I fell in love at first sight three times in my life: the first on 16 July 2001, the second on 28 March 2009 and the third on 6 December 2019. In between I have experienced many different things, all of which had in common that they were as far from Love as it gets. And I always knew it, both during and afterwards. However, my first, great Love, began on 8 May 1985, when I opened my eyes and saw my father for the first time. It was thanks to him that I learnt that there is no dream out of my reach, as long as I combine passion, strategy and perseverance. Thanks to him I learnt that being 'different' is a gift and not a punishment. But then . different from whom? I was going to write 'by those who are content', but in reality this concept is as wrong as it gets. I'm content if I don't climb Everest, but the person who doesn't aim for Everest but for the hillock behind his house and conquers its summit is not settling, rather, he is fulfilling himself. He is content who, although aiming for a certain thing in life, out of laziness, lack of will or courage, pursues a completely opposite one. Roberta and I are different, but not from each other, from the majority of other people. Roberta and I want to be free to be ourselves. The reason is that we don't give a damn about what people who don't know us deep down thinkAnd this stems from a long period of awareness where, I am sure, we even came to 'hate' each other for wanting different things from what 'others' want. And this is the same thing I thought of my fiancé when I met him. I love people whose eyes sparkle when they talk about their passions and pursue them to fruition. Coelho more or less said that if you have a dream and pursue it with courage, all the stars will work to help you realise it. Roberta Gandini realised, among other things, the 133 Sushi Club in Desenzano del Garda. Please never call it a sushi restaurant or a fusion restaurant, because you are taking something away from a project that cannot be pigeonholed into a defined category, but only belongs to the word TASTE.
However, what made me perceive a real affinity in Roberta is the attention to detail. Oh God, it's one of the things I most appreciate in a woman. And I want to emphasise in a woman because I consider this care an absolutely feminine trait. A man can be a perfectionist to the point of exasperation, but he will never pay as much attention to detail as a woman because he just does not see that detail. It is not a fault: women and men are different and that is why one needs the other to procreate and keep the human species going. Accepting diversity, indeed respecting and valuing it, should be one of the goals of the new decade.
Roberta, in her 133 Sushi Club, took care of every detail and really branded everything, including the mineral water. The dominant colour is white, this is because the venue is 'just' a wrapping, the canvas where Roberta expresses her creativity by choosing talented artists and turning every corner into a contemporary art museum. Everything is for sale, everything changes. Nothing can be stopped. Beautiful the glasses, which I also have at home thanks to a gift from restaurant friends, and wonderful the double-sided napkins, which feel very soft on one side. I also like the idea of setting the table by putting the napkin and chopsticks inside the glass, it leaves the table very clean and tidy. Here, if I may have a little idea for Roberta, I would love to see black metal chopsticks with the fuchsia 133 logo instead of the disposable wooden ones. Gorgeous glass plates.
One thing I particularly enjoyed were the chips, I think of banana or plantain, brought as an aperitif. First of all, I found them delicious and masterfully fried, then they allow you to chat pleasantly even if you are a little hungry and they beguile the wait. In any case, the time between courses was well timed even if the place was very crowded. The first wine labelled 133 was the Franciacorta Satén by Bersi Serlinia winery in Franciacorta that I have never been to (I hope to remedy this soon), but of which I have already tasted something interesting. The first dish we tasted was "Ceviche', fresh amberjack with citrus vinaigrette. In a dish like this, the star is the fish, which is really fresh and tasty. The combination with the cucumber is also perfect, composed in a very scenic way. I love amberjack carpaccio, I find it one of the most delicious raw filleted fish!
The second wine labelled 133 is an Argentinian Torrontés 2018! Fantastic, a tribute to my Buenos Aires-born father! Torrontés is an aromatic white grape variety with a scent reminiscent of Muscat, fruity, floral and mineral, with an interesting ageing potential even if, traditionally, it is consumed young. Just as I am writing this article I am tasting a glass of one of the bottles Roberta gave me! This one in particular has a pronounced perfume of aromatic herbs, white peach and jasmine flowers, with a mineral undertone that lasts throughout the drink, easy and pleasant. A perfect aperitif wine that goes well with sushi and fish carpaccio.
In an ideal world I would eat salmon for breakfast, lunch and dinner... and indeed I do eat it quite often. The second course like this, for strictly personal taste, is the one that satisfied me the most. The "Sake Teriyaki"are cubes of grilled salmon with teriyaki sauce served with green beans in a white tofu sauce. I never appreciated tofu until tonight: the green beans were special and I would have eaten a bowl of them! The masterful cooking of the salmon was enhanced by the teriyaki sauce, which I also prepare at home with mirin (an alternative rice liquor to sake), soy sauce and a little sugar. In fact, it is a sweeter soy sauce with a 'glazed' texture.
