Sherman's Food Adventures: Tutto Restaurant & Bar

Tutto Restaurant & Bar

At one point in time, there was generally one good and well-known fine-dining Italian restaurant in the Lower Mainland.  Operated by Umberto Menghi, Il Giardino was the place for Italian eats for years until its closure in 2013.  However, he opened up Giardino in 2015, steps away from the former Il Giardino.  Currently, more than ever, there is an array of choices when it comes to fine Italian food including Savio Volpe, Ask for Luigi, La Quercia and so on (too many to list).  Now we can add another in Tutto Restaurant & Bar kitty corner to Homer Street Cafe.  Ironically, the head chef has worked at Giardino before, so it wouldn't be a surprise if the food would be good.  I was recently invited to try their Truffle Fest Menu (available until Nov 30th).

We ended up trying items from the regular menu as well as sampling their Truffle Fest Menu.  This began with an Amuse Bouche of Truffled Taleggio Toast.  Such a simple little bite, but the flavours of the 2 key ingredients were able to shine.   Other than the crispy crostini, the ample taleggio on top was ooey gooey and mildly tangy.  Naturally, the shavings of Black Uncinatum Italian Autumn truffle added the usual musty and earthy impact.

Staying with the carbs, we had the classic Pizza Margherita.  This was loaded with a good amount of tangy San Marzano tomato sauce as well as an inordinate amount of fior di latte.  As a result, the pizza ate very hearty and the middle was more tender due to the sauce.  I thought the crust was well-charred and there was considerable leoparding throughout including the bottom.  I enjoyed the nuttiness of the crust as well as the chewiness.  Of course, the fresh basil on top (added after the pizza was done) was the proverbial icing on the cake.

I'm a sucker for Vitello Tonnato, so it was a given we'd give it a try.  This was presented more elegantly than many of the other versions I've had.  Sliced super-thin, the veal was tender, moist and literally melted-in-my-mouth.  It was topped with a drizzle of tuna aioli that was beautifully accented by the capers and pickles on top.  I could see how the amount of pickles could be overwhelming, but for me at least, I enjoy the sharp tanginess and saltiness.  It really provided impact and was truly appetizing.

On the topic of melt-in-my-mouth, the Carpaccio di Manzo was superb.  Even before I dug into it, the dish was attractively plated with inviting colours.  It consisted of AAA beef tenderloin, horseradish aioli, capers, arugula and parmesan shavings.  Everything about the dish screamed out balance.  I could definitely taste the beef while the aioli was creamy with just enough bite.  Capers added the usual salty tang while the parm hit the super thin and tender beef with another burst of salt and nuttiness.  One of the better versions of carpaccio I've had of late.

Our last appie from the main menu was the Tonno Crudo featuring smoked ahi tuna, spicy cannellini bean puree, pickled enoki and parsnip crisps.  This was also appealingly plated with tuna that exhibited a beautiful sheen and freshness.  It was lightly smoked and there was enough inherent flavour that the bean puree wasn't really necessary.  I didn't really notice the pickled enoki, but there was background acidity to the dish.

One of my favourite items from the meal was the 1st course of the Truffle Fest Menu being the Sformato di Parmigiano which was essentially a flan with truffles.  Oh this was such a textural and taste delight!  So fluffy and light, the flan was delicious and rich with a creamy egginess.  The aroma of the parmesan came through with the unmistakeable salty nuttiness, which was definitely pronounced without being overwhelming.  The shavings of black truffle complimented the flan perfectly with subtle woodsy and even chocolate notes.

Onto the 2nd course of the Truffle Fest Menu, we had the first of many pastas with the Taglierini al Burro featuring thin ribbon pasta with butter and black truffles.  This was a simple pasta that was perfectly al dente, especially for freshly-made.  Noodles were moist and did not clump at all.  Possibly, it could've used even more butter, but that is nit-picking because it was really good.

Something that was far less subtle was the Bucatini all'Amatriciana in pomodoro with smoked guanciale, onion confit and chilies.  Once again, it was perfectly textured with a mouth-pleasing chewiness that gave way to tender pasta.  I enjoyed the noted tanginess from the sauce that was amped by the spice from the chilis.  Plenty of balancing sweetness from the onion and lots of fatty meatiness from the smoky guanciale.  I thought the flavours were in perfect harmony and I kept going back for more.

Stunning to look at the Spaghetti di Mare was a bevy of well-prepared seafood including beautifully seared scallops, sweet prawns and buttery clams and mussels.  As much as squid ink pasta is not unusual these days, this one was excellent.  Texture was spot-on like the rest of the pastas.  Also, there was a slight brininess to it which added the taste of the sea.  Usually, squid ink doesn't add a whole lot other than colour.  The roasted cherry tomatoes provided the tangy acidity to liven up the flavours and the plethora of garlic and onion added aromatics.

When we first laid eyes on the Ravioli Fatti in Casa, it was as if they tried to stuff as much braised short rib as they could into each one.  Personally, I could've done with less filling as it ate a little dry as a result.  However, that didn't detract from the overall execution of the dish since I enjoyed it very much.  The thin pasta couldn't have been any more perfect with a tender chewiness. Earthy, silky and full of umaminess, the porcini brown butter was so luxurious and the horseradish gremolata added a slight bite as well as aromatics.  

