A Tuesday night, and we've treated ourselves to dinner at Ai Mercanti, which might be our new favourite restaurant in Venice. An interesting, quirky place that seems to specialise in putting a modern spin on the traditional cuisine of the Veneto.
Now, you might remember our first encounter with nervetti, perhaps a year ago, after which we decided that gelatinous cubes of pressed calf's foot were not something that needed to be tried again. And yet there it is on the menu, drawing my eyes inexorably towards it. A salad of nervetti, with prawns, avocado and wasabi.
Stupid idea. We've come out for a nice meal, why would I want to spoil the experience by ordering something that I am almost certainly not going to like?
On the other hand, how bad can something with prawns, avocado and wasabi be? Chances are you won't even be able to taste the nervetti under that lot. And this is probably as good as it's ever going to be. So maybe I should give it a go?
I shake my head. It's gelatinous, pressed calf's foot. There are all sorts of lovely things on the menu, why would I even consider having a salad of gelatinous, pressed calf's foot. Silly, silly idea. I'm decided. I'm not having it.
The waiter comes to take our order.
"I'd like the nervetti, please", I say.
And then I put my head in my hands.
Well, it arrives. The plate is covered in a thin layer of something that kind of resembles a sheet of bubble wrap after all the bubbles have been burst, as if different bits of jelly have somehow been melted together. I prod it aside with my fork and, underneath, is a beautifully composed salad of leaves, prawns, radishes, avocado and wasabi.
I cut myself a piece of semi-translucent jelly.
It's...not horrible. It's sort of ok. It's not actively unpleasant. It is actually extremely bearable.
The salad, by contrast, is an absolutely lovely thing; and the odd dab of wasabi here and there serves to make the nervetti even more tolerable.
I clear my plate. I'm not quite sure what to think about it. The salad was delicious, but wouldn't it have been better on its own? Yes, it served to make the signature element of the dish not horrible; but, really, if you're going out for a meal then "not horrible" should kind of be your minimum expectation.
I feel modestly happy that I gave it a go. But it really doesn't need to be done again.