Italian restaurants are something there's no shortage of Helsinki. Some of them are actually ok, too. Sasso was opened in 2004 (where does the time go?) and is specialized in the culinary legacy of Northern Italy. This year marks Milan World Expo and Sasso celebrates different regions in Northern Italy all year long. First stop is Venice, which is the theme until April, followed by Milan, which features on the menu in May and June. August through November it's Piemonte's turn (look out for those wines!) and the rest of the year is spent paying homage to the rustic comforts of Bologne.
I checked out the Venetian delights over a press lunch a couple of days ago.
The neo-Renaissance features of the house restaurant is located in offer (especially the Venetian theme) rather suitably spectacular setting.
The wines for Venetian weeks are sourced in collaboration with Pasqua, the largest privately owned winery in Italy. This year also marks their 90th anniversary. Harmless, easy-to-approach wines all throughout the meal.
The first course on Venice menu (59 €, wine package 48€): deep-fried soft shell crab with poached egg and spinach. Much of the crab's taste was lost in all the deep-frying, but the crisp exterior created a nice contrast for the rich creaminess of the egg. The egg, I'll have you know, was perfect to a point of magic: a mere nano second would have been too much.
You might be able to imagine how much I looked forward to the next stop: black risotto with grilled octopus (!!!). The octopus was cooked beautifully but I did not care for the Parmesan in the risotto. Cheese lends it mustiness that overpowers the subtle oceany taste of squid ink. The lemon zest could have brightened the dish with freshness but failed to push through.
Wine pairing was nice. No fireworks, but did the job just fine.
And from octopus to another big favourite of mine: duck. Honey-glazed duck breast was cooked beautifully and accompanied with sauce that got polished away with bread everywhere I looked. Not a whole lot of gingeriness though - apart from a couple of thin flakes. Delightfully light dish nonetheless and did not need any coma-inducing starch.
At this point we moved on to Cecilia Beretta branch of Pasqua, which produces a bit better quality wines. Sure enough Valpolicella Ripasso Superiore 2012 was the best of the meal. Not very complex, but well-balanced. Full-bodied, velvety smooth with (surprisingly) soft tannins. Hints of vanilla and red berry tones were a great pairing with duck.
(Always on the look out for even more dishes for my staging cuopboard) I couldn't help admiring the crockery. Such beautiful dishes!
For afters there was fritole, Venetian carnaval treat of deep-fried beignet filled with cardamom cream. Cream was good and there was lots of it. Molto, molto bene.
Recioto di Soave is one of the oldest wine-making styles known to Italy (it's mentioned already in 7th century!) but for my taste (and for the dessert) the dessert wine (90% Garganega, 10% Chardonnay) was too dry, oaky and raisin-like. Too reminiscent of sherry, really.
ANYONE FOR SECONDS?