Story and photos by Manos Angelakis
Piazza Mafalda Di Savoia,
10098 Rivoli TO, Italy
+39 011 956 5225
This meal took place prior to the COVID-19 pandemic travel restrictions.
Long story short: I had one of the best dinner experiences of my life at Combal.Zero (pronounced Combal dot Zero) located in Torino’s Rivoli castle, next to the Museo d'Arte Contemporanea. Combal.Zero deserves all the accolades and awards it has received. Not only is the food extremely inventive and interesting but the service is superb, the dining room is warm although it's modern and minimalistic and the overall ambiance is perfect when looking for a relaxed yet very special meal.
Davide Scabin, the owner and top toque, creates imaginative dishes mostly presented in the restaurant’s tasting menus, where he demonstrates his full culinary expertise. Chef Scabin’s philosophy is concept cuisine - the restaurant as theater; but despite such experimentation many of the dishes are still deeply rooted in Piedmont’s culinary tradition. Playing with food ingredients, preparation and presentation is fundamental to his belief that a restaurant should not be entered as a temple of gastronomy but approached as an adventure. Chef Scabin likes to have fun and he thinks his patrons should have fun as well. He takes apart ingredients to reassemble them in unusual ways e.g. deconstructed pizzas, cybereggs, pigeon in a meunière sauce. One can select from 3 tasting menus: Creative, Classic and Territorial, or can order a la carte elements from each menu or order the micropiatti of the lounge that are highlights of his most successful creations.
The wine list is extensive with exceptional vintages from around the world (currently about 700 labels).
The restaurant carries a single Michelin star but, to be honest, having eaten at Noma in Copenhagen; Eleven Madison Park and Per Se in New York; Can Roca, in Girona; Azurmendi, in Larrabetzu; Arzak in San Sebastian and other 3-star establishments I just don’t see a good reason why Combal.Zero should currently carry only a single star. By the way, the Michelin-star designations based on the original Red Guide of the French tire-maker mean “One star is high quality cooking, worth a stop;” two stars indicate “excellent cooking, worth a detour;” three stars signifies “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey.” I would give Combal.Zero at least two, if not three stars for creativity and the exceptional tastes they offer.
We decided to let chef Scabin guide our tasting; so he selected a variety of dishes from both his creative and classic menus. There were 9 of us at the table and one was allergic to garlic (what a tragedy in Italy!) and another did not eat veal. But the efficiently attentive dining room staff took our limitations in stride. After a visit to the museum we had arrived fairly early to an almost empty restaurant; by the time we were half way through the meal, the room was full and humming.
Altogether, including the course substitutes for those that would not eat veal or garlic, we saw and tasted 15 courses.
Some of the most interesting and/or impressive dishes were:
Hambook. On a tray, between two bookstands and shaped like books, translucent containers holding strips of prosciutto and melon paste.
Fried quail-egg, on potato chips with a light peanut sauce.
Roast Pigeon with Foie Gras.
Vitello Tonnato alla maniera antica.
Rabbit meat made to look and almost taste like pickled tuna with vegetables.
Foie Gras ganache with passion-fruit gelatin (exceptional taste; I really loved that dish).
Deconstructed pizza with beer and/or coke.
Eggplant tart with clams.
Risotto with cheese and truffle sauce.
Harry Potter surprise bag of bonbons.
The wines were selected to complement each course and were all Italian, except for the champagne at the end.
We spent more than five hours at Combal.Zero, the first two tasting the menu and the next three talking with chef Scabin and sipping champagne; he has a most interesting story to tell about his earlier life and how he developed his culinary philosophy.
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