Taglienti’s conversion

Behind Lume’s success there’s an intelligent change of direction by the chef. Who’s using sauces now

12-12-2016

Steamed red partridge with braised cabbage and fat liver sauce, a dish in the menu at Lume, Luigi Taglienti’s new adventure, which got a Michelin star only 5 months after it opened. Compared to the days at Trussardi alla Scala, the chef from Savona born in 1979 is obsessively researching traditional French sauces. With great results, especially with game

Some chefs never change, faithful as they are to a style of cuisine decided early in the career and prolonged for ever, oblivious to uncertainties or criticism. Some instead work and listen, questioning their direction and horizon. These professionals consider maturity as a goal that must always be met, always focusing on it by exercising doubt.

Luigi Taglienti belongs to the latter group. Exactly three years after our last visit it’s like meeting a different professional. Let’s make it clear, his style is still rigorous and personal, but the chef from Savona took a step back and then one forward, diminishing individualism and technique so as to leave his frontman, main character role, in favour of flavours. An essential step that many forget to take.

The dishes in the menu at Lume – a very ambitious project of which we mentioned when it opened in June and which has already deserved a Michelin star – are neat and essential compared to when the 37 year old chef was at Trussardi. Now they must first of all please, and not surprise: «While I once wanted to show I was talented», the chef himself admits his conversion at the end of the meal, «today I find it’s more important to give the right flavour to the right ingredient. And make good dishes». Remarkable. And he’s already very successful at it, firstly because here in Via Watt «it’s like cooking at home». He was obviously not allowed the ease now surrounding him.

Luigi Taglienti in the refrigerated room used for hanging. All the game in the menu at Lume is hanged at the restaurant. In the photo, the wild ducks the chef now roasts serving them with a nest of pappardelle with black truffle

Luigi Taglienti in the refrigerated room used for hanging. All the game in the menu at Lume is hanged at the restaurant. In the photo, the wild ducks the chef now roasts serving them with a nest of pappardelle with black truffle

Most of all, today there’s a new guest enriching his dishes: sauces. In Piazza della Scala these were always the subject of research, but then appeared in tiny quantities: «I just added a few drops to the dish». More often than not, they stayed in the casserole tin «because I thought that in order to be a real chef, you had to prove you could do without them. I was so wrong». Today the direction is opposite: «I’m more and more convinced that there’s no such thing as great cuisine without great sauces. Indeed I dedicate a great part of my time to their preparation. So much so that, if I weren’t a chef tout court, I’d be a full time saucier». A neglected if not forgotten role, that of the “sauce chef”. Yet it was essential in the progression of fine dining since Marie Antoine Carême – the man who first codified it in the late 18th century - onwards.

These days at LumeTaglienti prepares 12 different sauces and it’s never some versatile or universal jus: every dish has its specific sauce, be it a white jus for risotto (there’s currently a magnificent one with turmeric, black pepper and bay leaves in the menu) or the mugnaia sauce, traditionally used with fish but in this case paired with Bresse chicken. The young man gets the sauce recipes from rare booklets on French cuisine from the 19th century, «because there’s nothing left for us to invent». However, you can work with classic recipes and make them lighter because today’s cuisine expects much more lightness. Most of all, the sauces must not dominate the main food, but just channel its various components. Creating an elegant harmony.

MORE THAN GAME. Taglienti’s Spaghetti with mushroom cappuccino, a blockbuster at Lume. It’s a very tasty dish as the pasta is finished with veal jus, soy, aromatised oil and confit lemon. The chef is from Savona: fish always has a prominent role in the menu

MORE THAN GAME. Taglienti’s Spaghetti with mushroom cappuccino, a blockbuster at Lume. It’s a very tasty dish as the pasta is finished with veal jus, soy, aromatised oil and confit lemon. The chef is from Savona: fish always has a prominent role in the menu

The chef uses them carefully, weaving the identities of different parts of the same dish, making flavours softer or milder. These sauces are whispered or dominant, giving beautiful results with game, which in our opinion is the restaurant’s distinctive feature. For instance there’s the poivrade paired with venison fillet; the fat liver sauce with the magnificent red partridge with braised cabbage, steamed and roasted on the grill. And then there’s the sauce enriching the range of aromas of the quail, sautéed in the pan, Italian style, a main course served as an entrée which says it all about this young man’s current passion for game.

Then we have sauces that can become real “mothers” as with the noble and super classic one used for the Lièvre à la royale: the bones are separated, and left to marinate overnight with spices, vegetables and wine. Once the sauce is reduced, the chef cleans the bones and keeps them for another animal. A matrix that becomes richer, hare after hare. Magic.


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