Vicenza's Michelin-starred restaurant, El Coq, excels at odd combinations
By NANCY MONTGOMERY | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 12, 2017
We were seated with menus in our hands when everyone realized we were in the wrong restaurant. We’d reserved at El Coq, yet here we were at Garibaldi. Confusion gave way to understanding: El Coq was one floor up, via an inconspicuous elevator by the bar. Up we went, feeling silly.
I’d anticipated trying downtown Vicenza’s only Michelin-starred restaurant for a long time and decided to go ahead during a friend’s visit. We’d had dinner together many times, years ago in some of Seattle’s best restaurants. But we hadn’t done the tasting menu, several-hour, extremely expensive dining thing.
And we probably won’t again. You can spend 130 euros ($154) on five courses and another 50 euros for the wine pairing only so often. You can only rarely try a kiwi and caper tartlet.
The young chef, Lorenzo Cogo, is renowned as “one of the most innovative and imaginative in Italy,” according to the Michelin guide. He aims to “surprise the smell and tease the tastes,” according to his restaurant website, and meld “tradition with creative inspiration.”
And indeed, fanciful morsels came one after the other, looking like little pieces of art. There was a magenta “homage to beet,” and tomato water cannelloni, ricotta and buckwheat with ginger pumpkin cream. There was carpaccio of amberjack with gin and citrus fruit, and a potato cream with cuttlefish, herring caviar and dill.
All very complicated and innovative. With many unusual flavor combinations.
Which for the most part we didn’t love.
“Too many notes,” said my friend, quoting Emperor Joseph II’s critique of Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro.”
By contrast, the dining room, with eight tables, is spare and subdued, furnished, my friend, said in a sort of “retro moderne” style.
My favorite dish was the curry risotto with yellow pepper and lemon. It really did succeed in being like nothing you’ve had before, and tasted terrific.
The big T-bone steak that followed took us back to the basics. It was Rubia Gallega beef, imported from northwestern Spain, where the cattle aren’t slaughtered until the autumn of their lives. It was a good steak like any good steak.
Dessert was something combining strawberry and violet, which sounded delightful but somehow disappointed. And there was also the kiwi and caper tartlet, which didn’t sound delightful at all. I defy anyone to disagree with the late Nora Ephron. Any dish that tastes good with capers in it, she wrote, “tastes even better with capers not in it.”
Address: Piazza dei Signori 1, Vicenza 36100
Hours: 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. Closed Mondays.
Prices: Expensive. Five-course tasting menu 130 euros. A la carte from 18 euros to 29 euros.