I have never been a risotto person. Somehow the idea of rice that has been cooked to a congealed consistency with vegetables that have lost their bite or protein that has leeched its flavour has never really appealed.
Moreover, back home - as in most Asian countries - rice is a sideshow to the main culinary event – meant to be doused in curry or infused with the flavours and aromas of generously-spiced hunks of meat . It has always defied logic to me to fill up on a bowl of risotto before even hitting the main course. This was perhaps the strangest element of the entire Italian meal plan I encountered on my first visit to Europe many years ago – why serve me a bowl of starch before getting to the really good stuff?
So lurid yellow risotto a la Milanesa? No. Pea-green risotto that, honestly, is one of the most unappetizing dishes one could ever be presented with? Definitely not. Slick, black squid ink risotto? Maybe – only because I quite like the metallic, briny taste of squid ink.
Red seafood risotto?
Now we’re talking :)
The dish responsible for changing my mind on the virtues of risotto was a dish of tangy, tomato-ey, red risotto eaten in Perast.
Imagine the scene: The Restaurant – Conte, one of the most perfectly located restaurants I have ever come across, fronting Boka Bay winking and shimmering in the late afternoon sun, dense green hillsides of the Bay’s famous fjord-like formations dipping headlong into the water, retro-style airplanes gracefully performing some sort of celebratory airshow overhead (we never quite figured out what the occasion was) while zippy little speedboats cut through the glassy waters. I could have been favourably inclined by the setting, but that risotto tasted perfect!
The dish is something you won't struggle to find along the Montenegrin coast – influenced as it is by its Venetian maritime heritage and its close proximity to Italy – but the red risotto we ate in Perast was by far the best version we tasted.
A mound of plump rice coated in a sweetly tart tomato sauce and studded with shrimp, squid and mussels – surprisingly light and perfect with a glass of the crisp local white wine. It’s the only risotto I’ve ever eaten that made my mouth water even hours (well weeks, cause it’s still watering now as I am writing about it) and spurred me on to order the seafood risotto a few more times during our time in Boka Bay, although sadly we didn’t find another one that compared.
Needless, to say if I ever find myself in Perast again, a trip to Restaurant Conte is definitely on the cards :)
And while on the topic of tables with a view, here are three of my waterfront favourites:
Tataku Vave, Easter Island - Chile
This restaurant on Easter Island is the place to go to have a sunset meal – perched on wooden decking that juts straight over a rocky coast just outside the island’s only town, Hanga Roa. The restaurant’s juicy ceviche pyramids are only outdone by the spectacular view of the luminous blue Pacific waves crashing just metres away.
Foreign Correspondents' Club, Phnom Penh - Cambodia
This legendary sundowner spot by the Tonle Sap does a good line in Asian-style tapas. But more than anything, grab a bar stool overlooking Sisowath Quay and the river beyond and get ready to drink in the view.
Rock Bar, Bali - Indonesia
Touted as one of the world's top bars - and for good reason - you can dine on stone pots of noodles, punchy Asian sea food and Balinese-spiced bites, washed by the spray of giant waves pounding the rocks below you. The bar's hot reputation means it does get insanely busy around sunset, but head there later in the evening and you can enjoy a fairly chilled out dinner suspended over the wild waters of the Indian Ocean.
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