Trattoria da Gino, Luxembourg City

The story is the same: you see “work in progress” on a window in the city previously occupied by a restaurant you walk by and you start to wonder which kind of food you are going to eat there next. And then, when the sign unveils, you discover that it is, once again, an Italian restaurant.

The question is: do we need another Italian restaurant in town? This was the same I might have initially crossed my mind when I discovered that, at the place of a lunch eatery next the station, an Italian trattoria was going to open, Trattoria da Gino.

My curiosity has never been stopped by a cliché, therefore I decided anyway to try the restaurant – well, I said, even if it was just another boring Italian night, would still be Italian.

I could have not been more wrong.

The place itself, to start with, it is quite different from most of the Italian places I have been in the city: bright is the first adjective I would use to describe it, cozy, relaxed, with a clean and open kitchen on view at the end of the main room – open kitchen in an Italian restaurant in Luxembourg for me is a first time.

First time I visited Trattoria da Gino was a very calm Saturday night at the end of August, during the Fair, and the restaurant was full but not packed. We have been welcome by the owner, Gino – you have probably seen him already around as he has an astonishing experience in the food industry in Luxembourg.

While drinking an aperitif, I discovered the lovely details of the place. The restaurant embraced perfectly the concept of Italian “trattoria” : there is not a menu, but the dishes proposed a la carte change on a daily basis for dinner, are limited to a few and are written on a huge chalkboard on the wall.

We decided to share a starter (“vitello tonnato”, a North Italian cold dish composed by tiny slices of veal and a tuna fish sauce). For main, I went for “Fusilli Calabresi con Sugo di Porcelletto” – homemade pasta from the South of Italy with a piglet sauce, while my friend had Roasted Duck with Plums sauce.

During the meal, we drank one of my favorite wine ever – Marina Cvetic Montepulciano. The list of wine – as the food card – is limited but has indeed some extremely interested items.

Our dinner and our entire evening were amazingly pleasant: I was surprised above all by the fact that, even if the place is low key and casual (exactly a “trattoria”), ingredients are gourmet, dishes are polished, wine list has a lovely selection and the dish presentation is definitely very refined – more like a high end restaurant than a casual eatery.

I did not mention the taste of the food, which was amazing.

I did not miss the chance to come back to visit Gino very soon afterwards – fact is, they are publishing the daily menu on their FB page and when I am leaving the office and I see something I like, as it is very close to where I live, I just ask myself: do you want to cook or do you want to have …? Well, you know already the reply.

On my second visit, I had another succulent dish – “fregola” (an Italian small type of pasta typical from Sardinia) with sea food followed by a delicious Baba’ with rhum – still dreaming about that. Another time, I had a sandwich with octopus. Then I lost the count…

Well – actually I have been there on a wine tasting night – but I am happy I did not have many pictures about that, but only blurred memories and a memorable headache to follow 🙂
Indeed, Gino is also organizing special nights that are just a good excuse to try the place – on a regular basis, there are wine tasting events and after-works. Watch out the Facebook page for more update.

To conclude, the striking contrast between the concept of the restaurant – a low key Italian trattoria – and the result they obtained – a fine-dining selection of dishes and ingredient, special wines and sophisticated presentation – is making Trattoria da Gino a unique place in its style on the Luxembourg scene – and therefore a must to visit.

This article has been adapted from the one we originally published as contributors on the new Editus website.

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A luxurious evolution: Le Chatelet, Luxembourg City

As you might have noticed if you follow the blog, we tend not to review a place more than once in a couple of years – even if, when the feedback is good, I visit it again.
We recently did an exception for Le Chatelet, the refined restaurant located in Boulevard de La Petrusse, that welcome us last time when was still part of a famous Luxembourg brand.

The restaurant has been acquired by Jean-Baptiste and Aleksandra, this refreshing couple who decided to leave their previous professional life behind and jump in a new adventure. They gave their chef “carte blanche” with the idea of moving the restaurant concept from a steak-house (remember, also Barefoot in Luxembourg was there for meat) to an innovative bistronomic brasserie.

The step to get to this level was achieved as well with some noticeable improvements to the appearance of the venue: the tables on the main road have been removed, there have been some major reviews in the internal settings and at the wine bar, but it is on the terrace that the main changes have been operated. The cheap coverage has been removed in favor of a more open and green terrace, a Parisian corner in the heart of the station area.

In regards to the cuisine, forget about bouche a la reine and toast au champignon, the card is surprisingly creative and have limited choices, but for all the tastes – it must be said that the evening menu changes every two weeks and some seasonal suggestions are proposed on spot. The a la carte menu change with seasons as well.

We had ourselves a tasting menu with wine paring.

The amuse-bouche was the prelude of an exceptional dinner: an exquisite tartare of carabineros prawns accompanied by tomato and mozzarella foam. A symphony of taste in only couple of spoons, the freshness, almost kinky taste of the prawns dancing with the comforting, bold intermezzo of the mozzarella and closed by the acid notes of the tomato.

We were already gobsmashed.

The first starter was an unpredictable combination with old-fashion reminiscences  and exotic notes: risotto with celery, lobster in two consistencies, homardine sauce and coconut milk. The intriguing part of the dish was indeed the mixture between classic tastes (lobster) with creative elements (the celery risotto was unexpectedly to die for, the coconut milk was taking you to a Bangkok food stall and back).

