The Fifth Carousel: Codfish

The codfish carousel consists only of two dishes. One was served with chickpeas while the other, with a lovely saffron bearnaise sauce.

Codfish carousel, served with chickpeas
Codfish carousel, served with saffron bearnaise sauce

The Sixth Carousel: Semolina (& an extra Porcini course)

Just in season was the Porcini mushroom. Carousel 6 came as a choice between Semolina and Porcini. With no easy decision, we had both haha.

The Porcini risotto was really good. Given the chance to dine again, I know what I'll choose... I'll opt for two Porcini risottos!

A little golden chip was served by the side, accompanied by a mayonnaise of black squid ink. While taking a photo (and looking at the chip from all angles), I noticed that the chip was styled to bear resemblance to a squid! That was a nice subtle touch there. Especially with its "floating" tentacles and slightly imbalanced posture, this highly stylized squid almost looks like it is swimming.

Just in season was the Porcini mushroom, served in risotto at Piazza Duomo Alba
Porcini mushroom risotto at piazza duomo
Semolina course at Piazza Duomo
Squid ink mayonnaise with chip at piazza duomo ristorante

The Seventh Carousel: Pigeon

The pigeon carousel at the carousel menu

This was a perfectly grilled pigeon – tender, with nice crispy skin, and served with a luxurious Foie Gras butter sauce.

Pigeon carousel at Piazza Duomo Alba - drizzling a rich foie gras butter sauce

The Eigth Carousel: Save the Bees!

Save the bees! dessert at piazza duomo alba's carousel menu
Save the bees! Dessert for the carousel menu

Within the yellow-black candyish sheet is a light honey mousse. This gigantic queen of all bumble bees sits atop a garden of what I recall to be grass of cake sponge and intricate jelly flowers.

This dessert was just subtly sweet and the absolute cutest!

I must also mention the breads

hazelnut, brown, white bread at piazza duomo alba
Piazza Duomo Pink Dining Room

Brown bread, white bread, and a hazelnut bread! Using hazelnuts which are a specialty of the region (they’re selling it everywhere and the hazelnuts here are said to be the best!). Also, as a gift, we got a small pouch of hazelnut seeds to try plant… it’ll be interesting to see how this turns out!

entrance to Piazza Duomo Alba - pink door!

Piazza Duomo Alba

Ristorante Piazza Duomo
Piazza Risorgimento, 4
corner Vicolo dell'Arco
12051 - Alba (Cn)
Tel. +39 0173 366167