In the Marche Region of Italy, you’ll find the beach town of Senigallia where a renowned restaurant known across the world did not live up to our expectations.
Uliassi Ristorante first opened in 1990 by siblings Mauro and Catia Uliassi and was a family run beach café. Over the decades it’s evolved into a fine dining institution and now it’s an esteemed three Michelin starred restaurant known across the country where Mauro is the head chef and Catia is the front of house manager. The restaurant is located between the canal harbor and beach overlooking the Adriatic Sea.
Given the location, chef Mauro’s cuisine focuses on seafood coming from the Adriatic Coast and intermingles traditional and contemporary Italian flavors. While they offer three tasting menus, two must be reserved in advance. Typically restaurants only allow the entire table to have the same tasting menu as it’s easier to execute. However since we’re both industry, they offered us separate menus so we could try more dishes which was very thoughtful. We tried the “Uliassi Summer” and “Lab 2021” tasting menus but unfortunately both were disappointing especially the “Lab 2021”.
Both tasting menus started off with the same amuse bouches which were actually very delicious.
The amuse bouches consisted of a kir royale mini cocktail; “loacker” wafer with foie gras and hazelnut praline; octopus lard with garlic and wild fennel; and anchovies with black truffle. These were all scrumptious and beautifully prepared.
With the amuse bouches and breads being a strong start, we were excited to see what else was in store. However, things started to go downhill from here.
Let’s start off with the stronger tasting menu, “Uliassi Summer”.
These sweet red raw shrimp were tender and lightly dressed in a citrus sauce.
Nicely cooked sole was on top of vibrant lettuce and finished with a bergamot relish. While it was well prepared, nothing about the dish was exciting.
A fun squid skewer with crispy breading was served with icy spheres of citronette.
A refreshing crudo dish with all the flavors from the classic puttanesca dish: tomatoes, basil, anchovies, and capers finished off with peppery arugula.
This was supposed to be one of the highlights of the tasting menu. The combination of potato purée, shrimp, and shaved black truffles was fine but given the hype, it just didn’t wow me.
I was not a fan of this dish because of the slimy texture of the codfish tripe. I also found that the celery seeds overpowered all the flavors in the dish.
I enjoyed the spaghetti with briny clams and sweet grilled cherry tomatoes. I don’t recall the dish having a particular smoky flavor though.
The last savory course was turbot fish with charred squid, squid ink sauce, onions, and peppers. I didn’t find the dish to be revolutionary.
Since both menus ended with the same desserts, let’s take a look at the other tasting menu, “Lab 2021”. This tasting menu was not our taste whatsoever.
I typically love sea urchin as it’s one of my favorite types of seafood but this was not good. Since these sea urchins are coming from the Adriatic Sea, perhaps I’m not familiar with their flavor profile. Something about the dish was off-putting and the sea urchins had an icy cold texture that was unappealing.
This shrimp crudo dish was decent with a pungent ginger, orange, and cinnamon sauce with crispy fried quinoa on top.
This was by far one of the worst dishes we’ve ever tried at a fine dining establishment. Nothing about the dish made sense. Fresh raw oysters were paired with large chunks of sheep kidney, white fish caviar mayonnaise, and fresh red cherries. Why would someone think that these ingredients would harmonize?! The flavors were atrocious together.
This was another unpleasant dish where snails were front and center. While we don’t have anything against eating snails, the way that these were prepared were not to our liking. They were slimy and had zero flavor.
While the roasted cuttlefish was fine, neither of us were crazy about the cuttlefish liver. I did like the cannara onions and fried caper leaves though.
While this dish was palatable, the tomato sauce was mixed with something sweet which ruined it. Why would I want to eat sweet pasta?
The burned flavor overtook anything else in this spaghetti dish.
The pigeon was cooked a little rare for our liking. I didn’t mind the smoked paprika and ham fat mayonnaise but the combination was a little strange.
We both got the same pre-dessert and dessert.
We were both pleasantly surprised by this refreshing pre-dessert with a melon granita flavored with chartreuse. It was a great palate cleanser.
This was a creative take on the classic French dessert, paris-brest. It was a mix of sweet and savory with vanilla chantilly cream, dried olives, and cherries.
All the petit fours were deletable bites.
I would consider Tommaso and myself as open minded individuals when it comes to food and both of us are experienced diners. What confused us the most was that the kitchen team was more than capable of creating amazing food, as seen from the few standouts such as the amuse bouches, breads, and desserts. Somehow, they completely missed the mark especially on the “Lab 2021” tasting menu where flavor and deliciousness took a backseat and being “innovative” and “avant-garde” was priority. For us flavor is always number one and simply put, some of these dishes were awful. They weren’t enjoyable to eat. While I didn’t see any other tables eating the “Lab 2021” menu, I kept wondering if something was wrong with me and my expectations. Everyone around us was thrilled with their food and I kept thinking, “am I missing something”?
Sadly, the “Lab 2021” menu was a real damper to our overall dining experience and it pains me to rate Uliassi Ristorante a 5/10.