Posts in Travel
Eat.Drink.Travel: Il Buco, Sorrento (Italy)
 

I had a very ambitious trip to Italy - I visited four major cities and over 8 villages during my short 6 day tour. During my 48-hour Sorrento stop, I ate at two restaurants in the lemon-infused city: L’Antica Trattoria and Il Buco. Both were Michelin recommendations and Il Buco had an actual star. I preferred L’Antica Trattoria though.

Il Buco means hole in the wall. Right in the centre of Sorrento, the restaurant sits inside a cellars of a former monastery. Considering how the majority of Nigerian christians shun alcohol, I could never imagine wine cellars in a Nigerian monastery.

I digress.

Sitting there beneath the complete stone ceilings, reminded me of dining in Ali Baba’s Cave restaurant in Diani beach - that’s a restaurant that sits inside a natural cave. The restaurant is everything you’d expect from a restaurant with one Michelin star - cooking to a high standard, exceptional plating and creative dishes with distinct and bold flavours.

Whether or not you like the flavour is a different matter.

Simple, unfussy cuisine with a blend of traditional and modern influences, an excellent wine list of around 1 000 different labels, and service that manages to be efficient yet friendly and informal at the same time. Housed in the cellars of an old monastery in the heart of Sorrento, this restaurant offers gourmet dining in a homely ambience.
— MICHELIN guide inspectors

I wanted the full experience of dining in such an upscale restaurant so I went for the “Mi fido di Te” menu, meaning “I trust you” aka the blind tasting menu. I asked for my service to lean more towards the land because I’d had what I considered to be my fair share of seafood over the past two days.

The menus are shaped by the seasons in traditional gastronomy based on the products that are available at different times of the year. A precise orientation that is distinguished by intuition, inspiration, creativity and also by the whims of those who must combine, transform and balance these ingredients. So trust becomes a challenge. But there are no chances to be taken, it is a winning bet

All that said, after entrusting my hunger to the chef, here’s what he surprised me with:

Legume foam and prawns

I didn’t expect it but I was pleasantly surprised by the beans I found hidden in the foam. The prawns were cooked to perfection not a second longer than they should have been, I didn’t expect anything less so this was not a surprise.

Legume foam and prawns

Legume foam and prawns

Fried beef, buffalo carpaccio, walnut ricotta, peas

The buffalo carpaccio is the two deep red rounds (north and south) with the pink in the middle (ricotta). The cubes are actually fried beef as per like sallah meat but actually moist and chewable. The rest of is is an apple cake with celery and walnuts.

Fried beef, buffalo carpaccio, walnut ricotta, peas

Fried beef, buffalo carpaccio, walnut ricotta, peas

My pasta dish was the Homemade ravioli with smoked mozzarella which was incredible. It was served with a Neapolitan ragu which literally melted in my mouth. All their meats are locally reared - I asked.

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Course five and probably my least favourite was cubes of pork slow cooked in honey, served on polenta with vegetables (carrots) in dusted in cacao. As you’d probably expect, the flavours in this were a lot more intense than anything I’d been served all along,

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I forgot to tell the server I didn’t like chocolate so the first dessert they brought me was an overwhelming chocolate dish but when the server sensed that my spirit had sunk, he whisked that plate back to the kitchen and brought me something new, incredibly quickly - I must add

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Sorrento is an absolutely lemon infused town. They really do make the best lemon everything like this dessert. Just like at L’Antica Trattoria, the chef went for a double whammy with lemon two ways. The top was a limoncello foam and then underneath was a lemon mousse. At the base was a crumble. The entire thing together? Just wonderful.

Without a doubt, the “I trust you” tasting menu met all my expectations - in terms of the quality of the ingredients and the skill with which everything was prepared. It felt like I was eating art. The only thing that could have taken my experience to the next level was if I had gone for the wine pairing option. That wasn’t a let down though, because our server recommended a fantastic Falanghina from the Amalfi coast.

