Milan / Contraste: the dreamlike playground of Matias Perdomo
The first time I heard of Matias Perdomo, he was working as head chef at Al Pont de Ferr, restaurant located in the trendy area of Navigli.
Perdomo joined this traditional Milanese osteria with a good ‘wine’ tradition in 2006 and made it an experimental hub for molecular cuisine, bringing the space created by Maida Mercuri to the Michelin star in 2011.
Last year, in June, I finally had the opportunity to try the cuisine of this Uruguayan chef in his new playground, Contraste, opened in 2015.
The restaurant is an oasis of silence and creativity. A bronze statue at the entrance invites silence, white unplanned tables with cloud-shaped lamps in a dark dining room set the scene with order for the play, menu brings you directly in your dreams.
The menu is just a mirror because the gate to the food journey is the customer itself, his/her mood, his/her emotions and adventurous spirit. Before 2017, other 2 tasting menus were available but nowadays it is only about customers’ requests and desires.
Our dinner started with a carousel of amuse-bouche, internationally inspired: from the south American chips of guacamole (with cereal) and tapioca (with eel) to the ‘french’ inspired fois gras cream caramel with fig up to the Campari bon bon, reminiscence of Girona and the Roca brothers.
The dishes that followed were pure expression of a creativity strongly influenced by the Italian professional history of the chef, dating back to its 18 years and an Italian restaurant in Montevideo, (but also by the south American origins):
- Gabilo is an homage to the Piedmontese tradition with the fish, similar in texture to codfish but tender, covered in bagna cauda sauce (made with anchovies, garlic, olive oil and butter) and accompanied by some small giardiniera gels – providing a slight pickled taste. The gabilo is perfectly cooked sous-vide at 55 degrees fully preserving the taste despite the aggressive flavors on the plate
- Ceviche is served as a mosaic of ingredients including grapefruit (a bit too sour), avocado, squid ink gelatin (adding the real fish punch to the dish) and a biscuit cube (added to provide a crunchy consistency but probably too hard)
- Sweetbread, the thymus of the pancreas and typical ingredient of Milanese cuisine, is grilled, pan fried and served with meat juice / coffee sauce and lemon foam. The result is excellent, especially considering the use of such a ‘tricky’ ingredient
- Smoked puree dumplings are served with the Southern burrata and the more Nordic pickled onion and smoked eel. Dumplings result only lightly smoked and with an interesting texture
- Ravioli, typical dish of the Emilian tradition, are filled with slow-cooked onions and finished with parmesan sauce and caviar. The filling is very good but the dish indulges a bit too much with the natural saltiness of its ingredients
- Lasagna is perfectly camouflaged in the shape of a donut but keeps the same thickness of the dough and (unfortunately) the same heaviness of the traditional recipe. Even though the shape demonstrate a class in the use of techniques, the taste of the dish remains in the range of the familiar Sunday lunch
- Entraña, Argentinian skirt steak, is accompanied by a Sicilian caponata cream hold in the shape of a small caramelized eggplant. The light acid taste of the vinegar and the sweet note of the coating well replicate the taste of caponata and milden the fatty/buttery taste of meat
The talent of chef Perdomo is undisputed. Its creativity makes all dishes very pleasant to see and discover but sometimes the taste seems lacking the same elegant evolution of the shapes and ability shown.
Certainly an address to discover, waiting for the next steps of a dreamlike future.