On Wednesday, December 10th my wife and I had our second dinner at what is considered by many to be the best restaurant in Italy, the three Michelin star Le Calandre in Rubano, about 30 miles west of Venice. Last Saturday night, twenty four days later, we celebrated my birthday at Maestro which has just introduced it's fall menu.
With 65 people signed up for the blowout dinner on February 18th (waiting list only) I am going to put three years of credibility on these boards on the line in this meal: I now consider Maestro to be the absolute equal of the best restaurant in Italy.
Fabio, the same age as the 29 year old Massimiliano of Calandre (the youngest three Michelin starred chef ever), has grown even since he opened the doors at Maestro. An amuse of a fresh broiled scallop resting on a fennel/anise emulsion had incredible depth of flavor. This set the stage for the best soup I have ever tasted anywhere in my life: "fresh sauteed langoustine tails with winter chestnuts soup, langoustine jus dipped country bread toast, Grappa flowered whipped cream." The presentation featured the soup being poured over the langoustine and toast at the table with the Grappa whipped cream fully flavoring the broth. Ambrosial. Unbelievably delicious. Maybe, just maybe the SINGLE BEST DISH THAT MAESTRO HAS. Perhaps the single best dish that I have ever tasted in any Italian restaurant in my life.
Rolled beef Carpaccio is presented in chunks topped with drippings of 50 year Balsamic and Reggiano shavings; a " warm heart of artichoke with Foie Gras dome, proscuitto Pio Tosini, Sicilian pistachio crust and foie gras consomme;" Yukon Gold potato gnocchi with black truffles along with black truffle shavings; a superb "Il Branzino" which is a Sea Bass filet "dusted with fennel pollen, cooked in a cocotte with fennel branches, fennel compote, Taggiasche olives and Pantelleria capers, fennel anise sauce" and Sicilin olive oil. Superb, a dish that everyone who goes there should consider along with the chestnut soup AND his winter risotto: "Caprino" goat cheese and grilled Quail breast with a cracked black peppercorn jus. The best rissoto that I have ever had in any restaurant anywhere.
The previous Kobe beef presentation has been replaced with another, just as spectacular and remarkably, perhaps even more flavorful: "Australian premium pasture fed beef tenderloin Rossini, XXI Century." Descriptive, lengthy hyperbole aside this was another Great dish. Just superb.
We worked our way through about 12 courses over four hours finishing with a superb licorice flavored souffle with house made gelato spooned into it at the table.
In a year where for a variety of reasons I probably had as many serious meals as I have had in the last five years combined this was the best. After two years of operation Maestro has grown to a true world class destination restaurant. I feel very comfortable that this is now not just the best overall restaurant in the Washington area but also equal to The French Laundry (two visits), Tru, Trotter's, Le Bernardin or any other American restaurant as well as Le Calandre.
Most of the Winter menu just started two weeks ago with several dishes also carried over from previous menus. Maestro is actually so spectacular now that I am actually somewhat concerned that sooner or later someone will try to lure Fabio away. For the moment we are extremely fortunate that it is here. Right now I think he has edged ahead of Laboratorio and is a legitimate Michelin three star, perhaps America's best restaurant.
I am serious.