The damage in case you’re wondering was 85 Euro each for this menu alone. The cover at Il Buco is an affordable 3 Euro and I really cannot recommend it enough.


Il Buco is at 2ª Rampa Marina Piccola, 5 (Piazza S.Antonino), 80067 Sorrento NA, Italy. Reservations are highly recommended.


Eat.Drink.Travel: L'Antica Trattoria (Sorrento, Italy)
 

I arrived in Sorrento quite late in the evening, and I was very much ready to sleep. My friend was suggesting dinner and I thought to myself, forgetting the country I was in, “sis, it’s almost 9 pm”.

For the uninitiated, that’s when most Italians start getting ready to have dinner.

I hadn’t yet researched where to eat in Sorrento so after a few Google searches revealed multiple Michelin starred restaurants in walking distance including one that will send a car for you on request, I was no longer sleepy.

Profiterole with leek and ricotta cheese. Parmesan, Tomato, and spinach

Profiterole with leek and ricotta cheese. Parmesan, Tomato, and spinach

I was able to narrow down to L’Antica Trattoria because of this, this, and this. It’s not Michelin starred but it made the Michelin Guide list for Sorrento, the reviewers found it to be “fresh ingredients, capably prepared: simply a good meal”. If the Michelin Guide recommends it, I should probably oblige?

Elite Traveller also talked up the restaurant’s atmosphere using words like “enchanting” and “dreamy” so I was sold.

A traditional restaurant situated near the covered market, where the ingredients on the menu are purchased daily - a sure guarantee of fresh produce. There is an attractive outdoor terrace and a small area near the entrance to sit and enjoy an aperitif.
— MICHELIN guide inspectors

The doors of L’Antica Trattoria have been open for 89 years. It has been passed down for 3 generations in the family and it is by far the oldest restaurant I have ever dined at. I found the 50+ year old reviews, newspaper cut outs and recommendations from the Michelin inspectors, that decorated the walls to be charming.

What did I eat?

Well, I didn’t have the Concerto Tasting Menu because I was planning to splurge at Il Buco (two Michelin stars) the following day. L’Antica Trattoria offered a prix fixe option that allows you to choose 1 starter + 1 pasta dish + 1 main course and 1 dessert from the a la carte menu, so I did that.

The spectacular service, fresh ingredients and an abundance of citrus notes throughout the menu stood out to me from my experience at L’Antica Trattoria. Fun fact, we had two waiters who bore the same name - Antonino.

Sorrento is by the coast so I was pretty determined to design an experience that maximized my seafood options on the menu. My starter was the Grilled Octopus marinated with garlic and rosemary, and served with artichokes and potatoes.

Grilled Octopus

Grilled Octopus

Risotto

Risotto

For my pasta selection, I went with the Risotto with asparagus and burrata, orange peel powder. My favourite course. The orange peel powder made this dish very fragrant. A slight warning (that I didn’t get) it’s much better when you stir the orange peel powder in with the entire plate of the risotto, else it was concentrated just at the sides and it made it was a very aggressive citrus taste just like that.

My main course was the Sea Bass with fennel braised in Pernod, pink pepper, salmon eggs and almond wafer. The fennel was exactly what I’d expect from something cooked in high proof liquor.

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I ended with the Cialda alle due creme crispy cone with double lemon cream and fresh ruits. This was my second favourite course at L’Antica Trattoria. On another day, it’s would’ve been my favourite. I’ve generally found lemon to be an annoying fruit, it always appears when I don’t want it e.g lemon biscuits or lemon pound cake when I think both are just a simple vanilla.

The dessert was a crispy cone with two kinds of lemon cream - a fluffier one that filled the cone and also held the fruit up, then the second was the lemon curd that was at the base of the dessert.

Sorrento is known for its lemons and I gullibly believed our waiter who told me he picked the lemons being used this morning. He later confessed that they were a recent harvest but not done by him personally.