Originally, that was going to be all of the pastas we were going to try, but something told us that we had to also order the Risotto di Zucca with roasted butternut squash, sage and spiced hazelnuts.  Normally, there would be something to critique about a risotto because it is a finicky dish to prepare.  However, this one was absolutely perfect.  It spread onto the plate evenly and looked on point.  It was cheesy with an appealing consistency.  The rice was done just right retaining a pleasant chewiness while being cooked through.  Loved the sweetness from the squash, aroma from the sage and also the crunch from the nuts.

To completely ensure we got the full pasta experience, the Casarecce con Salsiccia was added to the meal.  Fortunately we got a chance to eat this dish because it was probably our favourite.  The pasta itself was excellent, with good chew and mouth feel.  It was sauced in a pork & fennel sausage ragout with cream, veal jus and parmesan.  There were layers of flavour with umaminess and creaminess.  The sausage itself was in bite sized pieces which were moist and full of meatiness without being salty.   This couldn't be prepared any better.

Off to the proteins and back to the Truffle Fest Menu, we were served the Costata di Vitello which was a veal chop served with wild mushroom risotto, grilled asparagus and truffled veal jus.  The large double cut veal chop was perfectly medium-rare which meant it was moist and super tender.  There was a good sear that resulted in caramelized flavours.  I would've liked more salt, but that is a personal preference.  Of course, the truffled veal jus only added more body and earthiness to the dish.

Also prepared perfectly medium-rare, the Bistecca Ribeye came with smoked bone marrow sauce, crispy gnocchi and wild mushrooms.  Normally, ribeye can be hit and miss in terms of being tender to the chew.  This one was moist and buttery tender with a delicious meatiness.  It was well seasoned, but the smokiness of the silky bone marrow sauce was welcomed.  The bevy of wild mushrooms was the perfect compliment to the ribeye. I thought the gnocchi was a bit too crispy though.  

Ending off the savoury portion of the meal, we had the Branzino with salsa verde, baby gem potatoes and broccolini.  As evidenced in the picture, the skin was super crispy and smoky from the sear.  Underneath, the fish itself was flaky and moist.  Again, I could've used more salt personally, but it in actuality, the fish got all the seasoning it needed from the bright salsa verde.  The accompanying broccolini and potatoes were also good being cooked just right retaining texture.

For the Truffle Fest Menu, the dessert was Pear & Sorbet featuring poached & grilled pears, barolo sorbet, pecans and parmesan truffle honey.  Yes, this was a sweet and savoury creation that really played with my taste buds.  I enjoyed the tender pears that had a balanced red wine taste.  Sweetness was in the form of the honey (that was also salty and truffly) and the red wine sorbet.  So with every bite, depending on what was on the spoon, there was alternating hits of mild sweetness to go with saltiness and mustiness of the truffles.

That wasn't the only dessert we tried...  We had the classic Tiramisu that not only looked traditional, it ate like it too.  Continuing the theme of the entire meal, the execution was straight-forward and on point.   The lady fingers were moist but not wet with a good amount of espresso.  I found the mascarpone to be just rich enough with the light airiness provided by the whip cream.  I quite enjoyed the level of sweetness as it was definitely there, but not too much so.

My favourite dessert had to be the Budino al Cioccolato where the viscosity of the Italian milk chocolate pudding was smooth, creamy and rich.   There was plenty of depth from the caramel flavours that complimented the chocolate.  As much as the earl grey was in the description, it was really in the background (which worked here).  The addition of the sea salt afforded the classic salted caramel notes.  Finally, the toasted nuts and caramel tuille provided the textural crunch to accent the thick pudding.

Normally, if I didn't try the budino, I probably would've rated the Pannacotta con Limone higher.  But again, the budino was just plain awesome.  As for the pannacotta, the consistency was also bang on being creamy and thick.  Loved the thin layer of lemon gelatin on top where it added a sweet tanginess.  This was truly refreshing and purposefully sweet with fresh berries on top.  The crunchy contrasting texture was courtesy of the candied pistachios on top.

The last, yet heaviest dessert was the Torta Caprese featuring flourless chocolate cake, amarena cherries and sour cream gelato.  This was so rich and chocolaty, it definitely needed to be shared.  I liked how the chocolate (including a mild bitter finish) really came through without too much sweetness coming through.  The sweetness was mostly provided by the cherries.  To bring it back down, the sour cream gelato had a light tang and mild sweetness.  These desserts really did epitomize the careful execution of the food at Tutto.  Most items were straight-forward and not fussy.  Rather, the skill of the chefs and the quality of the ingredients were on full display.  Tutto is definitely a crowd-pleaser that will satisfy a wide-range of tastes at fair prices considering its location.  I will definitely will be back.

The Good:

- Almost flawless execution

- Straight-forward and not fussy

- Fair pricing for the quality and quantity of food

The Bad:

- Some of the proteins could've used more salt


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