I'm a lucky guy. I know it. Not only did I get invited to try the Spring into Lamb tasting menu (with Nk' Mip wine parings) at Cibo... I was invited by Mijune as a guest. Food, wine and a pretty lady - see what I mean as in lucky? No, not that kinda of lucky! Get your mind outta there! I think Viv might be reading this... Anyways, for the month of April, Cibo is featuring a lamb tasting menu for $69.00 and for $59.00 more, you get wine pairings for every dish. Recently, Faizal Kassam returned to take over the reigns of the kitchen, where he had worked a few years ago. My last visit to Cibo was during that time and I found the food to be quite good. As such, our expectations were pretty high.
We started with the Crispy Lamb Belly with salsa verde. Initially, I thought we were being served polenta since I would've have never guessed that they would bread a lamb belly and fry it. In the end, this dish didn't work for me. The belly itself was chewy, salty and not "belly-like". Furthermore, the salsa verde was too sour in my opinion. I appreciated the thought behind this dish because the breading would've acted as a contrast to the soft belly (which it wasn't). Honestly, I would've been happy with a confit belly on its own. Paired with this dish was Nk' Mip Pinot Blanc 2011. I found it to be smooth going down with a bite at the end. It was a nice light wine that helped cut through the fattiness of the dish.
Next up was the Lamb Loin Carpaccio with smashed peas, fresh ricotta and crispy rosemary. The peas were sweet with a bit of texture remaining while the fresh ricotta was airy, creamy and flavourful. The lamb itself was seared lightly and went well with the compliments, yet the meat itself was sinewy. Not sure if this was just bad luck, but it prevented the dish from being excellent. A glass of Nk' Mip Pinot Noir 2011 accompanied the dish. I found it to be a full-bodied wine with a definitive oak and peppery notes. For me, it was possibly a bit strong for the delicate lamb, but by itself, it was a good wine.
Onto our favourite dish of the meal, the Anolini of Minted Ricotta with Tuscan lamb braise and ricotta salata was nearly flawless. The tender morsels of melt-in-our-mouths lamb were bathed in a rich reduced braising liquid. The resulting sauce was full of natural meaty flavour which was balanced. The pasta itself was al dente despite its thinness. It was filled with the same fantastic fresh ricotta. Pair with this was a glass of Nk' Mip Quam Qwmt Cabernet Sauvignon 2009. For me, this was a strong wine with plenty of bite throughout and with a slightly vinegary finish. I wasn't a huge fan of this, but then again, I'm not partial to stronger wines.
And yes, more lamb, in the form of Roast Leg of Lamb with new potatoes, cipollini onions, rosemary and honey. Resembling more like a tenderloin, the leg meat was prepared beautifully. It had a nice natural flavour on its own, yet was further accented by the sweet onions. However, we felt there needed to be a demi of some sort to bring the dish together since the potatoes were dry while the lamb looked a bit lonely on the plate. We were poured a glass of Nk' Mip Mer'r'iym 2009 to pair with this dish. This red was in direct contrast to the other ones we had since it was fruity and light. Definitely a good pairing with the leg of lamb.
For dessert, we were served a Pine Nut Semifreddo with crunchy orange bits, chocolate and mint. This was fantastic in my opinion. The semifreddo was creamy and light (as it should be) with just enough sweetness. It could've benefited from more pine nut, but that would be nitpicking. The crunchy orange-flavoured bits were a textural and taste delight. This was paired with the Nk' Mip Qwam Qwmt Riesling Ice Wine 2011. Naturally, it was super sweet with noticeable fruity notes. Overall, I found the meal to be decent, but not without flaws. The lamb belly was a fail in my books, yet the rest of the dishes were either very good or a component or two away from being very good. It's obvious Executive Chef Faizal Kassam has talent. Besides, I enjoyed the food he had a hand in preparing the last time I was at Cibo. As for this tasting menu, a few tweaks are needed to make it complete.
*Note: This was an invited dinner where all food was comped*
- If you like lamb...
- Some well-executed components
- Some tweaks are needed
- A tad pricey