Enjoying gluten free Italian cuisine in a restaurant is a rare luxury for me. Whilst it is easy to make gluten free pasta dishes at home, the number of Italian restaurants that can accommodate us are few and far between. Nearly three years ago, my gastroenterologist insisted I return to eating gluten for nearly seven torturous weeks in order to take the necessary biopsies for Coeliac disease testing. It was a hard slog with every day becoming an effort as the “poison” of gluten decayed my health.
In a pathetic attempt at maintaining a glass half full attitude, I decided to make the most of this time and eat all the gluteny foods that I had been missing for years. I consumed copious amounts of pasta, croissants, donuts and real bread for the duration of my gluten challenge. The fine dining Italian restaurant Modo Mio had only just opened at the Crown and so off I headed with the Boy to eat fresh pasta and bread while I still could. Just a side note, for those who choose to click on the link and read this old post of mine; please be warned! It is one of my very first posts I published back when I was on the steepest part of this blogging learning curve. I find it somewhat cringeworthy to read but remind myself that everyone has to start somewhere.
Years later I was approached by Crown Perth to return to Modo Mio for a subsidised return visit. I was interested to see how this fine dining establishment could handle a gluten free customer such as myself and so I gratefully accepted the invitation.
It had been a mad working weekend filled with emergencies and drama so the thought of sitting in an ambient restaurant with my favourite person sounded like the perfect recipe to unwind. We were warmly greeted and shown to our table which oddly happened to be exactly the same table we sat at back in October 2011. A weird coincidence indeed!
Our waitress for the evening came over to introduce herself and answer any questions regarding the menu. She knew all the dishes in depth and proceeded to talk me through each one advising what was gluten free or how they could be adapted. I was pleasantly surprised that despite being a cuisine I thought wasn’t very gluten free friendly I had an abundance of options. There was even gluten free bread AND pasta available.
We started with the trio of salmon entree. I could immediately see Modo Mio have lifted their game since they opened a few years ago. Our dish was beautifully presented with each component as fresh as the next. In the centre of the plate was a mound of soft salmon tartare tossed with citrus, cucumber and sour cream. Each mouthful disappeared in a second with subtle salty flavours accentuated by the occasional burst of a salmon roe egg.
At the far end of the dish sat two silky smooth rolls of salmon perched on cucumber discs and filled with sour cream. One was topped with fresh dill and the other with crunchy poppy seeds. The Boy knows how much I love the sensation of poppy seeds splitting between my teeth and so he allowed me take that one as he reached for the other.
The final component of the salmon trio was not the easiest portion to share. A hard-boiled egg was filled with more of the satiny smoked salmon and topped with a decadent spoonful of Oscietra caviar. We carefully halved the portion to ensure we each got an equal amount of the decadent topping. Not a bad mouthful of luxury for the price!
We had specifically planned to share just one entrée so we could also have a plate of pasta before we hit main course. I mean, how can I NOT order pasta when she offered me a gluten free version? Our waitress had recommended that the best dish on the menu to have with the gluten free penne was the “spaghetti ai fruitti di mare” or, seafood pasta.
Gluten free pasta can be temperamental to cook however I noted ours was exquisitely “al dente”. Each tube was liberally coated in richly flavoured chilli tomato sauce and buried deep in the dish was a generous serving of mussels, cockles, fish, squid and octopus.
Abandoning all cares that I needed to leave some room for both our main and dessert, I tucked into the pasta greedily like a child with an ice cream on a hot day. This was an uncommon treat that I wanted to enjoy to the maximum.
For my main dish I ordered the “doppio barramundi”, or double barramundi. This dish originally comes with Parma ham saccottini which are little parcels of pasta filled with Parma ham, and therefore it needed to be adapted to be gluten free. The chef kindly replaced the saccottini with some buttery greens and roasted cherry tomatoes.
Each of the two fillets of barramundi were clean tasting without any of the muddy aftertaste that this fish can sometime have. The dish was simply finished with a thick sage and caper butter sauce.
The Boy also ordered fish for his main choosing the seared snapper. A thick chunk of crispy skinned snapper on a bed of the smoothest mash was topped with a flavoursome eggplant caponata. A couple of portions of crumbed calamari, roasted cherry tomatoes and a light drizzle of saffron aioli finished the dish.
I wasn’t anticipating such generously sized main meals as I’m accustomed to most fine dining establishments serving smaller portions. Consequently I ordered one side dish for us; the fresh made mashed potato with sautéed button mushrooms. Although I knew the Boy had already mash in his dish, I wanted some I could enjoy without any gluten contamination. Plus, who can go past sautéed mushrooms? Not me.
Many of you may have heard me mention about the Boy’s love of ice cream. It is an addiction that spans back for as long as I have known him. He waxes and wanes with his ice cream intake in a similar all-or-nothing fashion like I do with chocolate. Modo Mio’s ice cream trio of amarena cherry marble, vanilla and Nutella did not disappoint my beloved ice cream connoisseur.
I opted for one of my favourite traditional Italian desserts; a pannacotta. It was perfectly formed with an exquisite ability to jiggle about without losing its shape despite my repeated attempts as I wobbled my plate about the table. It passed my test and I knew I made the right choice.
It was served in a cherry and rhubarb consommé giving alternating sweet and tart flavours. We went silent as we tucked into our final dish for the evening. All you could hear was the repeated chink of our spoons against our plates as we scooped up each mouthful, both wistfully off in our own private thoughts of decadent dessertland.
I love returning to a restaurant and seeing how they have grown and developed, especially when it is for the better. Whilst there wasn’t anything overtly negative with our first visit to Modo Mio, we did experience slow, inattentive service and our meal lacked any wow factor.
In total contrast, our most recent visit we were very impressed with the quality of the food and the attentive, knowledgeable service. We also found Modo Mio’s prices quite reasonable considering its location in the Crown complex. We will look forward to returning again in the future.Chompchomp dined as a guest of Crown Perth. She was offered a meal of the value of $150 however in her usual gluttonous state she couldn’t hold herself back and ordered a further $100 worth of food and drink. She was more than happy to pay the remaining balance of their meal herself. She was in no way obliged to write a favourable review and did not let the wait staff know the purpose of her visit. Modo Mio Crown Perth, Great Eastern Highway, Burswood WA 6100 | (08) 9362 7551 | www.crownperth.com.au/restaurants/premium/modo-mio/about Price: $$$$ Entrees $25-33, Pasta $27-34, Mains $31-51