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On a final note, you can’t talk about L’Antica Trattoria without remembering the mandolin plays that serenades the guests. If he can figure out where you’re from he’ll play music from your country. He played a few American hits on his mandolin for the American ladies who were sat beside us. He either couldn’t figure that we were from Nigeria or didn’t know any Wizkid. Honestly, even if he had played Fela as his Nigerian flavour of the night - I would have been very impressed.

Aperitivo: The Night Buffet You’ve Never Heard About

I (Folly) was in Italy recently and my friend, and host, took me to my first Aperitivo. The first time she uttered the words, I honestly thought she said we were going for an aperitif. I asked her to clarify, and then she explained:

It’s kind of like a night buffet where the food is free but you pay for the drinks, but it only starts after 8 pm in most places

I thought I understood and then she added:

It’s like an Italian happy hour

I was unsure all over again but I went it with as you should - if you’re ever in Italy, especially in the North. It’s a big part of their culture and one way to try a varied selection of Italian food one small bite at a time. It sounds a lot like tapas and while there are similarities, it’s also very different. The closest thing that comes close in Nigerian culture is going to Giwa Barracks or Fowler after work.

So how does Aperitivo work?

First things first, it’s not like your typical Happy Hour where there you can expect discounts on drinks. During aperitivo, drinks are full price and food is complimentary.

Aperitivo buffet

Aperitivo buffet

The food can be served in two styles - buffet style and for lack of a better term, “surprise style”.

As the name implies, with buffet style, the food is laid out at tables free for all. This is technically not an “Aperitivo”, but an “Apericena”. The Italians I was with called it an Aperitivo and it’s their country so yeah, I guess I can call it an Aperitivo too.

Basically, you can dig in to as many helpings once you’ve placed your order for the first drink. The place I visited followed this style and the spread was quite impressive. Multiple pasta styles, cured meat, varied bread selection including focaccia, fresh mozzarella, veggies, dessert, chicken, sausages. I could go on.

For the “surprise style”, the food selection isn’t really up to you. Your server brings out a plate of food with each drink order you place. I’m told that the food you receive progressively gets “better” the more you order drinks. I would have imagined that the reverse would be true because drinking all that alcohol means you’re less likely to notice the food is getting better.

My guess is that, unlike Americans or Brits, the Italians drink to enjoy their liquor and not to get plastered.

What kind of drinks do people order during Aperitivo?

You can expect to see most people start with an Aperol Spritz. It’s a classic Italian drink made with Prosecco, Aperol and soda. It’s not my speed because I find it a tad bitter but Italians don’t care what one ‘Folly from Lagos’ thinks.

(NOSA note: You’re not that popping, young lady)

There’s a good reason to go with a “bitter” drink, however. Anything sweeter will definitely not pair well with all the food you’re about to eat. Also, if you’re trying to enjoy your drinking, it’s probably wise not to get something sweet. If your drink is on the sweet side, you’re likely to drink a lot more and if you drink a lot, you get very drunk.

Science.

Aperol Spritz

Aperol Spritz

It is their drink of choice and you’ll find this sold on every street corner and even as take away. Wine is also a very typical aperitivo drink while classic cocktails are not. In our group of five, I was the only the only person who stuck to classic cocktail blends. I did have a Tom Collins to start.

Unlike Happy Hour, aperitivo doesn’t discriminate for those who don’t drink. Mocktails, sodas, juices and the likes definitely pass the drink order requirement to get in on the complimentary food.

How much is Aperitivo?

For the buffet style, prices  typically start at 10 Euro per person and that includes one drink. You can eat as much food without ordering additional drinks but you probably will.  For bars where you are served one plate at a time with your drink, you don’t pay a separate cover charge for food. Instead, you pay per drink.

It’s a very good idea if you’re a little light in the wallet.