Then it came the foie gras ice cream, a dish that would have definitely not disfigured on a Michelin starred restaurant table. Tasty but not sickly sweet, accompanied by a crumble of hazelnuts and spices, it managed to wrap the palate without tiring it.

As main course, we had ray with semi-salted butter, young carrots with kaffir lime, emulsion of shellfish and fried capers. Again, a mishmash of a classic dish with brush strokes of originality. To me, this was as well the best combination between a dish and its wine, as the salty note of the sauce and the capers perfectly mingled with the sweet delicacy of a local Riesling.

Finally, the meat dish: lamb rumsteak with ratatouille cake, tapenade and potatoes. An astonishing presentation for a pretty vintage closure of the meal with a delicious drive.

Together with the coffee, we got our dessert, last dish of the menu: apricots, cacao crumble, coconut and vanilla ice cream, apparently a simple blending, indeed a very elaborate twist of consistencies, tastes and aromas.

Pictures of our dinner with the relevant wine pairing, followed, as usual, by my overall impression on the restaurant.

What I loved about Le Chatelet:

  • As general consideration, I have to say I was positively surprised by the new restaurant imprint, innovative but not in an aggressive or exaggerate way – as well at pricing level. Our tasting menu was fantastic, but the “a la carte” choices include some very impressive numbers as well – the fried creamy egg in the starters for example or the Carnaroli risotto with truffle and pata negra.
  • The wine selection is amazing – not in the sense of general commercial wines or just big names, but of a very attentive selection and experience. For example, with the lamb we had a Spanish red wine. We were skeptic, but it was a great wine, intense and powerful.
  • The timing of the dinner was perfect: generally with the tasting menu you often risk to have dishes coming in too quickly and to fill up immediately. Or – vice versa – to wait too much between courses and get bored. In this case, nothing could have been done better.
  • The service was great: spontaneous and attentive. A special mention to the lady who was introducing the wine, she was really showing a great passion and explaining the pairings in a detailed way, but easy to understand.

What I liked a bit less about Le Chatelet:

  • We had fabulous time and our dinner could have not been better. If I want to be picky and find one item to change, it would be the combination between the lobster dish and its wine, a Chardonnay with significant citrus notes. The dish to me was on a sweet side, as well was the wine. While my partner in crime observed a drier wine would have been better, on my side I would have kept the wine and added a bit of chili or cayenne pepper to the dish. De gustibus.

In conclusion: The visit to the new Le Chatelet overcame our expectations. We found a renewed brasserie with a strong gastronimique accents. Perfect if you are bored of the “usual” standards and expect something “more” from your dinner, without ending up in the pretentious. Strongly recommended for a date, a dinner with friends or a business meeting.

And if you wish to enjoy the sun informally, a tapas menu is also available.

Lunch time at La P’tite Maison

When I arrived in Luxembourg, 10 years ago, the Theatre de l’Opera used to be one of my favorite restaurant and I link to it some of the most memorable moments of my first period in the Gran Duchy. After several years, and several different management’and names’ change, I came back to this stylish and cozy house in the Rollingerground that now takes inspiration by its location and it is called La P’tite Maison.

I heard already great things about it and wanted to try it since long time. We took the occasion for a lunch in town with Patricia. I got there around 12.30 pm and was taken to my table in the small side room. The décor is still sophisticated but classic. I love the unrefined parquet and the wooden ceiling. Tables are not wide, but still you don’t feel suffocated.

I waited for Patricia in front of a glass of cremant and, when she arrived, we went for a pissaladière Nicoise, a tasty tiny focaccia with onions and olives, as starter, followed by a cod with cherry tomato and olives for me and a beef filet with pepper for her. I paired my meal with a Chardonnay that was one of the best wine at the glass I honestly had recently.

What I liked about La P’tit Maison:

  • Place is very cozy, still one of my favorite in town for location and ambiance, either to meet your friends, either for a romantic break. I can definitely say this corner is very different from whatever restaurant in the city and decors are cared in details.
  • Food was still classic but not boring. Finally a place where the available choices for a business lunch are taken aside from the “standards” and the quality and taste of food came first – before the odd ingredients and the alternative presentation. Well done.
  • Service was definitely on point. Present but not stressful, I was offered a refill of my glass when Patricia joined – some other places would have asked: do you want another glass, Miss? And then we were given our time to lunch and chat, no rush.

Things I liked a bit less about La P’tit Maison:

  • I love strong tastes, but my fish dish was definitely too much on the garlic side, really. Happy I did not have any meeting or date in the afternoon 🙂
  • Our room, in a grey day, was very much dark. When we moved back to the entrance it seemed I just waked up. At lunch time and going toward the cold season, I appreciate a brighter atmosphere. It should be definitely better in the evening.
  • This is not a cheap place. While I did not feel we overpaid for what we had – aperitif, glass of wine, starter and main on the daily menu and coffee for a bit more than 50 euro each, I would include a visit for dinner under the high-end category.

In conclusion: The location of La P’tite Maison is one of my favorite in town, preserve the intimate aura of the original “small house”, evolving on a culinary journey through strong but classic tastes. I would definitely recommend it for a special occasion as a lovely and delicious alternative to the classic gastronomic places in the city.