Thursday, October 27, 2011
I have a theory. If it takes the chef over 30 seconds and several breaths to describe his carefully prepared dish, it’s probably going to be incredible. In fact, it might even cause a culinary explosion in every single one of your taste buds. One of my favorite dishes of the evening that sparked this theory indeed had the longest description, so lengthy I had to hear it twice and slowly to get it all down. Here’s the complete description given to me and Christopher by Chef Branon Mason: Chilled orzo pasta salad tossed with the house dressing, baby greens, red onions, roma tomatoes, black olives, feta cheese, and baby heirloom tomatoes. (Explosions definitely erupted.)
To say our meal at Ciao Bella is one of the best we can remember is not an exaggeration. I also say this not because our fine dining experiences have dramatically decreased due to financial problems (that’s a whole other story), but let’s just say I’m officially tired of eating Taco Bell Nacho Supremes when I go out. Inventive dishes using all fresh ingredients, I would never grow tired of eating. Chef Branon, admittedly young in the business but studying under executive chef Jonathan Steenerson, proved there’s nothing more valuable to the restaurant’s vitality than communicating his talent and love of food through his dishes. Hopefully, I was able to translate this as well through the photographs as you may notice subtle but thought out details such as the bowl lined with basil pesto in the duck confit & gnocchi dish. As a special, the protein paired with the gnocchi may also be prepared with Kobe beef depending on what night you dine. Other ingredients in this dish include roasted portabella mushrooms, goat cheese, and pine nuts in a veal reduction demiglaze.
The other special to the menu as beautifully presented to us were the pan-seared diver scallops with pomegranate reduction, toasted almonds, and mandarin oranges. Oh so perfectly cooked and dressed, scallops immediately jumped from my list of least favorite seafood to the top of my food list that I would wrestle Christopher over to get the last bite.
Lastly, we ended the somewhat epic meal with none other than my all time favorite dessert – tiramisu. Tiramisu, in general, is my perfect dessert – light, creamy, a bit of chocolate, a bit of vanilla, and a bit of coffee. Ciao Bella’s version had the perfect combination of all these things and the perfect balance of sweetness. Good thing Christopher knew to stay clear of my path to this plate. I would’ve pulled out my best wrestling moves to get the last bite of this tiramisu.
Thanks so much Ciao Bella for the great meal. Special thanks to Kristen Waddell and Chef Branon and our server April.
Ciao Bella Italian Grill
565 Erin Drive
Memphis, TN 38117
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Photos by Sophorn.