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I thoroughly enjoyed my first aperitivo experience and highly recommend 10/10; it’s such a unique cultural experience that just happens to be delicious. For most Italians, aperitivo doesn’t replace their main dinner but the amount of food Italians eat is a story for another day. The restaurant I visited was buffet style so naturally I ate quite a bit over multiple courses so it certainly replaced my dinner. I found the food to be worth the 15 Euro price tag. I mean, they had fresh mozzarella and I could take as much as I liked.


Over the course of this week and next, I have a few travel experiences coming up, including my experience at the Michelin starred Il Buco Sorrento.

Eat.Drink.Travel: Santoku (Accra)
 

NOSA: On our last couple trips to Accra, we’ve found some way to miss out on Santoku. Crazy because if you’re visiting Accra and you’re not checking out Santoku, you’re clearly doing Accra wrong. Easily the best Japanese restaurant in the region.

Yes, a sweeping statement.

FOLLY: You will deal.

NOSA: On a serious note, Santoku should be right at the top of your Accra Hit List.

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FOLLY: I sometimes wonder how a Nigerian girl like me, came to loving mushrooms after a protracted period of saying “eww what are those”. It could also be said that I’m simply making up for lost time.

The Shimeji Mushrooms are described as “Japanese mushrooms in butter and soya sauce with spring onion, truffle oil & kinoko sauce”.

In spite of my love for mushrooms, I’d admit I was a bit overwhelmed when I first received a bowl full of mushrooms. I got over it after the first taste and I inhaled the mushrooms as fast I could, and even used the spoon to eat the last bits of the “mushroom butter” because it was incredibly tasty. The flavour is simple in that it’s very buttery immediately, but it becomes more complex and you get hints of the soya and the truffle oil as you eat it.

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NOSA: Izangi’s take on the Tuna Tataki is one of my favourite things on their menu so I decided to give Santoku’s a go. It came in a Japanese mustard sauce that was begging to be in a sandwich.

FOLLY: I don’t really like tuna but Nosa always orders it - I guess he likes it or something. I’ve actually never asked - I should.

NOSA: Folly is razz and she doesn't appreciate good things.

FOLLY: If I barely like cooked tuna, then rare tuna is totes not for me. That said, it didn’t smell fishy or taste horrible, but I’ll probably pass on it next time - like I do all tuna.

NOSA: Behind salmon, tuna is the most elite fish. Don’t let all that canned tuna they forced you to eat as a child mess with tuna’s elite-ness.

Anyway, our final starter was Pork Belly, which we literally begged them to make because it wasn’t on the night’s menu. The begging was absolutely worth it. The pork belly is stupendously good. So good that we considered stopping by again on our way to the airport for a to-go plate. Get this pork belly and the mustard from the tuna tataki in a bao bun, and you’ll probably have the most delicious sandwich you’ll ever put in your mouth.

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FOLLY: We shared a main which was recommended to us by our server Red Snapper & Black Fried Rice. I don’t think Nosa appreciated how well the fish was cooked.

NOSA: I’m not going to say I didn’t appreciate it, but it was fried FRIED.

FOLLY: The outside (the skin) was dry and crispy and then the moisture from chewing releases all the dried flavours - basically it was really good. And then the inside was still flaky and so moist and tasted oh so amazing with the accompanying chilli sauce… Nosa just doesn’t understand.

FOLLY: The rice was exciting to me mainly because of the colour. Gochujang sauce, which is the first ingredient listed, is a spicy sauce that can also be made with sugar.

Gochujang or red chili paste is a savory, sweet, and spicy fermented condiment made from chili powder, glutinous rice, meju powder, yeotgireum, and salt. The sweetness comes from the starch of cooked glutinous rice, cultured with saccharifying enzymes during the fermentation process
— Wikipedia

FOLLY: Santoku’s definitely had sugar as the Black Fried Rice leaned heavily on the sweet side. However, with the fish leaning to the spicy side it worked out perfectly.

NOSA: I was a bigger fan of the rice than I was of the fish, but not sure if I was more fascinated by it or I actually found it delicious.

