Sherman's Food Adventures: Giovane Bacaro

Giovane Bacaro

For those who are familiar with Giovane in the Fairmont Pacific Rim, you will remember that they once had a wine bar that served classic Italian eats.  Well, there is a new concept in the same space called Giovane Bacaro.  It is still an Italian wine bar, but now it features small plates in the same style at the Becari found in Venice.  Mijune and I sat down in the cozy space to try as much of the menu as possible (of course, that was serious eating when dining with Mijune).

We kicked things off with the Potato Chips with crispy herbs.  Yes, this looked like a harmless bar snack, but in reality, I couldn't stop eating them.  They were razor thin, light and crispy.  I thought there was just enough salt.  The chips were slightly on the greasier side, but that was not a deal-breaker for me as I merely downed some spritz to wash it down.  The fried sage and rosemary were aromatic and just as crispy as the chips. 

Onto a selection of Cicchetti (including the aforementioned chips) consisting of Baccala Mantecato, Butter & Anchovy, Buffalo Mozzarella, Egg & Sardine, Smoked Sablefish in saor, Burrata and Chicken Liver.   I know it is a cliché to say everything was good, but it was.  I did have some favourites though in the buttery sablefish with onions, pine nuts and raisin.  Good combination of sweet, sour and savoury.  I also enjoyed the soft-boiled egg with sardine, pickled green garlic and preserved meyer lemon.  This was blessed with an appealing amount of acidity and saltiness.  Absolutely loved the creamy burrata with The Olive Farm EVOO (from Salt Spring Island).  Beyond the burrata, the olive oil was so flavourful and peppery akin to the ones I've tried from Central Italy.

Next up we had both the Polpette di Carne and the Polpette di Funghi.  Normally, these are served in fours, but we asked them to do two of each instead.  Both were lightly crispy on the outside with the carne sporting pork and olive sausage.  There was no filler in these as it was somewhat firm and meaty with a nice saltiness from the olives.  We actually preferred the funghi with potato, smoked ricotta and roasted mushrooms more.  It was actually lighter and packed a powerful smoky earthiness.

Onto possibly the most sexiest-looking dish of the night - Mortadella in Carrozza with preserved green tomato and mozzarella.  This would've been an excellent sandwich with all of those ingredients already, but c'mon, by breading it and frying the darn thing, it became a masterpiece!  Look at that melty mozza and also that golden brown crunchy exterior...  This was so sinful, but utterly a textural delight.  Not to mention, that green tomato added the balancing tartness to compliment the heaviness.

Another well-executed dish was the Fritto Misto consisting of squid, shrimp, smelt, herbs, lemon and a side of aioli.  I've had some versions of this recently and the seafood in this one was quite large.  Hence, the moisture was maintained despite being crispy on the outside.  The batter was nicely seasoned and the seafood was perfectly prepared.  I especially liked the tender smelt.  Mind you, the meaty shrimp and tender squid were good as well. 

Okay, I absolutely love vitello tonnato, so I was curious to see how the Maiale e Tonnato would turn out.  Rather than veal, this featured thinly-shaved pork to go with the usual tuna mayo.  It was topped with turnips and salsa verde.   I quite enjoyed this as the pork was melt-in-my-mouth tender and exhibited plenty of flavour on its own.  However, we gotta have the tonnato sauce right?  It was creamy, salty, fishy (in a good way) and tangy.  Loved the addition of turnips as it provided a different texture.

At first, we were a bit concerned with the amount of truffle aioli atop the Beef Carpaccio di Harry's.  Really, it was no problem at all and in fact, it added the necessary flavour and creaminess to compliment the super buttery beef.  The addition of snap peas (as in the peas inside the pod) was definitely different.  I liked the light pops of sweetness it afforded the dish.  Lastly, to top things off, there was piave vecchio that offered up some sweetness.

Still with the smaller dishes, we moved onto the Amberjack Crudo with coriander, pistachio, mandarin olive oil, citrus segments, chili and olives. This was a colourful and pretty dish where the amberjack was buttery soft and sweet.  The combination of the orange segments and olives provided tastes such as sweet, salty, tangy and even a touch of bitterness. This was possibly a bit too much flavour for the delicate fish, but heck I enjoyed it anyways.

