Mixed food. It’s a phrase that scares even the most open-minded diners. Countless crimes have been committed in the name of uniting this kitchen with this. And yet, harmonies have also been found. A few decades ago, Peruvians and Japanese might have looked like strange bedfellows for your average British restaurant, except, as we later learned, Peru’s Japanese diaspora means they really aren’t. Similarly, there are often interesting fusion cuisines at country borders, either physical, as between Italy and Slovenia, or historical, as between France and Vietnam.
Amethyst is less geopolitical in its synthesis of the cuisine of different cultures. On the contrary, what is on display when visiting Michelin-starred chef Carlo Scotto’s latest restaurant, is a menu steeped in all the forces that have themselves influenced Scotto.
He is, as Scotto himself says, inspired by his own global adventures. “I want to take diners on a culinary journey based on my own travels and my menu is very ambitious,” Scotto told BigHospitality. “With a real blend of flavors and cuisines in every dish.”
Everything seems personal
It shows from the very first course of the 12-course tasting menu The Week tried recently. A muscular triptych of flavors that includes a spicy celeriac dish with Korean flavors of gochujang and ssamjang. It comes alongside what Scotto describes as “French toast,” but it barely does justice to the creamy croquet that arrives, oozing with truffle sauce and vacche rosse cheese. Next to it is a Briouat – a traditional Moroccan pastry delicately painted with almonds and honey. Bang, three courses and three continents, just like that.
One of the pleasures of dining at Amethyst is that everything is served at a 21-seat chef’s table, which takes up the entire ground floor. Located next to Scotto’s kitchen, you can watch your food being prepared and often even being served to you by the top chef himself. This is a nice change from other restaurants in London where the person with their name on the sign isn’t even guaranteed to be in the kitchen. Everything about Amethyst, meanwhile, feels personal, but not overly so – Scotto doesn’t hover next to your shoulder waiting for your praise, but his presence is evident in every dish.
In fact, his touch is immediately apparent in the next leg of our global odyssey – a dish that can only be described as an amalgam, pairing diced scallops with smoked duck, caviar and Muscat grapes. A shamelessly unexpected pairing, and one that also looks like something you might find at the bottom of the ocean. But the result is quite triumphant.
Another whimsical mixed dish follows, which pits a ball of foie gras, spooned like ice cream, against a beautiful wedge of shiny scarlet salmon, topped with chunks of yuzu that have been shaped into delicate snowflakes. It’s Amethyst’s signature dish, and it’s clear that a lot of love and attention has gone into it.
Plate licking stuff
Bread wouldn’t usually be mentioned in a whirlwind review aimed at selecting highlights from an extensive tasting menu, but the following course definitely makes that list. Scotto serves delicious fresh Egyptian mahlab bread and places it alongside a pool of colors; ochre, mauve and jet black – a combination of squash, pickled walnuts and smoked fig leaf oil. It’s a clean plate-licking thing, and luckily that’s what bread is for – swirling around the dish, which my dining partner and I do so meticulously that I’m not sure the plate would have looked like it needed washing when he returned to the kitchen.
Despite all his mastery of the world he discovered during his own travels, the next dish speaks unambiguously of Scotto’s origins: cavatelli (a rolled dough shell) with sun-dried tomatoes and sweet paprika. It is one of those quintessential Italian dishes, made with simple ingredients that have been perfectly respected and carefully prepared in order to convey their essence. It’s tomato pasta, really, but from another planet of excellence.
Other ingenious creations follow: black cod served in a bowl as dark as its contents. A superlative pigeon breast with beet, plum and plum. And then to finish, two desserts centered on fruit: the pear accompanied by liquorice, then a last puff to take us across the finish line, a ripe fig which liquefies in a pool of white chocolate.
Collision of kitchens
This all adds up, quite frankly, to the redemption of fusion cuisine itself. And also helps to highlight what we already know: that there shouldn’t be strict rules in the kitchen. Rather with careful consideration, not to mention great precision, almost any kitchen collision can work.
And maybe what Scotto is telling us, without ever saying it out loud, is that none of us are as distinct as we might sometimes think. An admirable and timely feeling at a time when so many forces seem determined to separate us.
Amethyst, 6 Sackville Street, London, W1S 3DD; amethystdining.com