A 19th-century convent that was converted to a hotel, Aldrovandi Villa Borghese has carried a certain panache for years. Another special aspect of this hotel, which sits on the edge of the Villa Borghese garden, is that all of its opulence with antique furniture and wall tapestries when you walk at through the lobby/reception area.
When we were escorted down to Restaurant Assaje, we had to walk through a small portion the beautiful garden. The restaurant itself is lovely for the elegant, minimalist with gray and white monotone color scheme that makes feel calm and make you focus on the food and of course, the lovely views the windows provides, if you do have such a table like my dining companion and I had.
When we settled in, one of the waiters poured Falanghina Spumante Brut as an aperitivo. The wine has a fine effervescence. The bouquet has scents of grapefruit and bread crust, while it has an excellent acidity.
The amuse bouche of the evening is what you’d think of as classic Italian flavors: tomato sauce, buffalo mozzarella topped tender leaves of fresh basil topped with local extra virgin olive oil. As simple as it sounds, it’s technically a hard dish to cook since the whole concept is “less is more.” Chef Mengoni has captured the essence of the intense sweet-lightly acidic flavors of ripened tomatoes and the mozzarella was a creamy quenelle in the bowl while the basil added the herbaceous contrast. It’s delicious and I couldn’t help myself dipping some of their housemade bread with my leftover sauce.
First course of amberjack marinated in tomato water with caviar, sea grapes, avocados and apple was another minimalist looking dish but there’s more going on the palate than meets the eye. The mostly firm, lean slices of amberjack worked with the gentle sweet and briny flavors of the mixture. When it’s paired with the Conti di Calosso “Crotin” Viognier 2014, it complimented the lightness of the dish.
The risotto with scampi, cauliflower and capers dish looked monochrome but it had intense flavors of the seafood (and there were finely diced bits of the scampi mixed within) and the rice was beautifully cooked that it’s not mushy nor too al dente.
The cauliflower gnocchi with brussels sprouts purée and almonds was the alternative dish for my friend who has seafood allergies. The gnocchi was beautifully made — cloud-like light, slightly chewy and it has bites of bitter-sweetness from the brussels sprouts.
The lamb tortelli with chanterelles, chicory and pecorino cheese was a sublime bowl of pasta. The tortelli was cooked perfectly and had just the right amount of lamb. The earthiness of the chanterelles with the bitterness of the chicory worked wonders with the lamb. The zing of sheep’s milk cheese sauce added some life to the dish. I wish I could have a larger portion.
The red mullet fillet, tempura style with eggplants, red onions and smoked provola cheese cream was an interesting dish since typically, cheese isn’t served with seafood but the cheese was mild and the mullet was beautifully fried that its fried coating was wispy thin.
The roasted suckling pig with salsify, porto wine scented shallots and mustard delicious. The slice of pork belly was luscious with just the right amount of crispness on the lacquered sauced skin. The shallots and salsify enhanced the sweetness of the pork while the mustard added a spicy zing.
Pre-dessert of sweet hazelnut cream dotted with rounds of vibrantly acidic raspberry gelee was delightful.
The dessert of chocolate and passion fruit, milk chocolate mousse, passion fruit and tropical fruits sorbet was a wonderful ending to the meal. It’s not too sweet. The chocolate’s fruitiness paired wonderfully to the passion fruit and sorbet.
We finished the evening with an Early grey tea (for my friend) and an espresso. The espresso was the best I ever had in my life. Deep, dark cocoa flavors without being too bitter and astringent with a touch of hazelnut midway with a long finish that’s not too bitter. Seriously, my mind is blown.
Overall, it’s a very good dinner at Assaje and well deserved of its 1* Michelin. The flavors are pristine and mostly familiar. Service was very good and friendly.
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at Aldrovandi Villa Borghese Rome
Via Ulisse Aldrovandi, 15
00197 Roma RM, Italy
Phone: +39 06 321 6126