Luxembourg is small. Very small, by all standards. But, the country can pride itself with a healthy number of restaurants carrying Michelin stars. Whilst there is no 3*, there are a good dozen 1* and one 2*. The latter is an Italian restaurant called Mosconi. It sits in a beautiful house on the banks of the Alzette, and has a lovely terrace on which one can take a glass of Champagne before a meal and admire the view (as long as the weather permits it).
The restaurant is more or less as expensive as all of the 2* and 3* in the area, with a tasting menu at €120, a seven course pasta menu at €65 and a four course lunch at 20 less. The wine list is nearly exclusively Italian, with only about 8 or 9 French whites, but a more generous selection of red wines from France. Prices here are reasonable, but one can find much cheaper wine lists in Germany (in 3* restaurants!).
We started with an excellent 2004 Bellavista Gran Cuvee, Franciacorta, then had a bottle of 2007, Rossj Bass, from Angelo Gaja, a 2007, Löwengang from Alois Lageder and finally a 2004, Chassagne Montrachet 1er cru “Clos St. Jean” from Bachelet Ramonet. To finish the meal, I had a glass of 2004, Bellavista Gran Cuvee Rose, which was again nowhere behind a good Champagne.
To start us off we had a macaron filled with chicken liver and white truffle cream. This was a very good macaron, although the dough was rather sweet. The cream was very good, and is, in a somewhat different form, one of the house’s signature dishes.
After this we had a courgette puree with salmon roe. This was very well done, but the rather substantial quantity of puree and the very few eggs didn’t really make sense. The proportions here were a little out of hand it seemed, and the plate a little dull. Hmmm…
Next up was a beetroot puree with goat’s cheese cream and a few pistachios. This was nice, but it somehow was pretty similar to the previous amuse in terms of texture and construction. Good.
The meal itself started a little more successful. A substantial piece of foie gras was placed on a crostino and surrounded by a pool of white bean cream. The whole thing was sprinkled with balsamico to give it a little acidity. The foie was perfectly cooked and of very good quality. Despite the rather simple appearance, the dish was pretty good, and I very much enjoyed it. Very good.
Bread was alright. The white and brown bread were nothing stunning, but the various crackers were pretty enjoyable.
Next up, we had a potato salad with black truffles and parmesan. This was one of the best dishes of the night, if not the best. The potatoes were lukewarm and therefore made the truffle’s flavour explode. A really simple, great dish, that worked as the ingredients were of very good quality, and very well prepared. Very good.
The next dish was an equally simple dish: A large langoustine was placed atop some tomato confit, and served with a little pesto. Such a simple dish really relies on outstanding products. This time, the langoustine wasn’t as fresh as it could have been, and therefore the texture was rather mushy. The tomato confit was great though, with a nice sweetness, which worked very well with the langoustine and the pesto. If one is picky, one would notice the burned end of the langoustine’s tail. In serious restaurants (or some), one would cut the little part at the end off, to prevent it from burning. That is a small thing, but tells quite something about the little errors happening here. Good.
The first pasta dish was a leek and truffle lasagna. A very nice dish in itself, the addition of the truffles was unfortunately hardly noticeable. In such homeopathic quantities, truffles don’t make sense, and one better leaves them away. The other problem was the slightly too sour balsamico. Here one would have needed something of maybe 50 or more years (they used 12 year old balsamico), in order to have a fuller, less acid taste. Ok.
The second pasta course was a ragout of lamb with hand cut papardelle. This was pretty good, but lacked punch. If one makes a nice ragout out of any type of meat for some pasta, the reduced braising juices usually give one hell of a tasty sauce, but here, one had the impression that they simply used a tiny amount of jus, bound with some cooking water of the pasta. It was a pity, as the pasta was very very good. Good.
Having already had the dover sole with artichokes, it wasn’t a new course, but one that was well cooked. The raw artichokes are a little bizarre, as they leave a rather thin taste and texture (if used on their own, as in this dish), but otherwise it was a good piece of sole, cooked well and seasoned properly. Nothing wrong, but nothing really interesting, or perfect neither. Good.
I had pigeon ravioli with beans and balsamico. Now, if a restaurant serves some minor element twice in a long menu, I don’t mind, but if I get basically the same dish twice, I am not that happy. Especially, if I can’t change one dish for one which apparently « has an element in it, which features also in another dish of the menu. » This was the case here too: The white bean cream/ balsamico combination was exactly the same as in the starter of foie gras. The combination worked for the powerful foie gras, but the tiny ravioli were completely overpowered by the huge quantity of puree. Being this small and having only very little filling in them, they didn’t have enough punch to stand up against such a powerful, and rich puree. Alright.
Fortunately enough, there was the main. The pigeon today was very good. Perfectly cooked, it was served with pearl barley, pumpkin puree, lardo di Colonnata, and a hearty jus. This was a serious, rustic dish of the sort I had remembered from this restaurant. With the truffle salad, this was the best savoury course of the night. Very good.
This restaurant used to have one of the most amazing cheese boards I know. Both quantity and quality on those two huge tables were enormous. However, as we were there on the first day of re-opening after their holidays, the cheese was not quite ready yet. They assembled a little selection, which showed the fine quality of the cheese on offer here. With the truffle salad, pigeon and dessert, these were the only things well worth 2*, during the night. Excellent.
A pre-dessert was cinnamon ice cream with old balsamico (25 years), and a parmesan cracker. It was a fine ice cream, and the balsamico gave it a little bit of punch. Harmless in every sense, and well made. Good.
The dessert itself is called caramele alla Siciliana. It is Ilario’s signature dish, and has been on the menu for a good number of years (as most of the other dishes here too). I tasted it for the first time today and found it to be the best of the 10 desserts I’ve eaten here in the past year. The filling was made up of oranges and pistachios, and absolutely brilliant. This was excellent.
Petit-fours and pralines are very, and the espresso is excellent here, be it ludicrously expensive. At €9 a double espresso, I was quite shocked at the price (at the Cinq I payed the same, but there one is in a different place).
Overall I can’t say this was the best meal I’ve had here. There were very good moments, like the truffle salad, the pigeon, cheese and dessert, but the rest was pretty mediocre, at least for 2*. Whilst service was great (they know us pretty well, and are not always that easy with “new” guests as it appears), I felt that the overall quality of the food has dropped a little over the course of last year. The other problem is, that the menu hardly ever changes. Coming here in Summer or Winter won’t change much, as at least 4/5 of the dishes will be exactly the same, and have not changed since I first came here 2 years ago. If one is in Luxembourg, I would still recommend a meal here, as the pasta menu is very good. In it, one has top quality pasta, at a very reasonable price. With it will come the great décor, and good selection of Italian wines. However, don’t expect life-changing food from this kitchen, as it’s very unlikely to be served here.