Behold, Valentine’s: an evening of flowers, frolics, flirting and… food. The Insider lifts the covers to find out what happens when chefs get romantic…
ul. Hoża 58/60, www.delizia.com.pl
Warsaw loves Italian food, but that doesn’t mean it does it well. How many restaurants serve below par dishes, thumped down in front of you by a sour faced student with her mind somewhere else. In the shape of Delizia, however, Warsaw is blessed. Run by Lorenzo and Luca, the focus has been on recreating a small corner of Italy. This they’ve done, and they’ve done it well. Part of that is down to Luca, a theatrical front man who guarantees each guest leaves feeling like a star. Then there’s Lorenzo, the chef, a man whose perfectionism means nothing but the finest import ingredients land on your plate.
“We change our menu practically daily,” says Luca, “with ingredients directly related to the season. While we haven’t devised the Valentine’s menu yet we should have shellfish from Italy and a few extra truffle dishes.” “Truffles are what our restaurant smells of,” interjects a clearly cheerful Lorenzo. Warming to the Valentine’s theme, he speaks fondly of his favorite aphrodisiacs. “I love using shellfish like oysters, clams, etc. For vegetarians, I prefer to make a light dinner with truffles.” What makes those all so special? “Mmmm,” he grins, “the after dinner!” But what is the perfect Valentine’s? “Dinner all’italiana,” gushes Lorenzo, “bubbly wine, and then lots of love.” Find the first two in Delizia, the third is down to you.
ul. Zakręt 8
Nabo, it must be said, is something of a success story. Opened last year, it snagged top spot in Gazeta Wyborcza’s prestigious ‘Knajpu Roku’ awards. “An amazing evening,” recalls co-owner Urszula Eriksen. “All the neighbors heard the news on the internet, and were dropping by way into the night to celebrate with us.” In itself, that isn’t a surprise. The sense of community is strong in Nabo, with the café/restaurant maintaining a permanent buzz of hustle and bustle. You’d be forgiven for thinking Nabo has always been here.
The surprise is that the operation is Scandinavian, the project of Urszula and Danish-born partner Steffen. Be honest, queries the Insider, people don’t think of Danish as romantic, delicate food. “It’s honest food,” answers Urszula, “I say to people we serve exactly what I’d be happy serving my kids.” Using locally sourced produce, the food here connects the chef with the farmer with the patron. “I like to think of Scandinavian food as similar to Polish,” says Urszula, “with the exception of fish – the Scandinavians know how to use it.”
Valentine’s though promises something lighter: plenty of seafood, including Nabo’s signature mussels in white wine. “We want dinner to be light so people have plenty of energy…” Urszula pauses, before adding conspiratorially, “for the dancing that comes later.” And dancing there will be. “We’re planning a night of vinyl music, a night with all the old classics – Sinatra and Streisand! And we want people to bring their own records to dedicate to their date.” Matched with a dainty, prix fixe menu complimented with champagne and Prosseco, it’s not hard to imagine the quality of the night that’s in store. “And of course, no children,” laughs Urszula, suddenly conscious of Nabo’s burgeoning reputation as Warsaw’s most kid friendly venue.
Atelier by Amaro
ul. Agrykola 1, www.atelieramaro.pl
The big winner of the Insider’s 2012 end of year awards was Atelier by Amaro (Best Newcomer, Best Contemporary Polish, Best Chef). This year though, promises to be even bigger for them, especially if – as is widely expected – they claim Poland’s first Michelin star. With this in mind, you half expect the man behind it – Wojciech Modesto Amaro – to be some highly-strung tyrant. But the reality is different. Instead, Amaro appears softly spoken and mild of manner, yet below the easygoing attitude brews a true passion for food.
The omens for a Michelin star are certainly good: in January Amaro appeared as a speaker at MadridFusion, one of the key events of the gastronomic calendar. “We didn’t expect the invite to be honest,” says Amaro, “but I was asked to speak about science.” You mean bacon ice cream and carrot-flavored cereal? “Not at all,” he replies. “Poznań has the biggest food technology lab in Europe, a place where you’ll find all the tastes and flavors of the world lined up in powder form in little sachets. The technology is here. But I want to show a different meaning to science. To me, science is about knowledge, and that includes the knowledge of old recipes and techniques – it’s a knowledge that appreciates the food calendar, and things like fishing, ageing processes, hunting and design.”
Poland, and linking to its nature, figure highly in his ethos, with much of his ingredients sourced directly from the Atelier farm. He describes juniper needles as his favorite element to play with. “A magic ingredient,” he declares, “we use it instead of pepper here.” But with Valentine’s approaching, can he stick to his guns? “Of course, on Valentine’s we’ll use oysters, truffles, passion fruit, etc., but with the addition of Polish flavors. The ‘spirit of tradition’ is one of our core beliefs.” Does he have a favorite aphrodisiac to experiment with? “Licorice root.” The Insider raises its eyebrows. “Add it to a mushroom soup,” continues Amaro, “it’s a good addition to cream of boletus soup. Or use it in a game sauce. It’s suited in teatime cookies as well, or you can even scent coffee with it.”
Any proposal tips? “I once served a diamond ring in a consommé – the ring was inside a raw egg yolk, an idea of Otto Koch’s. Of course, a consommé comes at the start of the meal, so I guess the guy didn’t want to wait.” The answer, incidentally, was yes. And what of his most romantic meal… “It was on a boat in Thailand with my wife – the fish were caught in a net direct from the water below. I remember walking into this beautifully clean kitchen to talk with the chef, and to taste the different ways of cooking.” His eyes twinkle at the memory. “The spices, the green mangoes… We were there for four hours, enjoying the experience – it was the perfect meal.” –