Concerto of Creativity
By Charles W. Borden
Photos by Alex Gorov
One peek at the menu and it is clear that Concerto will not be an ordinary Italian dining experience. Just skip over to the dessert page, and wow! – Burrata cheese ice cream, with green olives, carrot sauce and sage (670r) – a creative chef has been at work. At Concerto, this master of the menu and kitchen is Sicilian Chef Salvatore Coco (see Passport interview April 2007).
As the Knights of the Vine arrived for this month’s wine adventure, cheese plates were on the table – Pecorino Toscaro, Provolone Dolee, Asiago and Montasio, soon followed by a selection of appetizers: light pan-fried tuna fillet in a nut crust, bell pepper ice cream, artichoke sauce and bottarga (850r); thin slices of octopus cooked with jasmine tea and served with vegetables ratatouille (950r); Sweet-Sour Lobster medallion tempura with leeks, eggplant and zucchini (1050r). The nut crust on the tuna was a thick, ground mixture of pistachio and other nuts and was very tasty, and the tart artichoke sauce nicely complemented the dish. The octopus was sliced paper-thin and it nicely absorbed the jasmine flavored liquid; very fresh and delicate. The lobster medallions were overpowered by the tempura coating, but were still delicious, and the accompanying crispy and long slender straws of deep fried leek, eggplant and zucchini were tasty "chips" that disappeared quickly.
On the chef's recommendation, many of us ordered the Filetto di Manzo (pan fried beef tenderloin in pistachio crust with cocoa sauce and orange potato gateau – 1470r). This was a very tender slab of beef, coated over the top with a thin layer of semi-sweet cocoa sauce. Just as Chef Coco promised, the cocoa sauce was a surprising taste complement to the grilled beef. This is worth a second try. The beef fillet sat on the soft orange potato gateau, a patty of mashed potatoes and the slight orange and potato mix were a third complement to the beef and cocoa.
Other main courses were Agnolotti di carciofo alla mentucia (homemade pasta filled with artichoke and mint, served with wild rice sauce – 980r), Grigliata mista di pesce (assorted grilled fish platter, prawns, squid, sea bass, lobster and grouper served with lemon dressing and mashed vegetables – 1800r), and Ravioli all canella (homemade pasta filled with ricotta cheese and Parma ham) served with a red wine reduction enhanced with cinnamon – 1150r). We also ordered a couple of pizzas from Coco’s unique selection, prepared in Concerto's ovens and priced from 900r to 1300r.
The sommelier is Ksenia Karpenko, and Swissotel's Australian wine consultant, Ron Georgiou, has prepared the wine list. He is one of only 258 persons worldwide with a Master of Wine designation. The wine list is a representative range of wines from not only France and Italy, but the New World as well.
Concerto is located on the second floor of the Swissotel. One surely will not go to Concerto for the décor as the restaurant appears as if it was an afterthought once the basic hotel interior had been completed. I can imagine the comment; "Oh let's stick the restaurant over here." But what is lacking in the surroundings is more than made up by the creative menu and preparation. The hotel appears to realize that it needs a proper re-do, and thus Concerto will close in August briefly for a complete remont and a new, fresh menu from Chef Coco. I can’t wait to see his next effort.