The drawing factor that led me to drive one hour to this obscure restaurant was for one thing only, their Bottarga Pasta. Bottarga, basically a dried fish roe cured in sea salt, common among Taiwanese as a delicacy to be paired with daikon, but more eminent among the Sardinia region for their bottarga pasta dishes.
Depending on how it is prepared, the texture can be tenacious and waxy if eaten raw, with rich flavors of umami and distinctly "sea-like". As a youngster, I remember eating it raw, and falling in love with its robust flavor of the ocean. It never occurred to me that there was more than one way of preparing it, until an episode of Anthony Bourdain in Sardinia. An unadulterated dish; spaghetti dressed with olive oil and sprinkled with grated bottarga. Heaven.
Never have I seen bottarga pasta on a menu, at least not that I was aware of. So when I did stumble upon it while perusing the menu of The Tasting Kitchen, I was beyond elated. TK is located in the more obscure part of Venice, without an obvious sign, I missed it many times. But who cares? I was about to feast upon a dish that would probably have cost a 15 hour flight to Italy
I was dissappointed. Not only was the spaghettoni overcooked, I could not for the life of me taste any bottarga, only toasted breadcrumbs drenched in oil. Where were those gold filaments? I had a sneaking suspicion that the breadcrumbs were a decoy, since this pasta wasn't on the menu that day and the chef had to make a special order.
No bottarga in the kitchen, therefore delude with fragments of similar appearance and consistency?
No, they could not be capable of such vile acts. What was I thinking?
Nonetheless, this left a dismal note on the whole meal. Even the perfectly roasted bone marrow with capers and toasted baguette couldn't uplift the unsalvageable atmosphere. Although I did find some solace in the bread with apple butter. What an ingenious combination!
Frankly? I like this place. Despite the bottarga letdown, everything else was impeccable. What's not to love about a restaurant that serves bone marrow, cheese, charcuterie, apple butter, radish and butter, all on one menu? Tasting Kitchen, I'll be back. If not for the bottarga, then for the menu that changes more often than Lady Gaga's wardrobe.