- Visit Date: 22nd October 2022
- Restaurant: Reale
- Address: Contrada Piana, Santa Liberata, 67031 Castel di Sangro AQ, Italy
Oh my word. What an experience.
I had absolutely no idea just how incredible it would be. I have broken up my visit into three parts, as I was staying overnight at this incredible and beautiful location, which used to be a monastery. I immersed myself into the world of Reale for lunch, dinner and one of the most epic breakfasts of all time. This first visit being the lunch and the vegetarian menu, although really it was plant-based for most of the dishes.
The flavours and the depth of flavour in each dish simply blew me away. Some truly exceptional dishes here. Niko is really doing so much, getting as much flavour as possible from the ingredients and using barely, if any, fat.
Celery, carrots, onion, no water was added, just a double extraction of these three vegetables, finished with extra virgin olive oil and sage. Delightful.
Broccoli leaf with broccoli reduction. My favourite dish, wow, holy moly it was good, and just so much umami, it was broccoli leaf with a sauce made with broccoli. So broccoli on broccoli but it tasted like nothing I had ever tried before.
Lentils with hazelnut and garlic, lentil jelly, hazelnut emulsion- I found this dish quite rich and filling, it was tasty but knowing many courses were ahead, I needed to pace myself.
The one dish I found hard, the alcoholic lettuce being with gin, I’m not a fan of gin, and found it all quite strong on my palate, and with the sour cream too. This was the one dish I wasn’t such a fan of and had someone else finish for me.
Loved the porcini mushroom dish, with chestnut cream on the base, tarragon, and porcini extraction.
The bread dish was amazing, stale bread dipped in red onion water, dried in the oven, and caramelised, dipped red onion reduction, intense flavour, Montepulciano wine, and sage extraction. It tasted like Christmas stuffing, it was super comforting and nostalgic, with a bread and butter like pudding texture.
Beautiful tagliatelle, so light, no fat in it at all, the sauce only with Parmigiano and water. No butter, no extra virgin olive oil. The other pasta dish with the pumpkin was nice but lacked a bit more flavour.
I was very nervous about both the radicchio and endive dishes as I don’t like such bitterness. The radicchio with peanuts dish, which was lovely and reminded me of stewed rhubarb, and worked so well with the satay style sauce, which gave it a very nice sweetness.
Endive with potato water, it was like bubble and squeak, I really loved it, and I am not a fan of endive at all.
The desserts we had a mix of from the à la carte menu as Niko wanted the walnut and clementines to be with our dinner that night. It was wonderful, just an exceptional meal, with excellent service and packed with all the flavour concentrated from each vegetable used. Very clever.
Desserts next, Meringue, Raspberry and Caramel.
Essenza- sour and bitter, passion fruit, cacao, almond, coffee and gensiana ice cream.
Liquorice Dish – interesting, not really to my liking, balsamic and white vinegar, white chocolate, liquorice granita, and cream.
Winter melon, grapes, chocolates, and a lemon infusion. This was a good crisp finish to the meal.
We interviewed Niko many years ago for mymuybueno Chefs Get Personal, with a translator, so you can look that up with us online. Niko is a true genius in his creativity and focus into flavour. Just wonderful and such a warm kind guy, just wish I could speak Italian in order to speak with him properly, but we had many laughs all the same.
The service was exceptional, just flawless. Cristiana, Niko’s sister looked after us so well, I will be sharing dinner and then breakfast next.
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