We were on the way back from San Francisco to L.A. It was a long journey.
The weather was so beautiful although the temperature outside the car was dropping fast. The last thing I remembered before fell asleep again was this breathtaking sunset behind me.
The next thing I knew when I woke up, the car was turning left and right in one of the unfamiliar city. Then I realised I was in Sacramento, the capital of California.
Then, finally, Mr. Food Guide parked his car in a parking lot and told me to get down for dinner.
"Okie. What are we going to eat tonight?" Hehe... couldn't remember how many times I asked him this question during my whole trip in California.
"Italian." Simple yet clear enough.
Geeee... I was expecting something simple like Olive Garden with that answer.
Gosh, I was so wrong!
We came to a very old and nice looking restaurant - Biba Restaurant. A real Italian style.
"Are you serious?" I looked at him and myself. We were wearing jeans, T-shirt and sneakers.
The moment he nodded, I wanted to go back to the car to change some nice evening wear. He stopped me.
"No need lar. You wear pretty but I don't have anything proper to wear, no good. Better both look ugly." -_-""" Grrrr... just because he forgot to bring nice wear to look handsome, he wanted me to look ugly with him. Still, since Mr. Food Guide had been really a great guide with all those priceless good experiences, I decided to sacrifice this time.
"The staff didn't tell me to wear nice attire when I made reservation. It was their fault." *tsk tsk tsk* What a good excuse to make himself feel better. This was not the first time he came to this restaurant.
Luckily, despite our almost too informal attire, the staff at the counter warmly greeted us and led us to our table.
Oolala~~~ the interior was simple yet elegant. The merry people here made such a big contrast with the cold dark empty street outside. I just love the way how they use the white as their theme. White calmed me down and boosted my appetite.
Of course, our wearing caused some attention in the restaurant, for the wrong reason. How glad was I when finally get to sit down. At least my jeans and sneakers were now covered under the table cloth. :P
The staff assigned to serve us was a great one.
This was our bread.
I turned my camera mode with flash-on and took another one since it was quite different to get the white-balance without flash.
This action of mine caught an attention from one of the lady sat opposite us.
She came to me slowly and smiled at me.
"Sweetie, I have a question for you." She said.
"Certainly madam. What would you like to know?" I asked.
"You are taking picture of foods. Are you some kind of food journalist?" LOL, I wish.
"No madam. I am just a regular person who owns a website to talk about my food experiences. I review food for my own personal interest." I replied.
Another sursprise on her face. Then she nodded and slowly walked back to her seat.
We ordered an antipasti - Carpaccio di Manzo con Funghi.
This is a plate of appetizer with raw, thinly sliced beef with white mushrooms, celery hearts, chives, extra virgin olive oil and lemon dressing with slivers of Parmigiano.
The soft beef flavor and texture matched so good with the olive oil and lemon dressing. The slivers of Parmigiano cheese was indeed something rich that gave accent to this tender raw thinly sliced beef.
This was a good carpaccio. *slurp*
For First Course - we decided to share this Gnocchi del Giorno.
The staff kindly helped us to split the portion into 2 plates for us. Even so, that was quite a generous half-plate portion.
I never fancy gnocchi. However, after my good experience of gnocchi in CIA restaurant, I decided to be adventurous again with it. It did not disappoint me. This housemade gnocchi of the day really made my day. ^_^
Firm yet not-over-chewy nor too-soft gnocchi, only a housemade version could give such a good texture. A slight spiciness brought out by the herb accentuated the whole dish yet not over-powering the unique potato flavour of the gnocchi. Combination of melted cheese and grated aged-cheese made the dish more creamy and rich.
Mmmmm~~~ awesome presentation!
Next, each of us made a choice on Entrees. Conincidently, we both got something with strong tomato base.
Mine was Ossobuco alla Milanese.
The large, meaty veal shank was braised with mixed vegetables, wine, broth and tomatoes, topped with gremolata and served with creamy soft polenta.
Usually, Ossobuco is served with risotto. However, as Biba Caggiano was born and raised in Bologna, the capital Emilia-Romagna which located in northern Italy, she used polenta. Polenta is a traditional staple food throughout much of northern Italy.
