I decided to make Vin Bar/Valentino one category as we are not exactly having the Vin Bar menu – we are having what Piero and Chef Chessa wants us to have.
Vin Bar/Valentino has a new chef – Nico Chessa from Sardinia. He has been at Valentino a month so the menu is in transition with traditional Valentino dishes, focusing on Piero’s Sicilian origins, but introducing Sardinian dishes.
About the Chef – Executive Chef Nico Chessa
“Raised on the island of Sardinia, Nico Chessa has worked throughout Italy, mastering the signature dishes of every region. He was privileged to be the executive chef for the gala reopening of the Sistine chapel in 1996, where he had the honor to serve Pope John Paul II. Joining the Valentino Restaurant Group in 2003, after leading the kitchens of high profile restaurants in Houston and Washington, D.C., Chessa has long catered to a clientele of world-leaders, entertainers and notable dignitaries. Acclaimed for his Sardinian-style food by award-winning journalist John Mariani, Chessa’s charismatic presence has brought him an added following as frequent guest chef for the premier Crystal Cruise Line.”
In any case, Piero is intent on updating Valentino and not resting on his well-deserved laurels. This is a restaurant that is always evolving with probably one of the best service Front of the House teams, led by the ever-present Piero.
Last night, the day before Valentine’s Day, can only be described as a zoo. We sat at the entrance in Vin Bar and somehow Piero managed the constant stream of diners; it was like watching dozens of clowns at the circus emerging from a tiny car. Somehow Piero expertly and magically made it all appear “easy.”
All wine pairings were done by Piero and extraordinary. We started with champagne – not pictured.
With Nico Chessa as the new chef, we were treated to some typical Sardinian dishes.
I apologize in advance for any inaccuracies.
Zucchini flower, Taleggio cheese, fried quail egg, diced tomato, winter black truffle – the zucchini flower was stuffed with the cheese plus there was a “sauce” of the cheese surrounding the flower. A wonderful combination of earthy truffles and runny cheese.
Grillo Wine – great acidity, very delicate
Aristos – more full-bodied white – not as delicate and flowery as the Grillo – loved both
Salad of Sardinian Fregula (almost like couscous) with chunks of lobster, beets and julienned blood orange rind. The fregula with the lobster was a study in texture , with the beets and the orange adding just the right “top-note.”
Spinach Tagliatini with sea urchin and cherry tomatoes and a sauce from the juice of the tomato and olive oil – everyone knows that I love sea urchin so for me, what’s not to love. Terrific.
A word about all the pasta we were served. Vin Bar/Valentino excels at pasta. They are all made in-house and are cooked to perfection. I honestly can say no one does pasta better than Vin Bar/Valentino.
Bucatini pasta with calamari and bottarga. I think this was made by forcing it through a chitarra – a set of closely strung strings that looks very much like the strings of a guitar as Piero made reference to chitar.
Branzino with langoustino filet both cooked and raw, sautéed apple on top, langoustine sauce, pistachio, basil olive oil and a touch of pepper
Last red for the evening
Hand-made Strozzapreti (priest’s chokers) with Sausage, Sun-dried Tomato and Pecorina Cheese. In an earlier post I explained that it is called “priest chokers” because centuries ago, it was common practice to let priests eat for free in restaurants. Wishing to get rid of the “freeloaders”, chefs rolled the pasta in such a way with the hope that the pasta would get lodged in the priest’s throat and choke. We devoured this dish and didn’t choke!
Now pastry chef Davide Giova personally delivered our dessert.
First assorted sorbets of prickly pear, coconut, strawberry and Barlett pear
Then an assortment of pastries : (Unbelievable that Chef Giova was kind enough to write this down for me)
Pasta di Mandorle
Vin Bar/Valentino is so much more than a special occasion restaurant. The wine pairings are fantastic. The cuisine is new and exciting – this is not a stuffy restaurant. It really needs to be added as a must and get the “foodie” attention it deserves.