Today I am going to dedicate this review to one of the most incredible restaurants I had visited these days. I had a chance to speak to LvB’s owner Toni Ventura and the head chef Ryan Gialanze about their newly launched concept, get to know about the gastronomical experience that they offer and find out about their ideas regarding the local food industry. I must say, this was one of the most mysterious conversations I had so far, which makes it even more interesting to write about! If you are curious, you should definitely continue reading!
First things first, let’s make the name of the restaurant clear – the abbreviation of LvB means ‘Lobster versus Beef’, a simple yet fancy combination known as Surf-n-Turf worldwide. Though this concept is no longer a discovery for a larger-scale gastronomical arena, it is, however, quite unique for the local food industry.
Coming from a family-run retail business, Toni Ventura analysed the restaurant industry and realised that the local diners had started expecting a lot more than just a good meal – they were after a new experience. Given a steady growth of restaurants appearing on the market, Toni felt the need for differentiating himself from the crowd. He knew that in order to succeed he needed to be original and that was the time when he got inspired by the lobster and beef concept.
Even though he was never a chef himself, Toni wanted to create something simple, yet original. ‘I imagined it to be a fancy New York Deli style restaurant, where I would serve pastrami with lobster benedict’, says Toni. He then decided to leave the price of the beef normal, while reducing the lobster price, hoping that people would reciprocate one day. ‘And it really worked out’, admits Toni.
LvB was opened as recently as on the 2nd of February 2017, just half a year ago. ‘Even though there were a lot of risks involved, the way I overcame them is still my biggest accomplishment’, says Toni Ventura.
It has been a month since Toni has got introduced to Ryan Gialanze, the present chief of LvB. Only by listening to their story one can instantly become inspired – it’s not a common practice to develop such a synergy at work between the two different personalities. The secret lies in finding a balance and in smart allocation of responsibilities – while Toni is a business-oriented individual, Ryan is the one in charge of the kitchen. He is the person who comes up with the items on the menu, some of which are being updated as often as once a week. ‘I am happy to be working with Toni. We are a team’, says Ryan.
Toni and Ryan acknowledge a variety of restaurants in Malta, yet they do not consider themselves to be competing with others. ‘We are here not to compete, but to work together towards educating people about food, bringing them an experience that is set at a high level, while keeping our business sustainable’, points Ryan. As we all know, food sustainability is currently one of the most serious social concerns and I was pleased to hear I found a restaurant that shares this opinion. Toni and Ryan’s aim is to order only as much products and ingredients as they will actually serve, not more than that. ‘Like this we are not only reducing the food waste to the minimum but also saving a lot of costs’, argues Toni.
‘When people come to our restaurant – that means they have chosen us. Yes, they are willing to spend money, but, most importantly, they are willing to spend their time. This is what matters the most and this is why we strive to give them something back, a new incredible experience’, says Ryan.
Being humble and attentive to each and every customer that comes to dine at LvB, you shouldn’t doubt that you would be receiving an exceptional service. Ryan himself comes to every table to explain his dishes – the kind of attitude that I personally admire so much.
LvB has reevaluated its original direction to become a restaurant serving only the tasting menus, which, by all means, requires a lot of confidence. At the moment, you can find three menus – lobster and beef 5 and 7 course menu and vegetarian 7 course menu.
It might be surprising to find a whole menu consisting of 7 vegetarian different dishes in the restaurant called ‘Lobster versus Beef’. However, I must assure you, as a person who loves to eat both meat and seafood, the items on this menu are mouth-watering to say the least! What do you think about sous vide pumpkin and chickpea dahl with coconut and coriander? Do the variations of beetroot with cashew cheese and truffle sound as delicious to you as they do to me? I appreciate their vegetarian menu even more, because it was created as something separate, not additional. Something as good as meat or fish. Well, I am definitely trying them next time when I come to LvB.
With regards to the original lobster and beef menus – I can say that both 5 and 7 courses are outstanding and must-try. Lobster Ceaser Salad served with Spanish Iberico ham and black caviar, pork belly with apples and samphire, rockfish with crab, water spinach and parsnip topped with bisque are just three items of the lists. Not to mention the artistic and aesthetic plate presentation – all together the experience is mind-blowing.
Though it is not in my intention to spoil a surprise, the wine selection at LvB is planned to experience some changes in the nearest future. With the assistance of a professional sommelier, Toni and Ryan are willing to add value to the variety and types of wine they offer at LvB. There are even bigger and greater plans that the guys are preparing for us and this information will be revealed in the nearest future. I told you, our talk was a mysterious one, so my advise would be to keep yourself updated for more news!
I never stop wondering, whether creativity is something that is inherited by birth or developed during the lifetime. Although both Toni and Ryan have been creative and passionate about cooking since their early childhoods, they both feel that experience and practice had a role in their development. While Ryan has realised that cooking is his calling at a young age, Toni has changed his direction from running a family retail business to opening his own restaurant with a fresh approach. It gets me fascinating to hear stories like these – how inspiring it is to do something you truly love? I wish everyone to find their passion and embrace it, like Toni and Ryan did. Hope you have enjoyed reading my article and I will be looking forward to receiving your insights!
Go: 65/66, Merchants Street, Valletta, Malta
Call: 7928 5845
When: Tuesday-Sunday 19:00-23:00
Enormous thanks to Aygul Yunusova for all her help.