Written by Ramona Depares for E&D Magazine in The Times of Malta
It’s seasonal flavours with a twist at de Mondion. Ramona Depares samples the new menu.
Spring has broken, signalling an appetite for fresher flavours, lighter dishes and seasonal ingredients. These are all elements that are reflected in the new menu that has been created by the Chef de Cuisine Kevin Bonello and Sous Chef Clint Grech and the team at de Mondion, at The Xara Palace Relais & Chateaux, Mdina.
Regulars at the restaurant – which prides itself on using regional, fresh ingredients as much as possible – will be happy to know that the de Mondion ethos of exquisite food and top-notch service is still a priority. To these, chef has added some interesting twists to the traditional favourites, as restaurant manager Anthony Quechon tells me.
“Some of the items on our old menu are firm favourites. The foie gras, the venison and the snails spring to mind. In order not to disappoint those who look out for these dishes, we kept them on but added a twist, in order to deliver a fresher flavour to the tastebuds,” Mr Quechon explains.
A look at the menu confirms a decidedly Mediterranean slant, with a focus on fish and seasonal produce. Vegetarians are specifically catered for, as are those who enjoy dining out without necessarily piling on the calories. The Asparagus and Gem Lettuce Salad, which is served with Parmigiano shavings and orange segments, and a hazelnut and orange dressing, is one such example.
The Organic Risotto with Spanish saffron, sautéed local red prawns and black olive powder is another example of the fusion of delicate flavours, while the Scottish Scallop Carpaccio with lemon rind gel, grouper and sea urchin beignet will have you wondering whether your tastebuds died and went to heaven. The carpaccio is served with yuzu and anise dressing, an important point to mention as it makes all the difference when it comes to accentuating flavours.
The Foie Gras Terrine – now served with truffle oil and with orange brioche – and the Local Snail Ragoût remain two of the de Mondion’s piece de resistances. The latter actually converted a Frenchman, which is testament enough in itself.
And finally, for the really commited pasta lovers, the Pasta Bag filled with Taleggio Cheese leaps to the eye. Although I haven’t yet tried it myself, it comes with a promise of shiitake, shimije and broad bean ragout, and a roasted garlic velouté, a combination of flavours that when prepared by the de Mondion brigade are unlikely to hit the spot.
The mains are equally enticing. Fresh fish (which depends on the catch of the day) is prepared and served exactly as you request it, filleted at your table should you prefer to leave the hard work to someone else.
I tried an old favourite, the venison, which is now served roasted with sautéed turnips, apple and dried cranberry marmalade, red beetroot purée and juniper berry jus – the result is wonderful, thanks in no small part to the perfect cut and preparation of the meat.
The Veal Tenderloin, the Pan-Roasted Duck and the Roasted Aged Charolais Beef Tenderloin are another two best-sellers; I would say that the secret lies both in the sourcing of the meat and in the innovative dressings and contorni chosen by Chef Bonello.
However, the secret jewel for those who enjoy original flavours is likely to be another vegetrian-friendly dish, the Wild Mushroom and Brioche Charlotte – ever so light and yummy.
All de Mondion dishes have one element in common; every single element of the dish is given its due importance, and every ingredient has an important role to play. I am impressed by the way that with everything I sample, I can taste the individual ingredients that have been used – seasonings are used judiciously, and no one flavour overpowers the other.
And best of all, my dinner leaves me completely sated but without that nasty, overwhelming feeling that sometimes accompanies a good meal out. Mr Quechon smiles when I mention this, and tells me that this is no happy accident; dishes are envisaged precisely to avoid an overly-heavy feeling.
Which is very fortunate, because it means that I can enjoy dessert as it’s meant to be enjoyed. Once again, the sweet concoctions give more than a nod to the lightness of the season; there is a Wild Strawberry Souffle with a beautifully soft centre. It’s bit like tasting air, if only air tasted so delicious. The Araguani Chocolate Coulant with raspberry centre is equally luscious, molten goodness. There’s also a lemon parfait and a dried hazelnut meringue that, I have it on good authority, should delight any sweet-tooth.
Add the fabulous view, exquisite service and soothing ambience to the whole thing, and you’ll see why de Mondion’s new menu is an experience to be enjoyed at leisure, a treat that will engage all your foodie senses.