Venice, Italy

July 2007

In European cities there is generally a dearth of good dining in urban areas.  It brings to mind the old Kevin Costner line in the movie, Field of Dreams, “If you build it, they will come.”  That said, I was enthusiastic that Venice had a newly minted one-star Michelin rated restaurant, MET housed in the Metropole Hotel on the popular Riva degli Schiavoni.

Walking through the hotel lobby, the restaurant is in the back of the building, away from the tourists and t-shirt vendors and rose hawkers.  In the summer months, there’s a beautiful garden where meals are served. Unfortunately, the garden is very secluded and there’s not even a hint you are in Venice.  The great thing about visiting Venice is you always know you’re in Venice whether it’s the thrill of sitting by a canal or looking at an architecturally stunning campo.  Sitting in the garden at the MET, you could be anywhere.

When you sit down to eat at the MET you’re handed a “water” menu.  I’m not kidding.  There were no less than 10 pages listing their bottled water offerings —  both flat and sparkling.  We ordered the same Italian water we’d been drinking the entire trip.  No menu needed.  With our water, they brought us out a bread basket.  There were at least six different kinds of bread for us to try.  The bread was beautiful. Really, I tried all six pieces.  Why a bite out of each?  Because I kept tasting and hoping at least one would have some flavor.  How could bread be so tasteless?  

That night most of the servers at the MET were female and Asian.  They also love to serve you in a very classic French style; plates are transported from the kitchen to your table covered with silver domes.  The wait staff also does this strange synchronized move where all the domes are removed simultaneously so that everyone is served at the same time. Truthfully, I looked at Lynn and rolled my eyes.    

Dinner that night was big on presentation.  Our main dishes were suckling pig four ways–tucked in a “beggars purse”, a piece of pork loin, a chunk of crispy pork skin and the bizarre (and overly salted) pork liver ice cream on a spun sugar spoon.  My problem with this dish and the meal?  It just wasn’t what I was looking for in Venice. (Actually, on a recent visit to Gordon Ramsey’s the London in New York City, we did have a variation of a foie gras gelato. What comes around goes around?)

We moved on to dessert but not before we were brought out an amuse bouche of sliced melon with some sort of foam thing on top.  Next up, a poached pear with a dollop of tasteless mascarpone with a wine sorbet chaser.  Unfortunately, the desserts like the bread were exceptionally pretty but were seriously lacking in flavor.

We finished our dinner and decided tomorrow to look for “old school” Italian – lasagna, mozzarella and tomatoes, gelato. 

Bottom line: it’s not good to crave “old school” cuisine when you’ve eaten “new.”  After all, “new” is what should linger and eventually become “old.”

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