Imagine a restaurant in the wing of a 13th century medieval castle offering fine views of Turin and the valley below. Before you are implements you might expect to see in any fine restaurant: knife, fork, spoon, water and wine glasses, and some breadsticks stacked like cordwood. All signs point in the direction of a typical fine dining experience. But it only takes few courses at Combal.Zero to get disoriented.
Discard Your Preconceptions of Great Food All Who Enter Combal.Zero
Eventually you'll be requested to discard those familiar eating implements in favor of an X-acto knife, a mallet, some colorful plastic spoons, or even your fingers. You'll also want to discard any preconceived notion of Italian food while you're at it; no long worms of pasta slathered in tomato sauce will speckle your white shirt as you attempt to twirl them. And, despite your mother's admonitions, at Combal.Zero you are encouraged to play with your food. After all, chef Davide Scabin has. Known for his re-engineering of familiar foods to create new sensations, Mr Scabin's first words to us after we'd finished our meal were, "Did you play well?"
The Food at Combal.Zero
Combal.Zero: Piola KitJames Martin
Combal.Zero serves creative food firmly grounded in Piemontese tradition. The kitchen sends out playful, witty, and artfully re-engineered dishes of local origin. ("Zuppizza" is a liquid pizza reconstructed from the bottom up, featuring mozzarella soup supporting a dollop of tomato and miniature basil leaves, with a scatter of toasted bread chips floating over everything--served with beer, of course.)
Between each carefully-timed course a crescendo of foodie-babble rises in anticipation of the next. Attentive silences punctuate the performance to be sure--as occurs the moment you raise your mallet to crack open your "fossil" course in order to discover the savory mix of fish, black truffle and white beans embalmed inside the clay tomb that's been set in front of you on a bed of fragrant wood chips.
Combal.Zero - It's not just about messing with your food creatively
But food at Combal.Zero isn't entirely about re-engineering the food itself. Foods you might have eaten 50 years ago at a small Piemontese hole-in-the-wall are reassembled into a "Piola kit." Six traditional "courses" are packed into small glass jars fitted neatly into a cardboard box along with a vial of Barbera and a deck of playing cards, a "kit" for building remembrance of things past. How much more traditional can you get?
Well, there is, of course, the primal, which comes in the form of the celebrated cyberegg. You're instructed to pierce its double plastic wrap "shell" with your trusty xacto knife and squeeze the primal ooze into your mouth as soon as possible--or even quicker if you happen to value the tie you're probably wearing. An explosion of surprising culinary magnitude then occurs inside your mouth, unannounced by any previous confirmations of smell, familiar form, or texture. Surprise--a dwindling sensation in the mind-numbing Information Age--comes in heaping doses at Combal.Zero.
And those are just three of the 16 courses we were served.
Combal.Zero - The Bottom Line
Combal.Zero: Fossil, a course on the Creative menu at Combal.ZeroJames Martin
A not to be missed eating experience? You bet. It'll cost you 140 Euros to experience the full Creativo menu--but then again the whole deal takes 4 hours minimum to experience and you'll go home thinking about food in new ways--although perhaps not the ways Davide Scabin is thinking about it.
His next innovation? Shower food. You know how when you need a shower and you're hungry you're bound to reach for something simple and salty--a handful of chips perhaps? Then, when you've showered, you feel ready for something more formal, more complex and earthy? Well, that transformation is what Davide Scabin is thinking about at the moment. Which means...next time you go to Combal.zero, you might think about bringing a shower cap. Call first. You don't want to be embarrassed.
Piazza Mafalda di Savoia - Rivoli (TO)
Closed Monday and Tuesdays
English spoken, the Maitre'd has worked at restaurants in New York.