The Italian soul-searcher
Claim to fame: Cuisine at the crossroads of modernity and timelessness
Reason to go: Italian flavors reinterpreted with Japanese ingredients
To look out for: Stunning seafood and vegetable dishes
Much like the man himself, the cuisine at Bulgari Il Ristorante Luca Fantin embodies paradoxes. The food is focused yet complex, true to traditional flavors but breathtakingly modern. Fantin is a locavore with a distant vision, on a quest to coax the Italian soul out of ingredients gathered from the Japanese countryside. His artful creations weave together memories of his native Italy, filtered through his experiences in Spain at Mugaritz, and imbued with the spirit of his adopted home, Japan.
Fantin makes the most of ingredients by presenting them in multiple preparations. A trio of kabocha squash sparkles with the clarity and cleverness of gastronomic Goldberg Variations; transformed into weightless, flour-free gnocchi, whipped into a concentrated meringue, and baked into sweet-and-savory wafers. The chef has a winning way with delicate seafood and vegetables. Jewel-toned root vegetable marbles adorn a silky flan of salsify, adding color and texture to Fantin’s syphon-infused minestrone soup. Ravioli, injected with liquid fennel and topped with raw botan-ebi prawn and dollops of chili-flecked roe, burst with concentrated flavor. They are ridiculously good, as is the carpaccio di verdure, a mosaic of thinly sliced and steamed vegetables drizzled with a vinaigrette of charred peppers and onions. The combination tastes intriguingly of the sea, despite its terrestrial origins.
Though the menu highlights Japanese products, the beverage list is more straightforwardly patriotic. The extensive cellar is stocked with wines from some of Italy’s best producers. The luxe space atop the Bulgari Tower features floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the glittering lights of the Ginza district. You can relax with a cocktail or an espresso in the recently refurbished upstairs bar, or catch live jazz on the rooftop terrace during the summer months.