In the cornerstone city of international catering, the culinary geography increasingly shifted to the east, in a continuous encounter of cultures and flavors
The Lombard capital in recent years has distinguished itself for its international drive, from the architectural point of view, for professional opportunities and, consequently, also from the point of view of the gastronomic offer. Establishing yourself in ethnic catering in the homeland where food has almost a connotation of sacredness, could seem like a difficult challenge. Today, however, the opening to other cultures has led to an exceptional mix, giving life to countless gastronomic experiences of the highest level. Asian catering in Milan has the Liu family as its absolute protagonist. Three brothers who represent a unique case, as they are capable of representing three ways of designing Asian cuisine in a single family, with strong roots and constant reference to Italy and its ingredients. Claudio Liu – the eldest of the three brothers – is the founder of the Iyo Group brand. International vision, oriental rigor, hospitality and style typical of Made in Italy, the identity of the Iyo group is recognized in each of the four different brands of the group, two awarded with a Michelin star. IYO is the first and only innovative sushi restaurant and Japanese-inspired cuisine to have won a Michelin star in Italy. A historic milestone, however, IYO boasts an even more important record: having made sushi and Japanese cuisine known and loved in Milan, and the rest of Italy. The IYO à la carte proposal expresses a strong modern Japanese imprint: a large hi-tech western-style kitchen is flanked by a sushi counter overlooking the dining room, a tangible sign of a double team and an unprecedented proposal, in which sushi, sashimi, raw of fish and signature dishes such as gunkan and uramaki, coexist with hot dishes, iconic creations by IYO and new meat and fish dishes. A noteworthy proposal is certainly the Himeji Toji Age: it is a red mullet in a yuba crust, Bra sausage, confit tomato cream and nitsume sauce. The recommended pairing to accompany this dish is a Côtes du Rhône, 2019, Domaine Jamet, Syrah, from the Rhone valley. Opened in July 2018, AJI is the first, revolutionary, delivery and takeaway restaurant for sushi and oriental gourmet cuisine. Collecting an immediate and growing appreciation from the public and critics, it has been defined as “the best Japanese delivery in Milan”. A menu, that of AJI, which ranges from sushi to gyoza, but also includes various Asian specialties in order not to close their borders in canonical definitions. But the goodness of his dishes is not the only secret of his success. Faithful to the style of the IYO Group, AJI combines excellent raw materials, original creations and impeccable service for a true 360-degree high-quality experience that comes home from a large and elegant “open” dark kitchen, from which to appreciate the gestures of the sushi man. AJI is an innovative format because it combines the business model and the avant-garde engineering of a dark kitchen with an independent delivery service, premium quality and the IYO Group signature. It is a “counter-current” format, incubated in the flagship restaurant in via Piero della Francesca in Milan for two years and ready to become a sign with its own brand nationwide. Mixed chirashi is the workhorse of this high-level delivery, to be accompanied with a Franciacorta Satèn Ferghettina. Iyo Omakase, on the other hand, is the traditional sushi counter: a single menu, different every day, a large counter for only eight guests. To share an ancient ritual, directly from the hands of the sushi master, and travel to Japan. The IYO Omakase sushi counter is the fulfillment of a desire long cultivated by Claudio Liu: to give life in Milan to a ritual that is only found in Japan. Lover and great connoisseur of the Rising Sun, the owner of IYO 14 years after the opening of his first Japanese restaurant, but with a contemporary soul, wanted to bring another novelty to Milan and let Italians discover another face of Japanese cuisine, the most authentic: a new challenge, cultural and gastronomic. IYO is the restaurant that has made the Milanese know and appreciate a new culinary culture, making it accessible and understandable to their tastes, removing it from the ethnical label to the point of making it, between creative uramaki and colorful gunkan, now part of the city’s habits. In 2019 Milan was finally ready to welcome IYO Omakase and discover the origins and essence of true sushi in a rigorous Edomae style. Without compromises. Tuna belly nigiri (otoro) is very popular, accompanied by an Izumibashi Tombo Junmai, a sake with fruity notes that enhance the flavor of the first-rate raw material. In the end IYO AALTO is the youngest of Claudio’s clubs. Inaugurated in November 2019, Claudio Liu’s research leads to a new gastronomic language. The free kitchen is born, interpreted by chef Takeshi Iwai, and which in 2021 was awarded a Michelin star. The free kitchen by IYO AALTO does not need a geographical or stylistic reference to be defined. Pure creativity in which raw materials, techniques, recipes and cultural references speak of an interconnected and global world, without boundaries of time and space, in which the chef’s inspiration creates encounters and combinations like a freehand drawing on a White sheet. In search of taste and new ideas. An iconic dish of Aalto is eel, paired with beef tataki and licorice. To accompany him we move to Friuli, with a Bianco Frus from 2016, from the Azienda Agricola Marina Danieli. IYO Group is an idea of cooking and catering, which has naturally become a brand and an authoritative voice in the sector. The group, made up of four brands, the result of work, experience, entrepreneurial vision and gastronomic culture, has made its way among people and opinion leaders thanks to a profound concreteness of its work. Giulia Liu, on the other hand, represents elegance and class for women in the family and is the owner of Gong Oriental Attitude. Giulia decides to open her own restaurant in 2015, after meeting her husband Lorenzo. Hence a great love for Italy and Milan which, combined with the deep knowledge of the ancient traditions of Chinese cuisine, led her to create something unique. Creativity, the highest quality of ingredients, cutting-edge cooking and attention to the aesthetics of the dish are, in fact, the key words of a restaurant that