Temple Restaurant Review : L'Artiglio (Temple Magazine Issue 2)
The Maltese Islands are experiencing a welcome boom in culinary experiences. Whilst they carefully keep hold of their own unique cuisine, it should be noted that many restaurateurs and chefs have elevated their offerings to the highest levels as one would expect across the Mediterranean. Valletta has been a significant beneficiary of this boom, with a multitude of exciting new restaurants opening across the city.
We patrons are the most fortunate; the volume of choice we now have as to where to go and what to enjoy is extremely satisfying.
L’Artiglio, a highly respected and popular Mediterranean restaurant is located on Melita Street in Valletta adjacent to La Falconeria Hotel. Inside, the décor is stylish, fresh and inviting, lending itself perfectly to the cuisine on offer from Head Chef Janine Camilleri.
Janine is a master of drawing out truly incredible flavours from a relatively small selection of ingredients; simple dishes created with the finest ingredients is the key here. Excitingly, with the restaurant’s open kitchen this ‘theatre’ is all on display: one can witness the skilled performance, absorb the generous aromas and relish the sizzle of the grill.
Perhaps what showcases Janine’s real flair and style is that her menu rarely stays the same from day to day; she constantly ensures that all the ingredients are as fresh as can be. If ingredients are not up to scratch, then the dish will be swiftly removed from the menu and replaced with something that caught her eye that day at the market. What makes Janine’s style even more unusual is her lovely interaction with the diners. She frequently leaves the seclusion of her kitchen to enquire, to chat and discuss with her patrons. You really feel you are in ‘her’ kitchen, not the one in the restaurant but the one at home: she is a hostess, welcoming and friendly. This makes visiting L’Artiglio on a regular basis a delightful experience as well as a culinary adventure.
We visited L’Aritglio in the heart of the Lampuki season (a Maltese local fish seasonal in September and October).
Our first course: ‘Lampuki Pie with a Lemon and Thyme Velouté. This was a stunning creation; the pie in all its crispy glory sat in the middle of the dish surrounded by the Velouté. The smell was wonderful too; an aroma of freshly cooked pastry followed the dish and lingered well after we devoured the contents. Diving into this dish was pleasure. It had an excellent balance of flavours, none overpowering the other. The Lampuki was gently mixed with the spinach and the softness of both ingredients combined beautifully with the crisp pastry, allowing the sharper flavour of lemon and thyme Velouté to play its part perfectly.
The intermediate and the main course were both calamari. The intermediate course was Calamarata Pasta with calamari in a tomato sauce. Upon arrival, the dish looked and smelled like the Mediterranean; striking reds, greens and whites married together to create a sensory heaven. For this dish, the surprise came with the richness of the tomato sauce infused with a fine fish stock. The calamari itself was tender and perfectly contrasted with the ‘Al Dente’ pasta.
For the main course, the calamari was served whole and was glazed in a rich, sweetened balsamic vinegar, with a drizzle of soy. The appearance, aroma and flavour cascaded through the salad, as the dark calamari enhanced the bright green of fresh salad leaves which were dotted with cherry tomatoes and a light goats’ cheese. The mix offered a selection of individual highlights with the succulent calamari, crisp salad and creamy cheese each enhancing the other. For us, choosing calamari twice was a bonus ... that was what was in season so, naturally, that was what was available. It was fascinating to see and judge the contrast between the two dishes. There was a vast difference in their preparation and in their final presentation which was remarkable. It showed a desire for experimentation and originality which is sometimes lacking in other establishments. There was also a confidence here that is refreshing: to be so sure of one’s culinary skills that, despite the dish using the same main ingredient, true culinary creativity will shine through to create a startling difference.
Last, but definitely not least for pudding lovers, we were served an Apple Crumble with a homemade Vanilla Ice Cream.
Again, the contrast of these beautiful ingredients made for a decadent sweetness of the crumble, tartness of the apple, and creamy cool smoothness of the vanilla, all combining to make you eat the dish in seconds … it rounded off the meal perfectly.
Maltese cuisine is, at heart, rooted in tradition and familiarity. It is both novel and exciting to experience classic Maltese ingredients being given such a shakeup. There is always a new flavour, sensation or texture that can be coaxed out of what had, previously, been considered as sacrosanct.
L’Artiglio is one of a new breed of restaurants for the islands, its heart is set in modernity in both its presentation and style. It is fantastic to see the desire to explore and push culinary boundaries so actively alive and well executed. There will always be new concepts to see and discover there. We loved it. Thank you to Janine and the team, we hope to be back very soon.
64 Melita St, Valletta
+356 2247 6601
Published TEMPLE Magazine 2017/18
Copyright: Temple Concierge Ltd.
Imagary: Brian Grech and L'Artiglio