Chef Damiano Nigro (Michelin 1 Star, Villa d’Amelia) brings Progressive Italian from the Hills of Barolo to the Kitchen at TRB Bites
When foodies look at a Michelin map, it’s clear that there is a concentration of Michelin restaurants in one little area in Italy’s northwest region called Piedmont. From Langhe to Barolo to Alba, this area is a mountainous region famous for its white truffles (considered the best in the world), fondue, Barolo wines and thin breadsticks called grissini. Piedmont is also reputed to be Italy’s most culinarily progressive region, which makes sense that they are snatching up so many Michelin stars.
Beijing now has the privilege to have a taste of Piedmont as TRB Bites welcomes their first guest chef of 2017, who also happens to be the first Italian chef that they have ever hosted. Chef Damiano Nigro is introduced as an Italian culinary force with 1 Michelin star as the executive chef of the 4 star Relais “Villa d’Amelia” in Piedmont, where he still works today. While Chef Damiano has traveled all over the world and cooked in Germany, France, England, Spain, New York and Taiwan, he’s taken the inspiration he’s received in each place and applied it to his intense focus in the kitchen.
A recommendation to TRB by a foodie who was previous based in Beijing, Chef Damiano is in Beijing for just a week, presenting a lunch menu (RMB 480 per person) and a dinner menu (RMB 680 per person) between Wednesday, March 8th-Sunday, March 12th.
Chef Damiano Nigro’s Exclusive Dinner Menu at TRB Bites
LDS Snapshots of Chef Damiano’s Dinner Menu:
Amuse Bouche: Russian Salad & Mini Burger
This was an odd start. Both the salad and the burger were tasty, but a Russian inspired salad and a mini burger that reminded me of Micky D’s is out of step with a menu that was distinctly Italian. Thankfully this seemed to be the one oddity in the menu as you shall see!
Squid, Artichokes and Soft Potato (paired with Kris, Pinot Grigio, Alto Adige, Italy 2015)
Astonishing. Best squid I have eaten in a long, long time! Charred slightly and yet moist and incredibly tender, this plate had a great swirling mix of flavours. A touch of spice and the delicate texture of the squid left lasting impressions.
When asked about how he managed to cook it so well, Chef Damiano nonchalantly told us that he simply fried it quickly in a hot pan. The art of cooking clearly comes more easily to some (rather than me)!
Roasted Scallop, Parmesan Fondue and Asparagus (paired with Chardonnay “Dragon”, Langhe DOC 2013)
You can’t go wrong with a gorgeous, juicy roasted scallop. Top it with some fresh asparagus strands and a swirl of Piedmont’s signature fondue, this is lovely.
When I asked Chef Damiano if he had played with Chinese spices before, he said that he had made a fondue with eggs cooked in a potato stock and topped with white chocolate, sichuan peppercorns and white truffle. Kind of wish I could have tried that!
Piedmont Tajarin Sautéed with Lobster (paired with Gewürtraminer, Valle Isarco Alto Adige DOC 2015)
This dish again represents one of the eternal mysteries to me as a non-chef. How do they (especially the Italians) manage to make it taste so much better than anything I or my friends can produce at home. Orders of magnitude better.
Tarajin is a Piedmonte name for tagliatelle, and this one was beautiful in its simplicity. Tangy tomato sauce paired with chunks of lobster and a hint of lemon floating on top was enough to get me researching Piedmont for my next holiday!
Soft Cheek Cooked in Barolo Wine, Mashed Potato, Pak-Choi and Crispy Purple Potato (paired with Prunotto Fiulot Barbera d’Asti 2013)
Chef Damiano reeled off a laundry list of the top quality products that come out of the Piedmonte region (fine meats, fresh seafood, herbs, vegetables, white truffles, etc.) and Barolo wine was one he may have even mentioned twice. This Beef cheek was braised in Barolo wine and the resulting dish had an incredible depth of flavour. The crispy purple potato provided a lovely counterpoint to the softness of the mash and cheek and the Bok Choy (going to spell it the way I like to) was perhaps an effort to incorporate a bit of China into his tasting menu.
Hazelnut Langhe Tiramisu (paired with Prunotto Moscato d’Asti 2014)
In general, Tiramisu as a dessert can be quite divisive. Having said that, this interpretation is a solid one and the coffee is at the base of the tower so if you want, you can avoid it!
I’ll take this opportunity to give credit to the wine pairing too as it really added to the meal without distracting from the food. I was particularly impressed with the Chardonnay and Moscato.
Time is tight, but try to find a meal (lunch or dinner) to get over to Bites this weekend. This menu was a shining example of how powerful and simple Italian cooking can be!
When asked what he hopes guests will remember from tasting his menu, Chef Damiano said he wanted to leave a message with his diners that Italian cuisine is much more than just pasta and pizza. He hopes that this dining experience will encourage people to come to Italy.
Ok, I’m sold! I look forward to crossing paths with Chef Damiano again when I’m eating my way through Alba’s Michelin-starred restaurants!
Guest Chef Damiano Nigro at TRB Bites:
Dates: Wednesday, March 8 – Sunday, March 12th
Lunch (RMB 480 per person) & Dinner Menu (RMB 680 per person)
Address: 95 Donghuamen Dajie, East Gate of the Forbidden City
Chinese Address: 东华门大街95号 (故宫东门)
Tel: +8610 6401 6676
Opening Hours: Open Every Day (Starting Sept 28), 11:30AM-10:30PM