uniquely blends and represents oriental culinary wealth with the best ingredients from Italy and the world. “As for Gong, unlike the other restaurants in my family, the inspiration base is Chinese. The culinary proposal, however, also describes a personal journey, so to speak, of second generation Chinese, who grew up in Italy, and who therefore re-propose a traditional cuisine but with a more international edge. In fact, we ourselves are not the same Chinese community as thirty years ago “- says Giulia Liu. “Consequently, our gastronomic proposal can only open up to the encounter with other cultures. This integration is also reflected in the menu. The choice of raw materials in fact follows a mostly local research, to then treat them with techniques belonging to our cuisine: soy, rice vinegar, sake or fermented sauces “. “Gong’s fish offer is very varied. Today, people love to eat poorly processed food, with cutting-edge tools that allow you to work the ingredient with a minimum rate of invasiveness and much safer results, especially with regards to raw food “- adds the owner of Gong. “In our menu, the fish offer is very varied. Find carpaccio, tartare, raw salmon noodles, with ingredients closer to the East such as almond, wasabi, ginger and soy. From this point of view, attention to the cut is essential. The game of appetizers in fact deals with the cuts of fish, which require millimeter precision, the balancing of sauces and marinades, as well as the cooking of fried foods that have always identified Asian cuisine. From the point of view of cooked, fish is the protagonist, especially in the processing of fillings – as occurs in dim sum – and in cooking techniques such as steam. A dish that characterizes Gong’s fish proposal is definitely the Exotic Tartare, a course in which a skilful game of balance between aesthetics and taste is combined. The red shrimp from Mazara del Vallo is accompanied by a mango and shiso sauce, decorated with goji berries marinated in a plum wine. Another noteworthy course on the menu is definitely the salmon somen. Thanks to a perfect cutting technique, the salmon is served in thin noodles reminiscent of the classic somen. Everything is placed on almond sauce, wasabi emulsion and ikura to enhance its freshness. The recommended combination takes us to the Sannio areas with Falanghina, a wine that with its acidity and citrus character allows it to support dishes with great character. Oriental soul with a metropolitan and contemporary twist, dictated by the creativity and experimentation with innovation of Chinese haute cuisine. Cutting-edge cooking techniques: low temperatures, direct smoking, wok and modern use of the ancient steam technique. The best ingredients from Italy and the world. Attention to the aesthetics of the dish, where everything is essential: elegance is achieved without the superfluous. Through these keywords, Gong’s cuisine is able to unleash the maximum power that the encounter with the other can offer. Marco, on the other hand, is the owner of Ba Restaurant, the Liu family’s restaurant that adheres to the Chinese tradition. Ba was founded in 2011 with the desire to offer authentic Chinese cuisine with a single denominator: to bear witness to a millenary tradition using top quality ingredients, entrusted to the hands of great Asian chefs. The menu is the result of a great deal of research on traditional Chinese dishes, the obsessive search for the perfect ingredient and great attention to the visual aspect and constant refinement, so that each dish is unique and unrepeatable. The fish on the menu is found in its most traditional form: from grilled octopus with edamame puree and caramelized onion, through baked Black Cod marinated with Hoisin and champagne, to salmon wrapped in Chinese cabbage and soy and vegetable crumble spicy. In addition to the solidity of the Liu family, Nobu is undoubtedly one of the most important reference points of Japanese fusion cuisine for Milan. Chef Antonio d’Angelo from 2009 to today is at the helm of a restaurant with pure, elegantly minimalist lines, in full Armani style, but at the same time with Japanese echoes. Among the signature dishes we find the Gyoza of suckling pig with scampi and anchovies with yuzu and shiso. For those who love to experiment, the recommended pairing is the Psico Passion cocktail – Pisco, Ume Shu, Passion Fruit, Grapefruit Juice, Acquafaba – but it can also be paired with a wine like Sul Vulcano Etna Rosato Doc 2019 Donnafugata Nerello Mascalese. Also in the center of Milan you can find the proposal of Il Giardino di Giada, a historic place that has been carrying out traditional Cantonese cuisine for 41 years, perhaps the first to open in the city. “Fish is a very important component of Chinese cuisine. In fact, China has the longest coast in the world. Our team offers traditional cuisine, trying to attract both Chinese customers who are looking for authentic cuisine, and Italian customers who want to enjoy real Chinese cuisine ”- says Gigi Chin, owner of the restaurant. The fish is treated with minimally invasive techniques. In fact, the most popular proposals are sea bass and steamed turbot, served with vegetables and soy sauce. The combination is extremely variable. “The Chinese like strong tastes, so they prefer structured red wines also with fish. Furthermore, when you have guests, you always try to make a good impression with important bottles, as a sign of respect and gratitude for the diner. The same goes for important bottles of grappa and fermented products ”- concludes Gigi Chin. Finally, it is good to point out a proposal on the outskirts of Milan. Mu Fish of Nova Milanese (MB), finds its roots in the East, then evolving through continuous Western suggestions, a place of creative ferment and unexpected flavors. With a constantly evolving menu, a reflection of a cuisine attentive to changes and trends, MU Fish wants to be an expression of creativity: a painting where, starting from the distant Rising Sun, it opens up to Western suggestions, to reveal a unique world under the banner of innovation. “Jun-style nigiri sushi are the dish that best describes our work with fish cuisine. This is a selection of seven creative nigiris, which can certainly be extended to other creations. Natural wine is its perfect match. In fact, my dishes are characterized by the scent of the ingredients and sometimes require a sensitivity that is not suitable for excessively aromatic wines ”- says chef Jun Giovannini.