by Andrea Tramonte
At the base there is intuition, the desire to produce dishes that are the result of creativity, research and ingenuity. The kitchen of Dario Torabi comes from a continuous study and is based on combinations that are sometimes unsettling. Fifth fourth, seafood and fruit can go together and work well as well. “In this job you need to have the time to try and come out with strong dishes that you are convinced of – he says 34-year-old chef from Cagliari -. It is a creative process which must then be confirmed by numerous tests. Nothing of an end in itself because otherwise you risk making soups without rhyme or reason. I like to think of ingredients as pieces that can fit together even imperfectly to then reach a final result that works “. Torabi carries on his research processes in the Cagliari restaurant opened a few years ago, Old Friend Bistroa place where his cuisine matures under the banner of what he calls “gastronomic anarchy“(As the title of his tasting menu):” A proposal without rules, an idea with which I play with my old love for punk – he says -. I make menus without schemes and depending on the mood in the kitchen and the availability of products it can totally change. I like that the customer entrusts himself totally to us and lets himself be guided in this orderly chaos ”.
Torabi’s vocation was born in the home. His father, an Iranian, had a restaurant and this led him to be in close contact with the kitchen from an early age. “I started in a classical way, abroad, making traditional cuisine that is the opposite of what I do today. When I realized what I really wanted to do, I decided to open my own bistro. I would have stopped being a cook if I had had to continue doing canonical cooking. What amuses me is the conception of the dishes, it is what still makes me want to do this job “. His cuisine is a mix of influences because Dario is the son of a cultural and gastronomic melting pot at the same time: born and raised in CagliariIranian father, Piedmontese mother, Venetian grandmother. “I bring all these influences into my kitchen – she says-. Mine is one Sardinian cuisine not in terms of recipes but of territory and raw materials. I didn’t grow up with a grandmother who made me culurgiones, rather basmati rice with mutton stew, dried lemon and other spices. My proposal is tainted. After all, my generation is the daughter of a good globalization, sometimes we are children of the second generation of immigrants and cooking goes hand in hand, spontaneously “.
Dishes never have more than three or four ingredients. “Nordic inspiration in the kitchen – with a minimalist imprint – and also in the conception of the work. But our luck is to have better raw materials. In new nordic they invented fermentation and preservation methods because they have nothing for six months. We, on the other hand, have crazy raw materials that are constantly changing. I can’t keep a menu for more than a month because I find a lot of different things in the market ”. If it is true that Torabi changes a lot, there are certainly some fixed points that characterize him. The fifth quarter, for example, who also teaches at the cooking academy With in Baradili. “The animal is made up of all its parts. I don’t stop at the noble part and use the so-called scrap. Even fish: with the yellowtail liver we make pate, with the fish eggs a sauce with anduja. I like to use everything and it seems right to enhance every part of the animal, also with a view to sustainability. But then using the less noble parts means being able to give a tasting menu at a lower price. In addition, the fifth quarter was not used a lot in Cagliari and I liked to fit into a space that was not well-trodden. And by proposing it in the best possible way we make it clear to customers that these are very good parts. So let’s do some food culture ”. But if you ask him which are in general the raw materials that characterize him the most, Torabi explains that he changes every month. “All colleagues have signature dishes, we change too often. But this does not mean lack of coherence, because we are recognizable and we pursue a precise path. But with constant evolution “. Of course, risotto cannot be missing, also thanks to its Piedmontese origins. The last one he created is creamed with English blue cheese, served with a reduction of Cannonau from the Sa Defenza winery in Donori, chicken chips and then kombu seaweed, with which he creates a powder that reproduces the logo of the American punk band of Black flag.
“A dish that I really like is the heart and onion skewer served with a marrow and hazelnut sauce, which we then dress with sumac, a spice used in Iran for roast meats. A very contaminated dish that could almost seem Sardinian, due to the roasted offal, but the result of different influences “. And again, on the last menu there is also a beef tartare with sea bass bottarga produced by them, asparagus and mashed potato chips. “My interest is that those who sit in the restaurant should not sit there trying to understand the dishes, but enjoy them. I’m not interested in conceptual stuff. My job is to entertain you, with a high-level cuisine but aimed at everyone. I don’t care about having a restaurant where my friends can’t come. I want a democratic and contemporary cuisine and break down the wall of haute cuisine that sometimes rejects and excludes. I hate reverence towards the cook: I feed you and you enjoy the evening. We are looking for a middle ground, with a careful but not formal service, with attention to the customer but without making you feel as if you were in a temple “.
The desire to have fun is also manifested in the proposal of the amuse-bouche, the snaks that are served before the appetizers and which are also presented aesthetically in an original way, with a series of dishes created by the designer Matteo Buccoli with yard leftovers: from pork crackers and spices to nerve chips. The restaurant gives space to works by friendly artists – Roberto Follesa, Nicola Testoni, Emanuele Boi, Carlo Giambarresi – and focuses decisively on natural wines. “With my collaborator Matteo Atzori, sommelier, we work well and we have chosen natural wines not only because we drink only those but also because he has managed to orchestrate combinations with strong flavors like ours. And then we like to introduce small realities, wine artisans. Even so we make culture ”.