Friday, May 23, 2014

Postcards from Rome - part II: Pipero al Rex

Posted by Jan

On a last minute whim I booked us in for dinner at Michelin-starred Pipero al Rex in Rome; a small restaurant within a hotel, with just six tables. Opened in late 2011, it received its first Michelin star within a year under restaurateur Alessandro Pipero and chef Luciano Monosilio

We were received by Pipero himself, who made it a point to chat with us about the menu, offering to tailor the tasting menu to our preference. He was more than happy to accommodate my request to try their famous carbonara as I was on a quest for the best carbonara in Rome.

Pata negra from Pipero al Rex, Rome, Italy
As a welcome we were presented with a complimentary glass of prosecco and a lovely nibble of pata negra Iberian cured ham with a dot of balsamic vinegar.

I love cured meats and the soft, salty fattiness left a wonderful aftertaste which only served to make me hungrier for the meal ahead.

Parmesan and cream marshmallows with hazelnut cream and orange twist
The tasting menu began with a series of appetisers which showed up in quick succession, starting with a parmesan cheese and cream marshmallow.

I adore all things dairy and this morsel of fluffiness was a light, savoury version of a marshmallow, garnished with a tuft of orange zest.

Blue cheese semifreddo balls with spinach cream and potato chips
Next was a foreign-looking green sphere that Pipero explained was a blue cheese semifreddo covered in spinach cream and squares of potato chips.

The blue cheese sphere was not too overpowering and had just a hint of the tang that I love about this group of cheese.

Waffles with chicken liver pate and sweet wine gel
The appetisers menu turned out to be a list of my favourite entrées. The chicken liver pate was creamy and mousse-like, offset by a sweet wine gel ball on a thin, crisp waffle base, and tasted as good as it looked artful.

 Crispy pork Chips with& yoghurt and olive oil Sauce
The final appetiser, and certainly the most unique for me, were the crispy pork chips. The circles looked like an emulsion of pork fat, of sorts, made into a crisp; reminding me of pork crackling but an extremely fine and light variation. I wish I could figure out how to make this.

Raw duck, mustard and apple cream
Moving on to the first and second courses in the tasting menu, we were presented with raw duck served with a mustard and apple cream.

I have never eaten raw duck before but I really liked the way the soft tartare was offset by the crunch of the crostini rounds. I've always associated duck with orange but apple turns out to be a pretty good match too.

Rabbit gravy 
If there ever is an award for best gravy in the world, the Rabbit Gravy dish would be a hot contender. A rich, hearty, broth-like sauce was served with fried potatoes and a goat's cheese sauce so good, I practically licked the plate clean.

Shrimp, coffee and milk
I hadn't expected raw shrimp would be a common dish in Europe but it showed up twice in different tasting menus I had in Rome.

The texture of the finely sliced shrimp takes a bit of getting used to as it can feel a bit slimy, but this was a pleasant combination of raw shrimp with a coffee sauce and a creamy milk sauce.

Tortellini with chicory, mozzarella and anchovies
The tortellini was yet another understated but tasty dish, with a unique presentation and construction of the filled pasta.

I particularly liked the smoked anchovy flavour that was incorporated into the dash of cream sauce, in addition to the segments atop the tortellini and mozzarella cheese.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara
I was getting quite full at this point but miraculously, managed to eat all of the carbonara when it showed up. Pipero al Rex is well known for its spaghetti alla carbonara, which is normally sold by weight in 50-gram increments.

It was a rich and creamy dish with lashings of parmesan cheese and the typical Roman addition of salty and crunchy guanciale cured pork jowl. It was a great dish and definitely ranks among my top carbonara picks in Rome but still, it wasn't my favourite (look out for my next Rome post).

Lamb and smoked tea
I don't know how I ever made it through the whole tasting menu because by the time the lamb arrived, I was stuffed.

I powered through the lamb which was cooked rare, leaving it nice and tender, and enjoyed the gentle smoky flavour of the lapsang souchong tea against the raspberry and balsamic sauce.

Pipero returned at this point and kindly offered to pause the menu for a little while I readied myself for dessert.

Sandwich of tiramisu
The first dessert was an interesting take on the classic Italian dessert of tiramisu. I'm not sure what it was made up of entirely but there was a delicious combination of coffee and mascarpone, which was surprisingly a good palate cleanser for the next dessert course.

Apple, yoghurt and almond
The apple-based dessert we had was a great example of a few simple ingredients with different textures, made into something special. The apple gelees and pastes were joined by unsweetened dabs of yoghurt and almond gelato, coming together just right and not overly sweetly.

At this point, the hubby decided that he needed a whisky and ordered a 12-year old Ardbeg. We were so surprised when they poured him a generous serve, left the bottle at our table and asked us to top up as much as we liked. This generous gesture was invariably repeated a few times on our trip at different restaurants in Rome.

Petit fours
I just could not manage another mouthful, but was reliably informed that the almond, hazelnut and pistachio brittle was delicious, as too the almond cookie with dehydrated raspberries and raspberry sauce, and the unidentified geelee squares.

The tasting menu was an experience I would recommend to any visitors to Rome, pairing the many years of experience from restaurateur Pipero and the creativity from chef Monosilio.

Pipero al Rex was not our only Michelin-starred restaurant in Rome, but I felt it was much more representative than others of a blend of local cuisine, seasonal produce and new methods of cooking which seem to be the hallmark of new European cuisine.

More postcards from Rome come.


Sara | Belly Rumbles said...

Good God, it all looks so good. But I really want to try that savoury marshmallow.

Helen (Grab Your Fork) said...

Wow I can't stop staring at those crispy pork chips!

Jan said...

Hi Sara - It was a great menu. Glad you liked the pictures.

Hi Helen - I would so love a bag of those chips if it were ever possible.


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