I am a local Florentine now and always game to try the never-ending parade of new restaurants in town. Frankly I am not a great fan of Italian food, among western cuisine my vote goes to the French. Mostly because I like that my food has taken time to prepare and the combination of certain ingredients elevate the taste of the most mundane items. Essenziale is a pleasant surprise and honestly one of the best Italian restaurants I have ever been to. Granted it is not your typical Italian cuisine but i have eaten at many Michelin star restaurants the world over and this place deserves a Michelin star for sure!
Let's get the bad out of the way first. The place itself is brand new but I did not care for the cold grey decor. It could certainly do with a little warmth by way of table settings, flowers, greenery etc. just for a pop of colour. I wish they had gone for a wood floor, but oh well! At least the bathroom is nice and clean.
It's a very small restaurant with a strange 3 level menu. They have a tasting menu served on high top seating, a 5 course menu served on the main floor and an 8 course menu served at 4 tables on top of the stairs close to the kitchen.
We really wanted to go for the 8 course but it was sold out so we opted for the 5 course, which was just as well as there was so much food. I also noticed, when we got there, that most of the crowd on the 5 course main floor were Europeans and Americans whereas the 8 course comprised of only Italians. Upon reading the reviews I noticed that most of the negative reviews were by Italians. Perhaps because it was a modified version of Toscana food, too adventurous for those seeking a classical Florentine experience.
We started off with an amuse bouche made of lentils which set the tone. The first course was a local poached egg on a piece of blackened bread served with some artichoke and herring caviar and was bursting with flavour! The egg tasted like it did when I was a child growing up in India, in a totally organic world and the herring roe was perfect. I just returned from Russia on a vacation where I had caviar 3 times a day so I really appreciated this one even more! And before I forget, the bread basket was irresistible!
Then came the Oats with pumpkin, citrus and cheese. Who knew oats could taste so glorious! Followed by the Roman pasta dish Cacio Pepe. This was not my fav but hubby loved it and had mine and his, so nothing against the dish itself at all. Then a stylized version of Chicken Parm, a tad too salty for me, otherwise perfect. There were also a couple of sorbets served alongside and in between the courses to cleanse your palate and a little eggplant something on the side too. One was a solid sorbet served on a bed of salt which was a first for me, and the second was a more conventional sorbet served in a glass. All of it delicious and made with TLC. Dessert was a warm apple pie and ice cream. The entire meal was basically high-end comfort food. It left me satisfied and happy, which is more than I can say for my birthday meal last year at another well known Michelin restaurant (check out my review).
The service was OK by European standards but after living a lifetime in Orange County, California and husband owning one of the top Italian restaurants there, you will forgive me if I find the service lacking elsewhere.
The young chef Simone Cipriani, came out to greet my husband Nik, having heard of his legendary restaurant in Dana Point, CA, which was really very nice of him. I had a great birthday dinner and I cannot recommend this place enough. You can be sure I will be returning again and again with all my friends!
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