Our last dinner in Campania for this trip was at Taverna Estia, where we wanted to return after our great experience there 4 years ago. In the meantime they added outdoor seating. It is a family business with Mario Sposito at the front as maître and sommelier, and chef Francesco Sposito. Their mother also helps out in the restaurant.
There are three tasting menus: land (4 courses for 130 euros, wine pairing 60 euros), sea (4 courses for 140 euros, wine pairing 60 euros), or give the chef free reign (mano libera, 8 courses for 170 euros, wine pairing 90 euros). Like the last time, we opted for the latter.
The appetizers were accompanied with a very nice blanc de noirs grand cru champagne.
The presentation of appetizers was exceptionally nice. It include a fluffy pea cake with thinly sliced guanciale, ‘fried milk’ (a cheese croquette), watermelon with mackerel, a temaki roll with tuna tartare (with the nori cooked with mirin and soy sauce to make it crispy and then dipped in broccoli powder), smoked anchovies with butter on toast, puffed pork skin with grated black truffle, and seaweed krupuk. The temaki and smoked anchovies were our favorites.
The first wine was from Hungary, a very crisp Furmint.
It was a good pairing with a modernist version of a Caprese salad: the fior di latte mozzarella was turned into spheres that burst open when you bite into them, the basil was extracted into olive oil, and their were several types of tomatoes and tomato water, as well as fresh oregano.
The next wine was a 2018 white Bordeaux, a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon with nice complexity and balance between creaminess and freshness.
This was a perfect pairing for one of the signature dishes of the chef: tagliatelle of squid with powdered squid ink, seaweed, and lemon. The squid seemed almost raw but was tender and had been cooked sous vide at a low temperature. A great play of textures and flavors that worked very well with the wine.
The next wine was a complez and creamy rosé from Liguria from local autochthonous grape varieties.
The rosé was a great pairing for one of our favorite dishes of our previous visit: tender tuna and creamy mozzarella in a crunchy crust of almonds and pistachios, with a tart ponzu sauce.
The wine intended for the next dish was an orange wine from Galicia in Spain.
The dish was barbecued eel with fermented red cabbage juice and leeks. The wine was quite astringent by itself, but the contrast with the unctuous eel made it too astringent.
When I pointed this out to Mario, he came up with this great Greco di Tufo as an alternative. This wine was delicious and a good pairing, because it worked with both the unctuous eel and the tart cabbage juice.
The next wine was a Fiano from Campania.
It was a very good pairing for the risotto with lemon jam, raw purple shrimp, clams and olive oil with Bronte pistachios. This dish was very elegant.
The next wine was a Fiano from Paestum, aged in barriques with stirring of the lees.
It was a great pairing for a very flavorful dish: spaghetti with roasted bell pepper juice, caviar and marinated anchovies. The bell pepper sauce had great depth of flavor and the spaghetti was very al dente.
We returned to France with a Jurançon Sec, made from Gros Manseng and aged in oak. A wine with a lot of structure.
It was a good pairing for ricciola (also known as hamachi, yellowtail, amberjack or kingfish), seared on the skin side only and left almost raw on the other side, octopus, seafood, and baby eggplant. I did not like this ricciola dish as much as the one with smoked provolone at our precious visit.
The palate cleanser looked like an egg but it was actually an apricot.
The pairing for dessert was a very nice vermouth.
It worked very well with the nice dessert, and which contained chocolate, vermouth, babà, and sorbet.
The collection of small pastries to finish the meal was also very nice. It included a fake peanut that was made of peanuts.
We’ve had a wonderful evening at Taverna Estia. The food was as good as our previous visit, but the service, wines, and wine pairings were better. It was also very good value for money. I’m already looking forward to the next time.