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FOLLY: That white fish roll was a mistake I wouldn’t make again. It was very rare and very bland. The salmon hand roll on the other hand was great with a popping orange salmon that good salmon should have.

NOSA: The Lobster Maki was my favourite of the lot. The rest of it was passable. Not saying it was bad or anything, but everything just paled in comparison to the pork belly.

FOLLY: I really really liked the cheesecake. I don’t think I can type enough really’s to describe how much I did. It was so milky and creamy (the matcha came through). Honestly, creamy and milky are not words I should use to describe anything I’m eating because of my condition (lactose intolerant) but I didn’t eat it all by myself, we all shared dessert family style 😊


Recommended Dish: Pork Belly (GHC 75)

santoku-restaurant.com

Eat.Drink.Travel: Urban Grill (Accra)
 
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NOSA: If there’s one thing Accra beats Lagos in, it’s the restaurants. Oh, and their power situation is much better than ours. There might more restaurants in Lagos (larger population, duh) but they have us beat on the quality.

FOLLY: And value for money.

NOSA: Urban Grill is run by the same guys that own Santoku and Coco Lounge. If you’ve been to either, you should know what to expect for the most part.

FOLLY: The space at Urban Grill is just too beautiful. It’s very chic and slightly upscale but you won’t feel out of place if you were dressed down.

NOSA: We had lunch at Urban Grill so just imagine how great it looked with large windows and all the natural light coming in.

FOLLY: The restaurant space feels very open due to the glass windows and a mirrored wall. Greenery isn’t absent in the space completely so much that it feels too “modern”. The green wall in the outdoor bar and the upside down plants help strike a natural balance.

FOLLY: Urban Grill’s strongest points are its bartenders.

NOSA: The drinks are very pretty to look at. Like, every single one we ordered was an instagram-ready picture.

FOLLY: The food is great too but, honestly, there’s better in Accra. The drinks, on the other hand, were fantastic - each one except the pink one that was a tad bit concentrated.

NOSA: To start, I got the Urban Tacos. It read better on the menu than it actually looked. Josper grilled beef, tomato salsa and guacamole. Sounds great, right? Well, it was basically beef stew and an avocado on the side. The worst part of it was how logistically challenging it was to eat. I absolutely wasn’t a fan of it at all. Urban Grill let me down big time. All the highs from the cocktails came crashing down when my plate came. 

FOLLY: My starter was obviously much better than Nosa’s. That yellow thing you’re seeing right there is Gari. The gari was seasoned but because gari is so dry to start with - I don’t believe it can take on any flavour at all in its dry state. It tasted like it was fried with some nondescript spice though. It would have been more impressive if the gari was cooked with highly fragrant spice would have added some oomph to the dish. I think scallops are best cooked simply and not for too long; and these were good. I’d never order scallops in Lagos because I wouldn’t know what to expect so rather safe that sorry.

NOSA: My main was the Linguini Carbonara.

FOLLY: I wish they’d paid more attention to the plating of their pasta because while it tasted good enough. I couldn’t help the sigh of disappointment when I got my plate and thought to myself “this is it ??”

NOSA: It definitely wasn’t nice to look at.

Linguini a la Carbonara

Linguini a la Carbonara

NOSA: Also on the bright side, it tasted much better than it looked. A little bit on the salty side, but definitely delicious. A lot of places don’t get carbonara right in Lagos so I was super enthused that such bad behaviour didn’t follow me across the border.  

FOLLY: My main was the Lobster Spaghetti so they could definitely have incorporate the shell in the plating - you know. In the same breath, I must say I really do appreciate that the lobster meat was removed from the shell - this way I probably got more and didn’t have to fight with my food to eat it.

FOLLY: The pasta looks spicy but it really wasn’t (thankfully) it’s really just tomato with some red chillis which I navigated around. The flavour of the dish rested mainly in the chive flavoured butter that collected at the bottom of the plate - delicious.


RECOMMENDED DISH:  Slow Cooked Short Ribs (GHC 180)

yoloxperiences.com