Restaurant Local Venice @ Castello

It is always interesting to see any chef explore himself and work into his repetoire his own personal travel experiences. But what happens when an amuse bouche is less than what you expect or even inedible?

I was speechless when the waiter tried to claim that this combination is Venetian especially as I was sitting with a 5th generation Venetian. He too was perplexed by the claim that peanut butter was once Venetian. The combination of peanut butter with a sardine is just bizarre – sorry.

The food at Local is 100% fusion and influenced by both the chef’s wife, who is Japanese, and the exposure he has after making several trips to Japan. Chef Matteo Tagliapietra grew up on the island of Burano where Gatto Nero still rules the roost. Before Local, he worked for Locanda Cipriani and Locanda Locatelli, Nobu, etc.

There is no doubt his dishes have good visuals, and his culinary compositions photograph well, but fusion at Local has some fundamentals issues. The ideology of using Japanese inspiration makes good sense yet there is a fine line between how, when and why – this is a matter of education.

I sometimes tell the story of an iconic chef named Barry Wine who was chef/owner of the quilted Giraffe in New York. I visited him on numerous occasions and thought he was amongst the most intelligent culinary experts in the United States at the time. Barry could cook and was a mastermind at dissecting ideas and transforming them into plates that could blow you away: Barry used 100% Japanese fusion and knew what he was doing except there were times when he offered us some dishes and they were out of context. The reason was Barry mostly visited Japan in his free time and that was summer, so consequently he used summer ideas in the winter – oops.

Selecting my wines at Local was a joy, as I studied the wine list carefully and spoke with the sommelier Luca Fullin who didn’t flinch when I returned a bottle explaining it was oxidized. He is uber knowledgable and professional.

While his sister Benedetta watches over the service and seems more focused on the room flow, the two family members work hard to make clients enjoy the atmosphere and excellent wine list.

We tried several dishes including a risotto made with a traditional fish named gò. The dish is described as Risotto with gò, a small greenish fish with big eyes is used to make a stock for the risotto: Its typical habitat is lagoons, estuaries and inshore waters, on sandy or muddy bottoms and among seagrass and seaweeds, and it occasionally moves into fresh water.

The risotto was accompanied by nori and katsuobushi, an interesting idea to use fusion of these two materials. This traditional gò venetian dish is said to be invented in the 16th century by the fishing communities of Burano. I thought it was a path in the right direction, but it fell short of my expectations.

The idea of katsubushi is much more than the waiter describes it, “dried smoked fish” as it is one of those very important fermented umami foods on planet earth. One of those sacred Japanese ingredients used by all Japanese chefs, it has so many levels of quality: Perhaps the type of katsubushi the chef uses or the way is was shaved made me think differently. The nori was ineffective and as a decorative element it is seems pointless.

Also, I couldn’t get my head around the fusion of Parmesan cheese combined with Katsuobushi and nori – cheese and fish maybe works in Italy, but in Japan no chance. This dish needs some more thought on how to best fuse these kinds of materials. It seems as if there isn’t enough thought as to why, or how to use this combination. The reason I raise this point, is by using Katsuobushi, you are imparting kokumi described as heartiness. The rice has enough to suffice and if you still insist to use the katsuobushi, consider to shave it at the table. The reason is katsuobushi expresses itself best when it contacts heat and only momentarily.

But gò fish are a fantastic part of the fish fauna in the Venice lagoon, and in particular in the transitional water biodiversity in and around Venice and in the Northern Adriatic transitional water environments.

I skipped the Veal’s heart and tuna sauce and opted for the Like a prawn cocktail using red Sicilian shrimps made into a meaty dish.

I decided to try it after having a similar dish at Pino Cutaia in Licata Sicily:

This is Pennoni with lamb, red chili, yogurt and mint and the Turbot, spring onions, lemon and capers and the Veal, loquat, capsicum and summer truffle and the Tataki aubergine, spices, kefir, basil seeds and apricot.

I did try other dishes to make sure I wasn’t being overly critical and discovered that Local chef is just trying too hard to be overly creative and the use of a “fresh local raw materials” by “local’s chef seems to be an oxymoron in some cases.