"Sformato" is an Italian creation that is something like a souffle, only heavier. At chef John Sheely's new restaurant, Osteria Mazzantini, I recently ordered the item called "sformato" on the appetizer menu. The dish was described as "baked cauliflower flan, cauliflower crema, pickled apricots, watercress."

Osteria Mazzantini
2200 Post Oak Blvd.
713-993-9898
osteriamazzantini.com

The caulflower sformato, flan, souffle, or whatever you call it was amazing, and the bitter watercress leaves made a fine foil. (Not sure where the pickled apricots were.) The toasted cheese crisp that crowned the vegetable flan provided a welcome crunch. But it was the rich cauliflower crema that really grabbed my attention. This stuff was transcendant. I want to eat it like soup, use it as a sauc—-hell, I want to pour it over my cornflakes.

My dining companion is madly in love with the famous roasted cauliflower with bonito (dried fish) flakes at Roost, an admittedly spectacular dish. So I wondered how she would rate this new cauliflower creation. I watched her face as she took a few bites. And then I popped the question: "Is it as good as the cauliflower at Roost?"

She wrinkled her brow and thought about it. Then she said: "This is better."

Familiarity breeds contempt, as the saying goes. Maybe we have just eaten the fabulous Roost dish so many times that we are over it. But I have to agree that the cauliflower sformato at Osteria Mazzantini is the new king of the cauliflower hill.

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