The day: 2nd February 2009, Dinner.
The place: Via Stella 18 Ravina (Trento) (tel: 0461 349114)
The venue: Mas de La Fam
The food: (Multi)Regional Italian
The drinks: good Italian wines and interesting house wine.
Last time, while describing one of our divine meals at Locanda Margon, we promised to compare and contrast their delicacy and elegance with something less classy. As we will show you in a future post (stay tuned…) we have nothing against simple, rustic, basic, traditional, hearty food. What we cannot stand is heavy-handed, sloppy and pretentious cuisine. This is exactly what you find at a recent opening just a few dozens meters on the hill where… Locanda Margon sits.
Mas de La Fam is a converted farmhouse. The conversion has been done well, integrating intelligently a modern, ‘young’ style in the old rustic structure. A not insignificant amount of money and architectural talent appears to have been used in the enterprise.
We chose the tasting menu at €33 (three courses, excluding desert which is paid on top if you choose to have it).
The bread arrives
Not memorable but OK.
– Carpaccio di carne salada con cappuccio rosso, tortino al radicchio con salsa ai formaggi, verdure del Mas.
The carne salada is a type of regional cured (salted) beef with red cabbage, which can be served grilled or raw. Here it is raw, and it is a good specimen, well matched with the cabbage. The verdure del Mas feature some pickled vegetables of which the artichoke verges on inedible because of lack of proper cooking and preparation: it is hard, woody, horrible. The pepper and the radicchio aren’t bad, but overall this section of the dish is an explosion of oiliness and acidity. The tortino has a texturally unpleasant and rough brise’ base, but the flavour, beside the heavy hand with cheese, is agreeable – well, just so, for Woman, who still cannot get over that artichoke, while Man tries to put a smiling face over this underwhelming beginning. Overall the assemblage in this dish does not make much sense to us.
– Strangolapreti al gorgonzola and tortelloni speck e noci
The strangolapreti (traditional flour, bread, egg and spinach pasta) are a little hard but an energetic friend to your tastebuds (provided you like gorgonzola), and the tortelloni assault your palate with heavy but once again benign flavours. This is on the unrefined side of good, so what is the cheffy decoration separating the two sides doing there?
– Tagliata del Mas al rosmarino, formaggio (cheese) di malga alla griglia, with Contorni (carrots, potatoes)
The tagliata is memorably unremarkable. So we are pinning our hopes on the malga cheese. These cheeses from milk of cows which graze at altitude come often from tiny producers, so that they offer an enormous variety, each one different from the other. When they are good, they really regale you with complex and subtle aromas. Alas, this poor one has been treated so harshly on the grill that it might have been the most undistinguished of industrial cheeses.
The potatoes are amazingly greasy and heavy, and we are forced to leave them. Yes, you’ve read it right, we left something on the plate. If you have read other of our reviews, you’ll know that we can count on the fingers of half a hand the number of times we leave food on the plate. Mummy taught us so. But even imprinting has a limit ;-).
Talking of limits, we skip dessert. We’ve had enough.
A full meal here, with a bottle of wine around €20 and a bottle of water will cost you near €100. While this may seem OK by London standards, it is a lot for trattoria food in Trentino (see e.g. here and here).
The service somehow attempts to be polite but it does not have a clue, it really doesn’t. An example. When we ask about the varieties in the wine SHE is recommending us, the waitress says she does not know. With a flash of inspiration she then looks at the label, but alas, she says that the label does not help. Well, it is probably Cabernet, or Merlot. Not Pinot Noir. We look at the label and we notice with interest that it lists exactly the grapes that make up this wine.
The result of the chef’s efforts is very mediocre indeed from the culinary point of view. This is merely ordinary, with touches of unacceptable (gosh, that artichoke), and very heavy handed cuisine with a tendency to destroy flavours, but which clearly believes to be of higher standards. It is extortionate by local standards in terms of value for money. Walk up the hill, take out €50 extra euros to dine at Locanda Margon, and you’ll feel you have saved money. The final straw for us for was to see a cook with the cigarette hanging from his lip while assembling a dish. This says it all, we thought.