With all these wonderful dishes, we still needed to have a salad right?  Well, if all salads were like the Insalata di Cicoria, I would eat more salads!  This consisted of chicories, crispy potatoes, bagnetto verde and salmon roe.  The potatoes were the star of this dish being firmly crunchy yet potatoey soft on the inside.  The anchovy green sauce provided plenty of depth and saltiness to the dish while the crisp chicories on top made this indeed a salad!

Okay, we made it through the smaller plates and then moved onto the larger ones, but we had a small pasta first in the Sbocciare.  This fresh hand-made pasta was so delicate yet al dente at the same time.  There was a considerable butteriness from the caciocavallo stuffed inside as well as the use of butter in general.  The sweetness from the wildberry agrodolce really completed the flavours of this rich and delicious pasta.

Now onto the larger pastas starting with the Bigoli con Anatra with lightly spiced duck ragu and parmigiano reggiano.  Oh this was as delicious as it appears in the picture.  Firmly al dente, the pasta was able to capture plenty of the ragu with its surface ridges.  About that ragu, it was meaty with the essence of duck and spice (as described on the menu).  Don't let the portion size fool you because this was plenty filling from the ample duck.

So the Fusilloni con Salsiccia didn't look like much when it first hit the table, but hidden within the pasta (and also under the cheese) was veal & pork ragu, chanterelles, red wine and braised snails.  So there was actually a lot going on here despite what was a mild-tasting pasta.  There was the meaty richness of the ragu to go with the unmistakable flavours of chanterelles.  Add in some snails and we had varying textures.  Could've used a bit more salt though.

So we also had the Risotto Bianco with truffle taleggio and wild berry agrodolce.  Now this didn't appear to be much food, but once again, don't let this fool you.  It was, in fact, very rich and cheesy.  The aborio rice was al dente and the risotto spread on the plate perfectly.  Adding in the truffle taleggio meant this was even richer and cheesier.  As with the sbocciare, the agrodolce provided some sweet fruitness to break up the heaviness.

From the pasta, we continued to some bigger plates including the Manzo with braised and grilled wagyu beef, balsamic cipollini onion and farm lettuce.  So once again, this was another filling dish due to the richness of the beef.  Of course it was fatty and delicious with a nice char and perfectly salted.  The balsamic onions added a sweet tanginess as well as the dressing on the fresh lettuce.

Our last savoury item was the Capesante with seared scallops, cannellini beans, fish stuffed cabbage and baci baci.  This was an interesting dish where the scallops were perfectly cooked and seasoned.  They were so buttery soft and sweet.  The most intriguing item was the moist fish in the cabbage which was topped with an Italian version of XO sauce.  Now it wasn't as pungent and spicy as the Chinese one, but it was still salty and seafoody.  

Whenever I'm dining with Mijune, we are guaranteed to have all the desserts...  So we had the Fritole alla Veneziana, Pistachio Gelato, Tiramisu and Gianduiotti.  Again, we had a smaller version of the donuts since we wanted to try the rest of the desserts.  These were crispy, yet fluffy inside with tangy lemon curd.  Not sure if I've ever had pistachio ice cream with preserved peaches, but this somehow worked.  Loved how it wasn't overly sweet.  As for the tiramisu, it was on point with creamy mascarpone and nicely soaked ladyfingers.  Hidden inside were marashino cherries.  Lastly, the gianduiotti featured chocolate & hazelnut semifreddo with EVOO and salt.  This was creamy and light with aromatics from the EVOO and hazelnuts.  The salt helped heighten the existing flavours.  Oh my, did we try a lot of food at Giovane Bacaro!  But you know what?  I came away impressed as it was well-prepared and best of all, interesting.  I would come back.

*All food and beverages were complimentary*

The Good:
- Interesting food that can be shared
- Dishes are a lot more filling than they appear
- Nice cozy atmosphere

The Bad:
- Not a big spot, so better keep your group small


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