Monday, July 15, 2013

Two-year anniversary at Liviano

So, it's been two years since Terezia and I tied the knot. And what a cuckoo and kaleidoscopically colorful two years it's been. We thought we'd celebrate by going to what is (by some considerable measure) our favorite restaurant (so far) in Bratislava - Liviano.

This was our second time here. We first tried Liviano when my friend Randy was in town back in April. He's as much of a food snob as we are, and when he was here he insisted that we try one of Bratislava's more high end restaurants, and I'm glad he did. Liviano's food could be described as kind of pan-European, but leaning heavily toward French and Italian dishes and techniques. A typical fried-food-reeking Slovak joint with aloof kroj-clad waitresses serving piles of gloop-coated meat and potatoes this is definitely not.

Liviano is a bit of a strange restaurant. It's tucked away deep in the bowels of Petržalka, far, far away from any of the tourist foot traffic in the Old Town. The communist-era Petržalka, Bratislava's biggest (and most dystopian) borough, is not exactly known for its charm, and only the bravest and most curious tourists ever set foot there. Liviano is located in an extremely unassuming building that's attached to the base of the commie-era Technopol tower, looking from the outside a bit like something out of a California strip mall. Stranger still that the place is only open Mon-Fri and closed on the weekends. Both times that we've eaten here happened to be on a Monday evening, and both times we practically had the place to ourselves, which is a bit odd for a restaurant that recently made some list of the top 101 restaurants in Europe. When we were there with Randy, Terezia asked the server on the way out if they get more business during other nights of the week. He showed us the reservation book for Friday that week and it was all booked, so the place does, apparently, get busy.

Petrzalka's Technopol building: is this where you'd expect to find an awesome restaurant?
Liviano - looking a bit like something from a strip mall

And this place deserves to be busy, because the food is amazing. For appetizers, I had the foie gras variation - foie gras done three ways - while Terezia had a poached egg with goat cheese, which came with this tube-shaped thing filled with ham tartar mixed with some kind of delicate cheese. Mine had a savory foie gras, a semi-sweet/fruity foie gras over minced fruit, and a dessert foie gras, which was foie gras incorporated into a silky smooth whipped cream. Really delicious overall, especially the savory part. Terezia's ham tartar tube was actually more interesting than the egg, and had a nice smokey undertone.

Foie gras variation
Terezia with her poached egg with goat cheese and ham tube thingy.

The main dishes were the indisputable stars. I ordered tagliatelle with funghi porcini - one of my very favorite Italian pastas - and I'm glad I did because they absolutely nailed it. People may remember from the posts about our honeymoon in Italy that I go stark raving mad for good porcini pasta dishes, and this dish instantly transported me back to Florence and Siena, where I had the same kind of porcini pasta dishes, which were every bit as amazing as this was. Orgasmically rich, intensely flavorful and seasoned to perfection, with meaty pieces of fresh porcini that packed a powerful punch, this dish left me wanting to writhe around on the floor in a funghi porcini stupor - it was that good. There was also just the right amount of the foamy and delicious sauce. I could wallow in a vat of this stuff and never get sick of it.

Tagliatelle with funghi porcini - yum!

Liviano evidently kicks ass when it comes to wild mushroom pastas. When we came here with Randy, Terezia ordered a dish of home-made gnocchi with fresh morels in a similarly rich foamy sauce, which was every bit as mind-blowing as this porcini dish. Liviano's chef is clearly a man after my own heart.

Terezia ordered the braised veal cheeks, which came bathed in a rich sauce and a pea puree, all of which was cooked to absolute perfection. The cheeks were so tender that you didn't need a knife to cut into them, and the sauces complemented everything wonderfully. Every bite was an explosion of flavor. A classy and well-executed dish.

Braised veal cheeks with green pea puree

I totally can't remember what the wine was, but it was a super tasty local red.

Desserts were a bit more run-of-the-mill, but still enjoyable. I had crème brûlée, which I know sounds pedestrian, but it was still quite nice. Terezia had something called crema catalana, which was basically like a miniature oblatky tower with layers of light, airy whipped cream and fresh berries in-between. Nothing mind-blowing, but appropriately summery. The glaring lack of anything involving chocolate on the dessert menu was unfortunate, but the entrees were so great that I can't complain too much.

If we could afford to eat here every week (hell, every month), we absolutely would, because the food here is worth coming back for. I suppose we'll have to settle for every season, which is okay since the menu changes seasonally. It's nice to have a restaurant that doesn't serve the same old Slovak slop, and it's also great that Liviano's prices are actually pretty reasonable and even a bit lower than some of the high end restaurants closer to us in the Old Town (whose menus, it should be noted, tend to look a bit less inspired than Liviano's). At any rate, this town has so few decent dining options that we seldom eat out, so it's really nice to make those times when we do eat out count!

As for our anniversary, I'm happy to report that we're still totally happy with each other and that our experience in Slovakia has not turned us into one of those annoying rotten couples who bicker all the time and make everyone around them feel awkward and uncomfortable. So, yay for that!

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