I’ve never had a bad Michelin-star thus far, and unfortunately, it was during our Venice leg in Italy that all four of us, for the first, time, tried truly disappointing Michelin food.
We all laughed it off and dismissed it as an experience we learned from anyway, so here’s what happened – for posterity’s sake, and also because while some parts of the meal were appalling, there were moments of really good too !
Firstly, when we stepped into the restaurant, we were treated rather shabbily by the staff, who, for the FIRST TIME I HAVE EVER EXPERIENCED, gave us the snooty once over and decided we were Asians who weren’t worth their time or finesse.
I mean, I know I wasn’t dressed up the way I usually am (a la K’s and my experience in Paris’s Hotel Crillon) but customers are customers, and we were clearly tourists who hadn’t prepared for such cold weather and had to bundle up at the last minute. Plus, it was lunch, which is always a less formal affair.
With a not-so-great taste in our mouths, our meal commenced.
I must say, I really loved the interior decoration. It was tasteful, the colors warm, Italian and rustic, and there were even Murano-glass bread bowls on the table as well as their own personalized dinnerware. It felt like a cosy place.
Determined to enjoy ourselves, we kick started the meal with a nice, dry Italian wine, a toast, and lots of delicious warm foccacia and breadsticks.
We were given a complimentary amuse bouche of a Venetian classic – sardines.
Yes, sardines are cheap, but when fresh and done right, they are wonderful slicks of deep umami flavour.
Da Fiore’s take on the Venetian sardine cicchetti was delicious ! The sardines were cut fine, cured, and put on a bed of sushi rice with a hit of vinegar, pine nuts (the traditional way) and sweet onions. We loved it and were truly impressed – its much harder to take a humble ingredient and make it great than to use chi-chi stuff like fresh porcini, truffles, foie gras etc to wow.
With such a great start, we had high expectations for our first courses and main meals.
But that’s where the hits and misses started, sadly.
Our shared starter of spider crab with coral sauce was supposed to be a specialty of Da Fiore’s. At first bite, it was quite delicious and the sauce very moreish – tangy and creamy with a hint of harissa spice. But subsequently, Mints and I both realized that the crab wasn’t that fresh in parts – they had mixed both old and fresh crab together and it was quite disappointing indeed, especially since Venice is known for its seafood.
The fried Oysters, however, were absolutely to die for. Crispy batter coating fresh, creamy, salty briny oysters sitting on a wine-based aioli. So addictive I could have eaten the whole plate.
And then my starter – “Whipped” cod fish, if I remember correctly. It was just.. lazy.
I mean, seriously. It was just cod fish flaked and mixed into a paste. I didn’t taste anything whipped about it. If there had been a revolutionary change of textures a la El Bulli maybe the presentation would have been justified but then that’s it – they served me fish paste with strategically placed triangles of toast and called it gourmet.
K’s starter of “home made” whole meal spaghetti was even worse. It was hard, nutty, gritty and tasteless. I think the photo speaks for itself.
Justin, however, hit the jackpot with his white asparagus spears and poached eggs. The eggs were done just right, with almost impossibly golden yolks, while the spears were soft, tender, melting and yielded such a clean, green mouthfeel. He was raving about it, as were the rest of us who couldn’t resist a try. ^^
Here’s a photo of our little party.
We were hopeful that the mains would be better. Oh yes, we still carried such high hopes, especially since everything we’d eaten in Venice up till then had been cheap, delicious and most importantly, fresh.
The first disappointment came with my starter of tuna tataki. I think the chef in general was trying for a “Japanese-Italian” fusion which may have fooled poorer palates but the four of us are huge fans of Japanese food and K and I have gorged ourselves silly in Tokyo on food far superior both taste wise and in technical execution at SUBWAY SNACK STOPS.
The tuna was over-seared – the outsides were dry and had the consistency of tuna and cardboard. The insides were alright but tasteless. The “home kettle chips” were oily and overfried for some, soggy and undercooked for others. I mean, c’mon, even McDonalds gets chips right. Putting it into a rustic looking black ramekin does not make it taste better.
And then Justin’s horrid pea pasta.
Really? 50 euro for pasta with PEAS?
The pasta was hard and over eggy, and the peas could have been frozen for all the flavour they had. I could make better instant pasta with a can of Prego’s.
K’s meal was the second-worst (the best is yet to come).
They served him stir-fried liver. It was overcooked, tough, dry, and tasted strongly of organ. Disgusting.
K couldn’t touch it again after the first bite.
But here’s the cherry on the dungpile !
Here’s Mints’ main. It was basically a pile of soggy, not-fresh deep fried seafood sagging onto two spears of fried vegetables. I have seen better things served up for 1/10th of the price at Sakae Sushi. I am not exaggerating.
The lady at the next table received the same dish around the same time, and let out two LOUD, DISAPPOINTED SIGHS and refused to touch it until her husband forced her to – then she had two bites and put down her fork.
We couldn’t believe our eyes. I was so disappointed I could have cried. I eat better food than that EVERYDAY. I could cook it better myself in my dingy tiny little kitchen.
Here’s us, posing for photos, trying not to look disgusted.
We returned our plates almost completely untouched, and gave our feedback to the waiter. Besides looking stressed and genuinely puzzled, he did nothing to salvage the situation – he asked if we wanted another main each – we said NO so fast he practically ran back to the kitchen.
They tried to make it up to us with some delicious desserts, but the damage honestly had been done. That’s not to say we didn’t enjoy aforementioned desserts.
From left: Fruit tart, Vanilla Bean Ice cream with Whiskey Jelly, Sorbet on a sugar nest, and Dessert soup !
The tart was the hot favourite – it had a great sugar crust, and the custard was thick, milky and creamy, the fruits fresh and tangy.
I also enjoyed my vanilla bean ice cream with the alcoholic jelly, although I did feel that the whiskey was too strong .. made the whole bowl taste more like booze than anything else after the ice-cream started melting.
M and J liked theirs too. I can’t really remember how they tasted – they were good but not very memorable.
Just as we were feeling a little more positive about the place, guess what happened?
THEY TURNED OFF OUR WI-FI ACCESS THE MOMENT WE GOT THE BILL. Yup. Our user names were deactivated effective immediately. A Michelin star restaurant behaving more cheap-skate than a hole in the wall mom and pop snack shop. Never again, we told ourselves, NEVER AGAIN.
And that was the end of my first ever lousy Michelin experience. We’ve decided – when out of France, don’t bother with Michelin stars and go with your gut feel. A few hours after this, we had wonderful cichetti at a little cafe run by a guy in his twenties who was attentive, helpful, let us sit around as long as we wanted with unlimited wifi, and gave us service a mile better.
DONT GO :
Ristorante Da Fiore (One Michelin Star)
Calle del Scaleter Sestiere San Polo, 2202 30125 Venice, Italy
My first nasty review ever, so you know it was that bad. And really expensive.