Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Ristorante Rialto - Brno

This rather ordinary looking building, not far from the center of Brno, is actually quite special. There are two reasons for that.

First, in the 1970s, it housed the maternity hospital where V was born.

Second, it is now the home of Ristorante Rialto, which prepared the best meal we have ever had in Brno.

The dining room is nicely done, with tasteful furniture, exposed wood beams, and hardwood floors. But it is not super fancy.

Little, except perhaps the small parking garage in the back, remains to remind one of its former incarnation.

There is also a very pleasant outdoor seating area. It has a wooden deck lined with plants and different styled chairs.

We went for a weekend lunch, and it was almost a bit too hot under the awning. But, lucky for us, the sun ducked behind some clouds and a breeze picked up.

The deck looks out on a garden with beautiful plants and a lush, green lawn. The back of the restaurant looks out on a residential area with a number of villas.

There is also a more primitive garden next door with an apricot tree in the middle. This is V's kind of garden.

Only two other tables were occupied, so we had a very quiet, peaceful time, and practically the full attention of our friendly and efficient waiter.

The meal started with a nice bread basket with three kinds of bread - dark, French, and a rustic country white. All were fresh and crusty.

We received a bottle containing both oil and balsamic vinegar, which could be dispensed with an atomizer spray pump at the top. The only problem here was we did not get bread plates, so there was no convenient way to combine the olive oil and bread.

Then came an amuse bouche of salmon mousse terrine with chunks of salmon, bitter red leaf lettuce, and a little balsamic. It was a light, refreshing start on a hot day, though nothing too special.

If you are wondering why all the food photos have a bit of an orange tint, it is because the sunlight was filtering through the colored awning overhead.

For a starter, I wanted to keep things light and cool, so I ordered the pickled rolls from aubergine (eggplant) stuffed with goat cheese mousse (Nakládané rolky z lilku plněné pěnou z kozího sýru) for 160 CZK.

The three eggplant and goat cheese rolls sat on leaves of crisp endive. I wish there were more. They were two bites each. In the middle of the plate was a salad with more of those red leaves, with shaved Parmesan and a light dressing. On the side were sprigs of rosemary and fresh parsley.

V got the seared scallops on a skewer with limes, zucchini basket, and tomato risotto (Špíz z mušlí Svatého Jakuba a limetek s cuketovým košíčkem a tomatovým rizotem) for 330 CZK.
The scallops were perfectly cooked and tasted great. Again, we wished there were more than two, but quality over quantity is a pretty consistent feature of the fine dining circuit. The zucchini was cut spaghetti style, sitting in a thin flour-based shell. I really liked the risotto -- it had a very strong essence of tomato.

As a main course, I had the roast shrimp "Aglio olio" with cuttlefish ink risotto (Pečené krevety "aglio olio" se sépiovým rizotem nebo bylinkovou rýží) for 590 CZK. Rice with herbs can be substituted for the risotto.
The shrimp were cooked just right. The outer crusts of the shrimp were golden-orange and slightly al dente. But the inner portions of the meat were very tender.

The risotto was delicious, especially after I squeezed some of my lemon over it. It was also slightly al dente, and had a very light amount of cuttlefish ink -- no black teeth. It had a complex flavor and I thought, for a moment, it was mixed with cheese, but the waiter assured me it was cream. A touch of wine perhaps?

V ordered the mixed salad with chicory shrimp and calamari (Míchaný salát s čekankou, krevetami a kalamáry) for 250 CZK. She loved it.It came with three warm shrimp, along with grilled calamari rings. V was glad the seafood was served warm, as it always bothers her when hot food is placed on top of cold lettuce, causing it to wilt. It had a dressing similar to the earlier appetizer salad. There was a mix of several kinds of leaves and endive. She thought this dish was the best value for money.

We decided to go for broke and share a dessert. For some reason, I have a craving for anything with ricotta cheese, so I ordered the "mousse from ricotti au gratin with lemon cream in pistachio sauce" (Mousse z ricotti gratinovaná citronovým krémem na pistáciové omáčce) for 150 CZK. I meant to tell the waiter we would share the dessert, but I mistakenly said "Na půl, prosim" (pronounced "nah pool, pro-seem"), which actually means "split in half, please."

The dessert took a long time to arrive. When it did, the waiter explained that the conscientious chef tried to split it evenly in half, but it did not stand up well to cutting, so he had to make a second one. I felt a little guilty, but appreciated how much he cared about making us happy.

It was worth the wait. I've never had a dessert quite like this one. It really wasn't so much like a mousse. It was denser. The sweet ricotta was studded throughout with pistachios. It was topped with a lemon glaze that was slightly browned like a crème brûlée.

On the side, there was an essentially unsweetened green puree of pistachio. It was fairly intense by itself, but dabbed on a fork full of ricotta, it was perfect. The fresh but somewhat tart fruit also made for a great combination. There was a piece of chocolate on top. It lacked the required intensity, but I was more than happy with everything else.

We want to try the other desserts next time, but wonder how we will be able to avoid ordering our first love.

For drinks we had Mattoni sparkling mineral water for 30 CZK, .25 liter bottles of San Pellegrino still water for 40 CZK, and V had a couple of .2 liter glasses of a very nice 2003 Moravian Riesling from Mikros, I think, for 120 CZK. No beer for me, I was driving.

There was also a cover charge of 30 CZK a person.

Look, this was an expensive lunch. The total bill came to 2100 CZK with tip. Is it worth the money? I can only say that we really enjoyed our meal - the food, the atmosphere, the service - and we left for our trip to Macocha with smiles on our faces. That's worth a lot to us.

I'd say we enjoyed this meal more and paid a lot less for it than our last meal at Kampa Park. Ristorante Rialto compares favorably with the best Prague has to offer.

With the prices as high as they are, we won't be visiting every time we are in Brno. We still have our second favorite place for quality dining in the city, Brabander, which is quite a lot cheaper. But we are already trying to think of special occasions, so we can go back and try other dishes.

Given the history of the building, V's birthday in December would certainly be appropriate. I just don't think we can wait that long.

Ristorante Rialto
Veveří 125
616 00 Brno, Czech Republic

Tel. (+420) 541 235 035, 541 235 040
Monday - Saturday, from 11.30 to 24.00
Sunday, from 11.30 to 15.00

1 comment:

ElizaJane said...

Looks yummy!