04 January 2016

Turning on the Italian family-style

Turning on the Italian family-style
Veal ravioli is cooked with forest mushrooms, and flavored with red wine. Provided to China Daily

There is no shortage of authentic Italian restaurants in Shanghai, from street-side eateries that can bake mouth-watering pizzas to the upscale Michelin-starred restaurants. But Scena, the newly renovated Italian restaurant at Shanghai Pudong Ritz Carlton, is an exception.

With wooden floorboards and wool carpets replacing marble, clay tableware replacing the fine china, and the introduction of family-sized sharing portions, the restaurant offers that rarity - a family style Italian restaurant.

The food is prepared by Gianluca Visani, a native of Bologna, Italy, who has been mentored by Michelin-starred chef Marco Torri in Milan and was "stolen" from Ritz Carlton Beijing's Italian restaurant.

Awarded Chef of the Year by Timeout Beijing, Visani was credited with bringing the Beijing restaurant "onto the radar of many gourmands" in the capital.

The Shanghai menu developed by Visani is no less attractive.

The antipasto consists of parma ham, buffalo caprese, crab salad and eggplant parmigiana, among other delicacies, while the crab salad mixed with a generous portion of smoked caviar, was a great appetite-whetting starter.

The prawn ravioli, one of the four main courses, sates the appetite. With lobster cream sauce and saffron, the ravioli is a heavier and heavenlier version of the Chinese prawn xionlongbao.

A bite of the palm-sized ravioli creates a splash of delicious prawn juice, then the fresh spongy prawn, and finally the lingering taste of the saffron and lobster cream.

The only drawback is that the size of the ravioli is a bit embarrassing, too big for one bite while the splash of prawn juice in the mouth will not happen if the ravioli is divided into two.

The veal ossobuco with saffron risotto and gremolata is equally divine but has a more Oriental flavor. As opposed to the modern and popular ossobuco recipe, which usually uses tomatoes, the one served at Scena is rather traditional, flavored with lemon zest, garlic and parsley.

Turning on the Italian family-style
Visani says that it takes about seven to eight hours to cook the risotto, which I personally think is the highlight of the whole meal. It absorbs the subtle flavor from the veal while at the same time has a light moisture balanced by the saffron.

If you are more a meat lover, the Australian wagyu rib-eye is a good choice. The appropriately grilled beef is ultra-tender and accompanied with 12 sauces and herbs. I tried the one made from wasabi seed, at the waiter's recommendation. It was a novel and strong taste, but I think it overshadows the already delicious beef, which is perfect without sauce.

Meanwhile, the family-sized sharing concept, which means most of the dishes are served on one big plate, saves you from the shilly-shallying of going one from plate to another and allows those with small stomachs the opportunity to enjoy a taste of everything.

For dessert, the Scena platter offers an assortment of fruit, tiramisu, and molten chocolate cake. My personal favorite is the fruit mix. Its combination of mint, jelly, raspberry and sparkling wine perfectly concludes the dinner on an early summer night with its refreshing and light taste, all savored from the 52nd floor, with a view of the city's most breathtaking panorama.