Enrico Bartolini is one of the rising stars in the Italian restaurant scene. For his restaurant, located in the Devero hotel by the autostrada just outside of Milano, he recently received his second Michelin star and his third fork (forchetta) of the Gambero Rosso restaurant guide. So it was time we paid the restaurant a visit.
Inside the hotel and the restaurant you do not notice at all that the location of the hotel and restaurant by the freeway is not scenic at all. The restaurant looks very nice in fact, modern without being cold. We ordered the “Be Contemporary” 8-course degustation menu for 150 euros, plus 90 euros for matching wines. This may seem steep for the wines, but given the wines that were served you are getting your money’s worth. There is also a 4-course degustation of “classics” for 75 euros or 130 including matching wines.
It is clear from the start that chef Bartolini is aiming even higher (i.e. for a third star). The amuse bouche are superb. The first one looks like a tiny eggplant and tastes of grilled slightly charred eggplant with great depth of flavor.
The chef is from Tuscany originally, which is clear in some dishes like the use of cavolo nero in an amuse bouche. It is deep fried but very light and crunchy and has a very complex flavor that is not only green but also nicely fresh. The play on risotto alla milanese has a very good saffron flavor, is crunchy and despite the bone marrow on top is again very light.
The final amuse bouche is very fluffy potato mousse with salmon caviar and capers. Again great depth of flavor. 10/10 for these wonderful amuse bouche, that paired wonderfully with the sparkling rose we had as aperitif.
The first course “alici tra soar e carpione” is a large type of anchovies (alici) prepared literally between carpione (Milano style) and saor (Venice style). It was absolutely delicious, and a good pairing with a very nice Mosel riesling. The blue drops made of red cabbage were more for decoration as they had no flavor, but they sure looked great.
Scallops with yuzu and chicken may sound like a weird combination, but it is very tasty indeed and one of the best of the evening thanks to the outstanding wine pairing. The chicken is present as very crispy chicken as well as very concentrated chicken stock. The scallops are raw. The yuzu brings it all together. Unctuous scallops, crispy chicken skin, fresh yuzu and umami of the chicken stock. What was very special is that the timorasso, a white wine from Piemonte, brings out an oyster flavor in the scallops that is not there before you take a sip of the wine. That’s how wine pairings are supposed to be, well done! 10/10
Small sea snails with kumquat and black summer truffle, paired with the same timorasso. I’m not usually a fan of ‘recycling’ a matching wine, but in this case it was a good match (if not as good as with the previous dish). The combination of sea snails with black truffle is again usual but very tasty. 9/10
These ‘bottoni’ (buttons) are like ravioli without edges, stuffed with ricotta and lime, and served in a ‘caciucco’ (shellfish) sauce and octopus. Again a very nice dish, and a great pairing with a Meursault. The citrus and minerality of the Meursault worked very well with the dish. 10/10
By now we were thinking we were eating in a three-star restaurant, as all these antipasti were certainly at that level. Time for the primo piatto, risotto with bone marrow, capers and spices. This was paired with a Pessac Leognan from 1996 (!), that went very well with the almond flavors present in the dish. The risotto was al dente to the point of being crunchy, which is not how we like it. It was still a good dish. 8/10
The duck breast is served with an original presentation: sliced and then rolled up. The skin is not crunchy but soft. It is served with a puree of fava beans and paired well with a nebbiolo. The duck is unfortunately not as tender and flavorful as it can be. Not a bad dish, but not at the level of the rest. 7/10
The cheese course is a sommelier’s nightmare: parmigiano with aged balsamic, goat cheese with a sweet sesame cracker, and gorgonzola with celery. I liked the combination of celery with gorgonzola that I had never tasted before, but it tasted absolutely horrible with the brunello di montalcino that was served with it. The brunello was also served too young (it was a 2009) and without aerating it properly. It was only passable with the parmigiano, and not working with the goat cheese either. 8/10 for the cheese dish, 4/10 for the wine pairing.
This looks like a creme brulee served in a nice copper pan, and in fact the top is like creme brulee but underneath is a very fluffy mousse with blueberries. As a dessert it is 10/10, but the wine pairing with a late harvest riesling that was hardly sweet is 0/10. The dessert is very sweet and has caramel and very ripe blueberries. Unfortunately we didn’t get a replacement for the wine until we had already finished the dessert, because I think the passito di pantelleria that was served as a replacement would have been a lot better (although not perfect).
Our dinner at Devero started out at an outstanding level, easily worthy of three stars. Then the level dropped a bit, but it was still very good and overall certainly worth the two stars the restaurant currently has. Although there is some work to do, especially in terms of actually tasting the wine pairings you are serving to your guests, I see a bright future with three stars for this restaurant. We’ll be back. What I really liked is that the wine pairing has premium wines in it that you do not often see in wine pairings. Food 9/10, wines 9/10 but wine pairings from outstanding to bad so 7/10 overall, service 8/10.