Piazza Duomo is currently ranked 15th best restaurant in the world by Restaurant magazine. It’s located in the centre of the small Piemontese town of Alba. We arrived around 1pm and in view of the evening’s plans didn’t want a huge lunch, so we just stopped for a glass of wine and some nibbles.
The nibbles were slightly more copious than anticipated.
We were staying a a room above the restaurant, so when we emerged ready for dinner all we had to do was walk a few metres down the corridor to a discreetly marked door into the restaurant.
The next morning I discovered the main entrance around the corner.
The dining room is small and very pink. Not overly keen on the murals, personally.
Various menu options. We chose “degustazione +”, which added two surprise dishes to the normal tasting menu.
I didn’t take many notes so don’t expect detailed descriptions. Think yourselves lucky I took photos. There was a spotlight behind me that cast irritating shadows of my phone onto the food, so I had to experiment with different angles to get anything usable. There was a selection of pre-starter starters. This was an intriguing savoury creme caramel.
Some kind of sesame seed cracker.
Olives which are not really olives, as they’re made of small rolled lumps of, respectively, shrimp and veal.
Another olive, this time flattened out and rolled up and filled with ricotta.
An anchovie cracker.
Chard sponge with a blob of tuna inside. Just slightly too big to get comfortably in the mouth in one bite.
In the background, a foie gras mousse with ginger and grapefruit. In the foreground, a peanut cracker. God, this chef loves crackers, doesn’t he?
The first proper, menu dish was a large selection of vegetables (plus a blob of fish: cod with yellow peppers and salsa verde). At top left are artichoke and avocado, and the salad at bottom left contains raschera cheese.
Below is the only dish I really didn’t enjoy. Thin slices of raw sea urchin with tomato, water and gelatine. Sea urchin is a very strong flavour and not my favourite at the best of times, and serving it raw in gelatine only made matters worse. The name of the dish is “CapRiccio”, which is a multi-layered pun. “Riccio” is Italian for sea urchin, “capriccio” means caprice (as in pizza capricciosa) and thin slices of raw meat or fish are called “carpaccio”.
The name is more fun than the dish.
It was accompanied by a blackened (yet soft in the mouth) bruschetta with calamari and sea urchin sauce, topped with dried seaweed. Much nicer.
Next is the only dish for which I can confidently supply an exhaustive list of ingredients, because they gave it to us themselves. Chef Crippa’s signature dish is “Salad 21…31…41…51”, so named because it can contain anywhere up to 100 ingredients depending on the season and availability.
We were given a pair of tweezers with which to eat it, which makes sense as the leaves are so varied and distinct in their flavours that you need to try each one individually. The top layers were quite dry, but towards the bottom there was a light mandarine dressing. It looks quite small but there was a lot of interesting stuff in a compact and dense dish, and it took a while to get through it all. But it was probably the most interesting thing we ate all evening, and proof of the idea that food isn’t always about cooking and fancy methods as much as it’s about choosing great ingredients.
By this point we were already pretty full, thanks to the vegetable selection and the epic salad. Thankfully the next courses were quite light.
Cod cooked at low temperature, in a cod reduction. With some flowers on top. Soft and creamy, but a little basic.
Shrimp with spring onion and bisque. And flowers.
Asparagus with béarnaise sauce. And flowers.
Potato purée (very liquidy) with a dusting of Lapsang Souchong powder and a quail egg underneath.
A surprisingly tough morsel of lamb hiding under a lettuce leaf, with some mushroom broth in the cup in the background.
Another of our favourite dishes: risotto with parmesan cheese, caviar, mastic (a type of small black berry) and squid ink spray. Very yummy and I’d have happily sacrificed the lamb and cod courses in exchange for a larger portion of this.
My notes run out here, but this is the final course and it’s not on the menu so it must have been one of the extra, surprise ones.
The main dessert was a beautifully light, crunchy “crepe caramel”. Not too sweet.
More dessert nibbles.
And to go with your chocolates, a tiny bottle of vanilla milk and grappa.
There are some very inventive things on this menu but maybe I’d have preferred a shorter meal focussed more on Crippa’s strengths (which appear to be vegetables and salad, interestingly), and without the underwhelming fish and meat courses. Probably the best way to do it would be to go à la carte and just have the starters and the mega-salad.
And some flowers.