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Ristorante Semplice, Mayfair, London

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Their carpaccio has been recommended a couple of times (e.g. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6487...). Probably the first time I've had carpaccio that was that thickly sliced (~3mm thick) rather than thinnly shaved. It's superbly tender despite the thickness and the flavour is gently meaty, light and rounded, well oiled, and enhanced by a side of nutty bitter rocket.

The other dishes were left to the kitchen to decide.

They first choose a Milanese risotto, a golden field of saffron balanced by a gentle stocky savoury background flavour, and three modest pieces of bone marrow, rich and lightly smoky. The texture of the rice was perfect -- a slightly runny starchy consistency, tender grains of rice with just the right pearly bite in their centres.

Then monkfish -- succulent, with a shade of spongy quality, again impeccable cooking. An oceany broth with a good salty accent, reinforced by clams, and (iirc) sampphire, then brightened by the acidity and brightness of tomatoes.

A wonderful cheese cart of cheeses, excellently conditioned; I tasted ~12 from the cart and can't remember all, but the gorgonzola dolce truly lived up to its sweet name, and the pecorino was exceptionally multifaceted and complex.

Chocolate trio for dessert (chocolates from Domori iirc). Sticky deep old balsamic vinegar with a light chocolate ice cream and berries. Then a medium bodied chocolate mousse. And a darker fondant that really shined with an aromatic almond foam and licorice cream.

Apologies for not remembering the fairly dry, slightly oaky white wine I drank that really matched the food well, showing off the nutty quality of the rocket, cutting the richness of the bone marrow, folding itself about flavours of the sea by revealing a dry oyster like quality. The dessert wine, made from barolo grapes (late harvest?) was elegant and balanced, exuding a refined richness in sugar and fruit (almost raisiny from some angles) without excess intensity.

Excellent and knowledgeable service.

Straightforward, classical and "rustic" food, made more or less perfectly. Exceptional technique. Expensive, yes, but I felt the experience was worthwhile.

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  1. Sounds perfect.

    IMO thicker Carpaccio is a sign of better quality ingredients. I think you can get away with inferior quality meat if it is shaved very thinly as you lose both flavour and texture.

    5 Replies
    1. re: PhilD

      I think it's more than just losing flavour and texture. Even pretty good meat when sliced too thickly becomes chewy; the high quality of the meat they were using allows them to slice it more thickly than normal yet retain a wonderfully tender texture.

      1. re: limster

        Here in Italy there are actually 2 types of Carpaccio, the very thinly sliced which is completely raw, then there's the other one that is sliced more thickly but quickly seared so that it's more flavoursome and is served lukewarm usually sitting on a little Aurora sauce.

        1. re: CCScozia

          Cool, thanks for the info. Didn't know that there were two versions. The one I had at Semplice was thickly cut, but completely raw, and served lightly seasoned -- olive oil, salt -- so kind of crosses boundaries I guess.

          1. re: PhilD

            Woops, sorry, I must have misunderstood. I misread that texture and flavour is lost when inferior meat is cut thinly.

      2. Had lunch here today. The carpaccio was very good and flavourwise as you describe. Great colour on the meat. However mine was thinly sliced.

        Main course I opted for home made egg sedanini (finer, thinner version of penne) pasta with venison ragout and black cabbage sauce. Really delicious dish - excellent ingredients, well-executed and wonderful combination of flavours.

        Bread average, olive oil good, glass of barbera d'asti fine nothing special. Agree with your view of the service.

        I've lost track of the number of disappointing experiences I've had in upmarket Italian restaurants so it's nice to find somewhere which delivers. Will probably try their trattoria at some point too.