Il Canto

Il Canto is located in the Certosa di Maggiano hotel, a beautiful Relais & Chateaux property in the Tuscan countryside, 2 kilometres from Siena’s famous Piazza del Campo.

The 16 rooms of the hotel were built in 1314, corresponding to what were sixteen monastic cells, and are situated on three floors. Different in style, colour scheme, view and furnishing, they share common simple, refined elegance, in addition to all the modern comforts. The views over the olive groves and vineyards are spectacular.

Il Canto Restaurant (in 2012, 46th best restaurant in the world according to the San Pellegrino classification)  takes its name from one of the farms belonging to the hotel, which still today produces olive oil and fresh products. Its chef, Paolo Lopriore, has a background from the Maison Troisgros and in Oslo, at the Bagatelle with Eyvind Hellström.

Paolo Lopriore has to be counted as one of the most courageous chefs I have ever come across.

The dinner started with some snacks to awaken the palate. None of them I found very interesting. A dehydrated onion chip was ultra thin and crispy and the powder of pumpkin seed was like trying to swallow dust. Having in mind the effort and time other restaurants put in to amuse-bouche, we easily forgot this and moved on.

Next was a rich, flavourful broth of mussels which had a nice hint of cumin. On the side mussels had been wrapped in some algae and herbs and then fried, having a light and crisp exterior with the soft and a little chewy mussels inside. This was a nice dish to eat.

To continue Paolo Lopriore served his eat-with-your-hands signature dish, a raw minimalistic salad of seaweed, aromatic herbs and roots. In the bottom there were also some ginger and wasabi. I have become quite open minded with this kind of food during the last years but in the end this dish was all about bitterness and heat which for me personally is not a very pleasant experience. Maybe it is unfair to compare but I have had to many wonderful green plates during the last year and this version is not to mention in the same sentence as for example the creations of Björn Frantzén and Mauro Colagreco, were exceptional care of each and every vegetable is taken in order to enhance its natural flavour.

Scampi, prosciutto Toscano and a sauce of fig leaves and curry was next. The scampi was sweet and had a nice texture, the prosciutto was fatty and had a wonderful deep flavour and the curry and fig leave sauce worked well with the dish.

The best dish of the evening arrived; tomatoes, bottarga and liquorice. The tomatoes were of high quality and incredibly sweet with thinly sliced bottarga on top, drizzled with a little raw liquorice sauce. The bottarga was beautiful and tasted not fishy but strongly of the sea. All flavours worked brilliantly together and I very much enjoyed eating this.

Next was red mullet with fennel flowers tempura-style. The fish was sadly a bit “mushy” and the similar-tasting of anise from the fennel flower became the one and only flavour on the plate.

A dish of garlic and pistachio arrived. This was very sweet and had a nice and modest tone of garlic.

Duck breast with pine nuts, honey and gentian was next. Gentian is popular to use in medicines and drinks and has a very bitter taste, and this dish tasted of nothing than bitter. Then sweet honey did nothing to balance the flavours and actually I started to wonder if the chef had poured a shot of Angustura bitter on the plate. I tried a few bites of the duck breast but I couldn’t finish the plate. This was one of the worst dishes I have ever had in a restaurant, nothing on the plate made sense. A beautiful Chianti-wine was paired with this dish and that made no sense either.

Next was Mafaldine pasta with turnip, garlic, olilve oil and chilli. Not very surprisingly this was flavours that worked well with each other. Still it is not possible to compare this with pasta dishes from Massimo Bottura or Massimiliano Alajmo. And perhaps you shouldn’t.

The dessert was made of green and red apple, verbena and green tea. This was light and refreshing with a beautiful green apple sorbet.

Some snacks with the coffee included the classic combinations of raspberries and chocolate and banana and curry.

If you are up for a confrontational, sometimes interesting and somehow a memorable restaurant experience, the first restaurant I would suggest is Paolo Lopriore´s Il Canto outside Siena.

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Find more photos from my visit at Il Canto here!

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Il Canto

Address: Hotel Certosa di Maggiano, Strada di Certosa, 82/86, 53100 Siena – Italy

Telephone: +39. 0577. 288 182

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