The third dish we tasted I also found very interesting! "Purple mash" is a Peruvian purple potato mash with blanched prawns and black salt from the Dead Sea. I really like mashed potatoes and find the idea and presentation very original. Also on the menu is a Dutch orange mashed potato with grilled squid and salt. By the way, do you know why Dutch potatoes are orange? The reason is the same reason why orange carrots came into being... which in nature were a less attractive dark purple colour: the House of Orange! In the 1600s, this dynasty led the country to victory in the Spanish War of Independence and the growers set about breeding carrots and potatoes to the colour orange. "Orange' in fact means orange! As you can imagine, the result was so popular that the purple carrot practically disappeared... the colour and taste of the orange one was much more pleasant! I didn't actually know that there were also orange potatoes in Holland, but I thought that this colour was typical of the American sweet potato... but I suppose it is another homage to the House of Orange!
Those who know me know that I have a soft spot for two white grape varieties: riesling and sauvignon blanc. After risking my head in the sommelier exam because of South Africa, which I candidly admit I hadn't studied at the time, I studied it a great deal to write my book "How to become a Sommelier"... In fact I even contacted the entity to learn more about WO. I have drunk very few South African wines in my life, so I thank Roberta because she gave me an experience within an experience! Moreover, I found this Sauvignon Blanc WO Durbanville 2017really excellent!
At this point I would say that we have entered the heart of the Fusion concept, with a very personal interpretation of classic Japanese maki. There are three types of maki that Roberta proposed to us:
- Maki Sweet: Red turnip rice with raw salmon, Philadelphia mousse with wasabi tobiko, fresh basil and pumpkin, sunflower, flax and sesame seeds - simply divine!
- Maki 133: Salmon tartare with chives, mayonnaise, tempura fish and teriyaki sauce - fabulous!
- Maki Music: Butter fish tartare with tempura fish and green tea caramelised nuts - very interesting!
I also really appreciated the use of butterfish, or rather Escolarwhich is not much eaten in our latitudes, partly because of its laxative effect (but not in the small quantities eaten in maki). This fish can exceed two metres in length and lives at a depth of almost 1,000 metres during the day, only to rise again at night. It has really tasty and succulent flesh, I ate it in a remote Portuguese island many years ago: Madeira, and I still remember it! They served it to me in a kind of hot dog with hair-thin fried plantain on top. I liked this street food so much that I savoured it every day!
Here a detail of the sushi I preferred in this fourth course: the maki sweet. Its best selling point is the cleansing of flavoursEach taste is defined to perfection. This is not at all taken for granted when you have so many ingredients and among them there is one with such an important taste-olfactory intensity and persistence as basil. I know I have already said it... but it really is delicious!
The fifth course was an off-menu item and, overall, it was the best sushi of the evening. The ingredients, so different, matched and enhanced each other in an almost unbelievable way. The Piggy Makinamed after its fuchsia colour, has a fuchsia red turnip sauce on which lay exquisite rolls filled with turnip and grilled scallop. On top is a drop of sauce made from manbeku, Thai green curry and mango.
What a cute idea to present the sweets as maki and such! They are actually chocolate or fruit crepes! My favourite was, not surprisingly, the one in the foreground of the photo: the chocomakian exquisite crepe roll filled with chocolate and mascarpone cheese. Also very good is the risomakia caramel and chocolate puffed rice roll that smells delicately of ginger.
The dinner was special because Roberta is unique. She served us on time Matteo: elegant, knowledgeable and delicious! Finally, we were greeted by the cuddly little dog Lallo, with a bow tie to make Daverio envious! I can't wait to return to 133 to taste something new. By the way, I look forward to Roberta, Matteo and Lallo as guests here in Monte Isola: they bring the sushi, I have some interesting wine to go with it in my cellar! 😋 😎 😍 I wonder if Paco and Lallo will get along... I think so if the latter brings sushi as a dowry! 🤔😝
Finally, the last thank you is for you, Francesco. For you who managed to make, with your sweetness, a beautiful experience like this one Roberta had at the 133 Sushi Club, magical. For you who gave meaning to my continuous search for a relationship that until the day I met you I had only desired. In fact, you were always with me, even before we met, in my dreams... I just had to find you. As the immense Paulo Coelho says, "The most important encounters are already combined by souls before the bodies even meet“.
P.S. Thanks as always Sony Italy e Photo Universe for the beautiful professional camera RX100M4 (In just two years it went from €1,050 to €592 on Amazon. Two beautiful subsequent models have come out, but at this price I recommend you pick it up because the differences are relatively minor. Check it out now HERE)!