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FoodBlog Review: Barbajean, Dingli. New kid's a big hitter 🥊

FoodBlog Review: Barbajean, Dingli. New kid's a big hitter 🥊

Amidst the boredom of Malta’s “lockdown”, food became the focal point for many locals’ lives. With baking increasing in popularity, Instagram feeds taking a foodie turn and home kitchens transforming into mad scientist experimental grounds; all culinary boundaries were explored within the sanctity of our #staythefuckhome locations. The menu that broke the social distancing spell for me, was Barbajean - a Dingli-based restaurant that serves anything but Ms Rona’s mundanity. Barbajean was my culinary escape from self-isolation. 

The Barbajean Experience

Finding the right way to introduce Barbajean is a short cry of being impossible. The unique atmosphere that owner and Chef Jean Dingli presents the Maltese foodie population is fresh. Like, ultra-on-trend fresh. The interior design team at Mizzi Studios deserve a standing ovation for bringing Malta its very own vibe with influence from the hot London design scene. Now, even though atmosphere plays a massive role; the biggest contender in a restaurant’s glory is the delivery of its menu - and what a big hitter it is for Barbajean. 💯

Assortment of starters from Barbajean Malta for FoodBlog Review

Here's what we nibbled at.

Barbajean’s launch menu packs enough flavour to activate instant foodie-love; with every item on their a la carte paired together flawlessly - enter Lockdown Trend No. 1. The composition of Barbajean’s menu shows how experimentation and a finely tuned palette can bring innovation and creativity to a dining experience. Chef Jean began on the Barbajean-path well before the pandemic hit, but its launch during such confined times was a breath of fresh air. At least for us here at FoodBlog Malta. 

Barbajean’s Starter Selection

We first noted Chef Jean’s creativity with his signature Maltese Sausage Scotch Egg served on a bed of fresh local rocket, dressed gracefully. The dish presentation creates excellent sharing opportunities, with the zero-grease breadcrumb scotch egg fried to a crisp and dissected in half to reveal a mind-bogglingly perfect soft-boiled egg. The cross-section of this classic adaptation frames local cuisine in a British setting; with the salty, aromatic and slightly fragrant Maltese sausage - sky-rocketing to a whole new galaxy with the liquid-gold yolk at the centre. If you don’t like Maltese sausage, or eggs, or Scotch Eggs, try this one - we’re sure you’ll change your mind. 🥚

 Maltese Sausage Scotch Eggs from Barbajean Malta, on a bed of greens

The stunner of the evening - what a creation.

Sharing this showstopper leaves space for more starters, we were taken to brioche heaven with the Rabbit Liver Parfait served with a marmalade of pearl onions and a homemade toasted brioche - Lockdown Trend No. 2 in action; and thank the brioche gods for that. The thick and evenly toasted brioche slices were good enough to eat on their own - Chef; you should seriously consider adding this as a side, or make it available for takeaways… it’s that good - but topped with a slight scraping of pearl onion marmalade and a generous spread of the smooth, rich and earthy rabbit liver parfait; is an experience in itself.

Rabbit Liver Parfait with dates and toasted bread

If you're never tried rabbit liver parfait, this one will defo get you hooked.

The 3rd starter of the meal was the Hand Filleted Cured Sardines, sat on a slice of crusty bread and finished with pickled onions and thyme oil. A fresh, tastebud tingling, texture bomb that packs a punch with its spot-on acid levels, perfect seasoning and two-thumbs-up level for menu creativity. The starter menu at Barbajean caters for vegetarian, pescetarian and meat hungry diets, with dishes ranging from €7 to €12; our choices were well worth their price.

Hand filleted cured sardines on crusty bread from barbajean malta

These Hand Filleted Cured Sardines are to die for.

Behold the Barbajean Main Courses

Moving onto mains required some deep-breathing; our 3 starters were packed with so much flavour, texture and excitement, we were gearing up for more. The 2 mains that graced our terrazzo patterned tables were the Parmasean and Sage Crumbled Chicken Milanese that came with a Caeser dressed romaine lettuce and the Mezze Rigatoni served with clams, guanciale and soft herbs, priced at €18 and €15 respectively. 

Mezze rigatoni with clams gaunciale and soft herbs

The Mezze Rigatoni - so creamy and perfectly seasoned.

The breadcrumb colouring on the Milanese was golden. The exterior crunch worked so well with the smooth and juicy chicken interior - not an easy feat on a good day; let alone in a busy kitchen. Kudos. The classic side salad, we often feel so disappointed by, was replaced with a simple, yet elegant Caeser. Reading it off the menu, you don’t instantly realise that you’re ordering a lick-the-plate-clean Caesar Salad - what a great path to better food choices. 🥗

Conscience aside, the mini rigatoni stuck to the velvety guanciale and clam sauce, coating every al dente bite with target-levels of salt, smoothness and full, robust flavours. Don’t be shy to lap up all the jus from the fresh clam shells - the finish of soft herbs will amp up the delicateness so you don’t have to. Served in a stainless steel sauté pan for the, wait for it… Lockdown Trend No. 3 - Insta-worthy food shot. Ending on this dish gave our palettes an extended experience of the savoury spectacles we just witnessed.

And finally Barbajean desserts

Don’t get me wrong, we were happy to skip onto dessert when the Fresh Ricotta and Orange Fritters and its moreish chocolate soil came to our table. The fritters were light and fluffy, and carried the smooth ricotta base effortlessly. The orange aroma paired with the chocolate soil is right up there, and the overall presentation of the dish is fun and quite clearly captivates the energy of this new concept restaurant: it’s damn good.

Fresh ricotta and orange fritters on bed of chocolate from Barbajean Malta

The first dessert we attacked; fresh ricotta and orange fried to a perfect crisp.

We may, or may not, have tried Warm Banana Cake and homemade imqaret, and we may have wiped our plates clean effortlessly too. 🍌

Banana bread topped with ice cream drizzled with chocolate chips

We only managed a shot of the banana cake; somehow the imqaret were instantly scoffed down. 🤷‍♀️

Overall, taking my experience into consideration, I’d say that Barbajean undoubtedly lived up to its hype. From service, delivered professionally and to new regulations standards, to ambience and food quality - Barbajean, presents virtually nothing to complain about. Keeping these standards up will give local foodies a unique dining experience that is definitely needed in the local gastro scene.

Seasonal menus are bittersweet. While foodies appreciate the fact that their food is being prepared with the concepts of freshness and quality; visiting a restaurant to find your favourite dish is off the menu could be a bummer. But even at Barbajean? Having thoroughly enjoyed Chef Jean's first menu; there's no doubt in my mind that the quality, presentation and flavours of his upcoming dishes will all meet expectations. We'll definitely be off for another tasting of the Autumn Menu starting today (2nd November). 😋

Are you tempted to try Barbajean's Autumn 2020 menu?

FoodBlog Mission Statement: The above opinions are based on the reviewer’s particular personal experience during the restaurant visit. FoodBlog’s primary aim is to give restaurant owners and chefs an insider-view to their clientele's experience; highlighting their strongest suits and applauding all floor and kitchen staff for a job well done while making them aware of the personal improvements we feel would elevate their restaurant. FoodBlog critiques are intended to improve the Food and Beverage experience for diners and to encourage excellence in culinary and hospitality professionals. 

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