So this past December holiday, I treated my husband with a trip to Italy. This was to celebrate his birthday, my birthday, our first wedding anniversary, Christmas, New Year and the next 10 Valentine’s Days 🙂
And, of course, being the absolute lover-of-all-things-food that I am, I made a dinner reservation for 13 December at Aroma Restaurant – a Michelin-star restaurant that has a breathtaking view of the Colosseum.
This would be our first Michelin-star experience. We’ve been to amazing restaurants locally, but none are Michelin-star-rated, so we were beyond excited to experience this.
It’s winter-time in Italy over December, so when hubby and I arrived, we were welcomed by the warm, romantic atmosphere. Our coats were taken and we were shown to our table.
Now, if you’ve watched the movie Burn, your expectation of a Michelin-star restaurant is ridiculously high. Perfectly positioned tables and chairs, stark white tablecloths, cutlery placed using a ruler, perfectly polished glassware, etc.
The reality however, is not this, or at least not at Aroma. We were seated at a lovely table in the corner of the restaurant with a beautiful view of the Colosseum, beige tablecloth with a stain (have a look at the stain in the top-left corner of the Salmon sushi image below), and standard water glasses, nothing fancy-pants.
The server offered us a bottle of water for the table, we agreed, and when he proceeded to pour, he spilled half the bottle on the table… and… didn’t bother cleaning it up. Nevertheless, we weren’t going to let anything spoil this evening – we had waited a long time and travelled thousands of kilometres to experience this – our first, real Michelin-star restaurant experience.
We received our menus and opted for the Degustation menu prepared by Executive Chef Giuseppe Di Iorio, no alcohol-pairing.
Our server brought us some scrumptious breads to whet our appetite, served with Sicilian olive oil. Pumpkin and poppyseed bread, walnut and black pepper bread, traditional white ciabatta, focaccia and a crispy breadstick.
Our first course was a type of amuse-bouche – salmon sushi served with cream cheese proscuitto rolls – and my oh my, how delicious. Now, it must be said, to the dismay of many an Italian, I am not the biggest fan of proscuitto. To be completely honest, my tastebuds report a high-level of smelly feet presence in the taste, but this was not half-bad. The saltiness of the proscuitto paired very well with the oily salmon.
Next up on the menu was octopus in a glass served with mashed potato and parsley foam. As you know by now, I’m not a big herb lover, but the parsley foam was quite tasty. The dish was served with mashed potato which was delectably creamy, but the octopus itself was cut into very large chunks and was incredibly tough. My jaw started aching after chewing on one piece for over 5 minutes.
Our third course would be another first-timer for both of us – rabbit. Marinated saddle of rabbit served with one fried caper, Italian cheese fondue cream and tomato puree. The taste was… well, interesting. It sort of tasted like tough chicken, not gamey at all, and not too bad; just a tad dry for my liking. I got one big fried caper – sour, salty and bitter.
Then came the fourth course – homemade “Tagliolini” pasta with “Mazzara” king prawns. Now, if you ever want to taste real pasta, you have to go to Italy. In the short time we were there, my husband and I constantly ordered pizza and pasta with every meal. And not creamy pasta, no – tomato-based pasta. Most, if not all of the restaurants we visited served homemade pasta, and man there’s nothing like it! Combined with a fresh crushed tomato and garlic sauce, it’s heaven on a plate. This dish was no different. The simplest ingredients make for the best food!
Our fifth course was homemade pumpkin and almond ravioli with “Caciocavallo” cheese. Not being a big pumpkin fan myself, I wasn’t blown away, but it wasn’t too bad.
Next up was coffee-marinated codfish on a Swiss chard velouté with black olive powder. Cod has quite a mild flavour, so the coffee marinade entirely masked the natural flavour of the fish. That being said, the slight bitterness of the Swiss chard and olive powder paired quite well with the natural sweetness of the fish. Unfortunately, with my third mouthful, I munched on a fish bone and was quite disappointed. I hate bones or tough, hard things in my mouth. Yuck!
Course number seven was sirloin of lamb on a laurel-perfumed yellow potato fondue. Now, if there are people that know how to cook lamb and beef, it’s South Africans – we know our meat! The lamb was well cooked but very tough and under-seasoned. The veggies and mashed potato however were quite delish!
Dessert was Cardamom-perfumed ivory chocolate and coffee mousse served with a raspberry heart.
I love dessert, it’s no lie! I also love chocolate, so technically this should have been perfect. It was good, but not great. Quite average.
I must be honest – this entire experience was a bit of a let-down for me. This meal cost about the same as all the meals we have had at Level Four, Clico, Roots and DW eleven-13, combined. A massive bill… and it would have been fine, had the experience been as amazing as one expects from a Michelin star-rated restaurant, but it honestly wasn’t.
I can say, with 100% certainty, that all the South African restaurants I just mentioned are more deserving of a Michelin star. On the flipside though, I can say that I had dinner… in Rome… overlooking the Colosseum at a Michelin-star restaurant.
Have you ever had the privilege of dining in a Michelin-star restaurant? What was your experience like? Tell me in the comments section below.