Angelina in Dalston: Where Italy meets Japan
Angelina is a modern restaurant in Dalston. It’s a stylish, minimalist space with tables at the front, by the large windows, and further seats at the back, by the kitchen counter, right next to the chefs’ action. Behind a door, there’s a secret bar too – a six-seat hideaway dubbed as “Golden Gai”, named after Tokyo’s Shinjuku Golden Gai nightlife district, known for its narrow passageways (only a single person can walk through them).
Chef Daniele Ceforo, formerly of Bocca di Lupo and Café Murano, conceived a cuisine that mixes his Italian roots with Japanese culture. These two popular cuisines have a lot in common: the simplicity, ingredients and even cooking styles. They share a love for carbohydrates too – think about rice, pasta and noodles – and a scarce use of heavy elements such as butter or cream.
As I walk in, I meet an influential national critic who shares his excitement with me. We decide to sit by the kitchen to appreciate Angelina’s concept in full. The team is typically Italian, the counter made of marble; above us, a number of Japanese lanterns reiterate the cultural – I will use the f word now, pardon me – fusion.
There’s a set menu and the price is more than reasonable, £38 for the whole journey. Alternatively, there’s a daily plate at £9. The starters/snacks arrive in one go, and the counter becomes a banquet. The centrepiece is the oyster with yuzu granita; the fine mollusc is also prepared in tempura with lotus roots and baby squid. A highlight are the raw dishes: the tuna, rolled with monkfish and then thinly sliced (marinated in soy sauce), and the mix of salmon and gurnard with daikon and yuzu. The fried snacks are fun – especially the shizu leaf with salsiccia – but a bit too oily: some time to rest on paper before being served would make a huge difference.
The first of two (small) mains is Tagliatelle, Rabbit, Shitake and Egg. Because there are two of us, and we like to try different things, we ask for one to be replaced with the daily plate, which is a marvellous bowl of maltagliati. The latter is probably the best dish of all because it strikes the perfect balance between Italian and Japanese. The pasta is made from proper fresh dough, and the ingredients – pork, ginger, spring onion and chilli – speak of Japan without being out of context. The tagliatelle is good too, though they fully belong to the Italian heritage of the chef. These are followed by a delicious Skate Wing, Keta Caviar, Veal and Samphire.
Finally, we have dessert. The chocolate caprese is wonderful and paired with yuzu, gooseberry and milk gelato. You can enjoy the intensity of the chocolate and mix it with the rich yuzu cream. All the dishes come with a clever wine pairing (£35), from the gambarella classico (with the snacks) to the nebbiolo (with the tagliatelle) and the Roero arneis (with the skate wing). The more surprising is a glass of sweet merlino – a lagrein fortified with brandy – for the caprese.
On a Wednesday night, Angelina is buzzy and sociable. As the sun goes down, it’s good to see the two different moods and how the restaurant changes, becoming more intimate whilst maintaining its liveliness. This is definitely good news for Dalston and for London as a whole, who can now offer one more in the deficient category of creative Italian restaurants.
★★★★★Food ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Drinks ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮Service ▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮▮
Photos: Filippo L’Astorina
To book a table at Angelina, 56 Dalston Lane London E8 3AH, call 0207 241 1851 or visit their website here.