Although the tomato taste was too much for me, I love the dish nevertheless. This was big portion of veal shank. Yet, it was so soft and tender that I almost just swallowed the meat. The rich taste of this veal shank went very well with the creamy polenta. Still, creamy polenta made me tired of it after a while, a few scoop was good, more than that would be too much.
I scooped out the bone marrow with a cute little fork. Mmmm~~~ that was heavenly good. Although the marrow was merely a small portion, the impact was strong. It just spreaded inside my mouth like an exploding bomb.
Mr. Food Guide had a Coniglio alla Cacciatora con Peperoni al Balsamico e Polenta.
Once again, polenta was used. However, I love this version much more as it was roasted. It was almost like a good Yakionigiri (grilled Japanese rice ball) for me. It was a very nostalgic feel for me.
I was really enjoying eating crispy roasted polenta surface by soaking it into the gravy that have a combination of sweet onion, pancetta, wine, tomatoes, bell peppers and balsamic vinegar. So good! Too good to stop. I ate one whole polenta in such way. Definitely an orgasmic moment for me. Yum~~~
The rabbit meat part, was nothing to complain too. Although this slowly braised rabbit was pretty bony, it was so soft that I had no difficulty in separating the meat and the bone easily. Back in Malaysia, it is a common way people eat rabbit meat in satay form. Such a preparation cause the rabbit meat to be too dry and lack of fat. However, this Hunter-Style Rabbit was a really good way to cook prepare a gastronomic rabbit meat.
Until this point, we were both very satisfied with everything. But then...
... this plate of salad spoilt the fun a bit.
This was a plate of Insalata di Finocchio, Arance e Cicoria. A combination of thinly sliced fennel and oranges with frisee, arugula and an extra virgin olive oil, lemon and orange dressing.
Nothing wrong with the salad if you like fennel. Too bad, fennel bulb is just not my cup of tea. I had never tried a fennel bulb before, therefore I tried it out of curiosity. It was not a good one for me though. I will always pick rucola over fennel from now on. :P
By the way, if you noticed, I put salad after main entree. Well, I did it on purpose. In America, it is a common practice people eat salad at the beginning. However, in Italy, it is a norm to eat salad after the entree.
In Biba Restaurant, they will ask you whether if you want the salad to be served before the meal or after the meal. Interesting question, only in a real Italian restaurant in America you will get this kind of question.
The whole night highlight had yet to come with this Tiramisu!!!
Here is a flash-on version to show clearly the cut surface of this piece of goodie.
I quoted a little fun fact about Tiramisu from here.
The Italian name tiramisù means "pick-me-up" (metaphorically, "make me happy", although it could have a more sexual meaning), referring to the two caffeine-containing ingredients, espresso and cocoa.
Traditionally, tiramisu is an Italian dessert typically made from ladyfinger cookies, espresso coffee, mascarpone cheese, eggs, cream, sugar, marsala wine, cocoa and rum. Even though I have had many times of "tiramisu" back in Malaysia and while in Japan, shamefully I must admit I have never tried a REAL tiramisu until now. Now I know what is a REAL TIRAMISU!! Make sure it made from ladyfinger, espresso and mascarpone!!
In Biba, besides sprinkling cocoa powder on the tiramisu surface, they made this whole piece even more appealing with the thin chocolate flakes. They just melt in your mouth like a cotton candy. Irresistible piece of art, I wish they have this in the place I am staying now.
There is some debate regarding tiramisu's origin. In Wikipedia, it has 3 stories.
First story :
Some believe it was first created during the First World War. Women in Greece made these desserts for their men to take with them as they were being sent off to war. They might have believed the high caffeine and energy content of these desserts would give their men more energy to fight and help bring them home safely.
Second story :
Another story regarding tiramisu dates back even further. It is said that during the Renaissance periods, Venetian women made these to be shared with their men during the late hours because they believed it would give them the energy to make more vigorous love later.
Third story :
A different take on this story is that Venetian prostitutes, living above cafés, would order this as a late night pick-me-up.
Haha... gosh~~~ I never knew there were such debate behind this great piece of Tiramisu.
Whatever, I want Tiramisu for myself, not for any man!
Biba Restaurant definitely worth its award as one of the Best Restaurant in Sacramento! ^_^ It is absolutely the Best Italian Restaurant for me until today. ;)