Fantin, intercontinental acrobatics

Bulgari’s book encloses the technique of a young man cooking Italian with Japanese ingredients

13-10-2016
Wild mushroom flan with broth, a dish served last

Wild mushroom flan with broth, a dish served last night at Bulgari in Milan. It is also one of the 32 recipes in the brand new book "La Cucina di Luca Fantin", written with Andrea Petrini and published by Assouline for Bulgari. For 7 years now the maison has been the location in Tokyo for the restaurant of the chef from Treviso, one Michelin star (photo by Takao Ikejiri)

It’s not often the case that you can pair the presentation of a good book with a remarkable dinner. Yet it happened last night at Bulgari in Milan, on the occasion of the book launch of “La Cucina di Luca Fantin”, written by the 37-year old chef from Treviso, who’s been at the helm of the restaurant inside the Ginza Tower in Tokyo since 2009.

The volume is a jewel published by American Assouline, a four-handed work written with Andrea Petrini (a food writer who’s sweating his guts out as he organises Gelinaz!) with photographs by the intercontinental trio formed by Takanori NakamuraAndrea Fazzari and Takao Ikejiri. It portrays Fantin in 32 recipes, 8 per season. «An Italian style of cuisine», reads the effective back cover, «but with a Japanese subtle use of delicate flavours. A cuisine vibrating with tense minimalism, contemporary in that it is timeless».

The synthesis was seasoned with many anecdotes in yesterday’s pre-dinner meeting. An interesting chat between the two authors: «The idea of the volume», said Petrini introducing the conversation «came in 2014: we wanted to enucleate the Fantin method. The incipit of this story is almost banal: Luca is an Italian navigator. Like many others, he travels around the world. What makes him stand out is an obsessive intelligence, imbued with a personal poetic generated from an important turning point: does it make sense to continue making Italian cuisine with Italian products? Not much. Indeed today this guy is the author of an Italian cuisine with 90% Japanese raw materials».

"La Cucina di Luca Fantin" can be purchased from the Assouline website or 4 bookshops in Milan (Armani Libri, Rizzoli, Hoepli and Milano Libri), for 140 euros (only in English)

"La Cucina di Luca Fantin" can be purchased from the Assouline website or 4 bookshops in Milan (Armani Libri, Rizzoli, Hoepli and Milano Libri), for 140 euros (only in English)

Fantin: «We made this choice not because Italian raw materials were lacking, not at all: every week suppliers faxed us offers presenting all sorts of products. However, for instance, these included asparagus from Bassano which you could only serve 10 days after the harvest. Old products, with a dull taste. This is why we decided to tear those offers and change direction».

The journey begins: «We started to look for products, travelling across the country from north to south. A constant search for seasonal ingredients – Japan has 4 very different seasons, just like Italy – which are the result of the work of people who work in the fields up to 364 days a year. Vegetables with completely different characteristics compared to our own: radicchio is everything but bitter. Carrots are very sweet, they plant them in September under the snow and pick them in February. Ovoli mushrooms picked on Mount Fuji have a much more delicate taste and cost half as much. The fish swims in cold and deep water, which results in a more turgid meat. These discoveries gave me the motivation to work with these products with an even greater sense of responsibility».

Bending over backwards in the kitchen, so as to make “Italian” ingredients that are not Italian: «For instance, we make the sweet radicchio more acid and bitter, and thus closer to our taste, thanks to a reduction of merlot…» (see the recipe in the book). Other examples, Petrini pointed out, «that lead us to think both of the naturalness of an ingredient that mustn’t be ruined, and of the essential intervention of the chef, at a time when this aspect is not stressed enough».

Un intenso ritratto del cuoco di Silea (Treviso), classe 1979, al Bulgari Ginza Tower di Tokyo dal 2009. E' stato "Chef dell'anno" per la Guida ai ristoranti di Identità Golose 2014

Un intenso ritratto del cuoco di Silea (Treviso), classe 1979, al Bulgari Ginza Tower di Tokyo dal 2009. E' stato "Chef dell'anno" per la Guida ai ristoranti di Identità Golose 2014

In his work, Fantin doesn’t forget using 10% of made in Italy raw materials: «I cannot do without extra virgin olive oil, Carnaroli rice, which it’s illegal to grow in Japan, or of Felicetti pasta». The last curiosity is indeed connected with durum wheat in Japan: «Initially, they’d send me back 80% of the spaghetti: ‘too raw’, they protested. They were simply al dente. I learnt I couldn’t force myself on them. At the same time, I didn’t want to use only fresh pasta in the menu, which is closer to their taste as it is softer on the palate».

Stubbornness gave life to fabulous devices. As with the Spaghetti with sea urchins tasted last night: over cooked by 3 minutes, and then tempered thanks to a quick shock in iced water (at 4°C). Served cold, just how they like it in Tokyo, it transformed prejudiced, perplexed expressions into happy smiles.

See also
Luca Fantin’s profile
The Italian looking for mushrooms on Mount Fuji

 


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