I just got back from a couple of days in Milan and Turin and couldn't wait to tell you about a great (IMHO) find I made in Milan. I was staying in the Porta Romana area, not far from the center but definitely not touristy. It was a Monday night and I wasn't sure what I would find open. Well there wasn't much and I was getting pretty far from my hotel. Then I saw a place with light on and an awning so I went to check out the menu. As i got closer, I was a little disappointed because the place was named "Mistral" and I didn't want to eat French food in Milan. I decided to look at the menu anyway, and it definitely was not French, but what Italians would call "cucina creativa", essentially traditional foods updated in a more modern key. Lot's of emphasis on vegetables and seasonal ingredients. So I went inside.
Place was kind of modern and spare, but there was a banquette along one wall. I was the only one there. The staff was young and enthusiastic. I was immediately given a glas of prosecco and a delicious little shrimp morsel as I began to study the menu. I figured how bad could it be? It only got better. I started with ravioli stuffed with Taleggio and pear in a sauce of cress. I thought the pear might be too sweet, but between the cheese and the slightly bitter sauce the combination was stunning. I followed with a Napoleon of creamy whipped baccala, but the layers were separated not by pastry but by discs of celeriac! Sublime. To conclude a panna cotta al pistacchio with dark chocolate sauce. I'm still not sure how the chef got so much pistacio flavor into that cream - but it was delicious.
Needless to say I went back again two night later, this time to try some meat dishes. Once again i was the only one, until just before leaving. I started with the chef's version of puntarelle (chicory stalks) and anchovies. It was a cleaner and lighter version than the traditional version. I followed ith paccheri ( an oversized rigatoni) with a meat - wine ragu. It was scrumptious, though there might have been just a little too much wine in the sauce. I then had the tagliata ( a cut of beef) pan seared and topped with a mixture of winter greens (spinach, swiss chard, chicory) that had been sauteed in butter. The greens almost melted into the meat and were as rich in flavor as any I have ever eaten. No room for dessert that evening, but the house offered a glass of grappa which I gladly accepted.
Both nights I had a half bottle of wine, one white one red. Nothing exceptional. Both nights dinner came to about 50 euros. Well worth it.
The chef is doing wonderful things with local and seasonal ingredients. He deserves our support. Hounds, if you are going to Milan, find your way to Mistral!
Ristorante Mistral , Viale Monte Nero 34, Milano