Michelin means something in the culinary world. In fact, it means a whole lot. Michelin means quality, consistency, personality, mastery and value. And if you’ve visited Chef Jonathan Brincat’s Noni, you will completely understand how and why their Valletta facade features a shiny red plaque with an instantly recognizable Michelin Star, right there in plain sight.
Noni celebrates genuine food with every service. The ethos of the kitchen is simple and absolutely justified by the deeply complex and robustly fragrant flavours that hit the diner’s palate with every bite, sip and swirl.
“When I cook, I cook for my palate, not because I believe my taste is superior, but because I can judge every dish and every service based on the flavours I create, match and experiment with,” commented Chef Brincat. “My food is genuine and true… but of course as elevated as possible to captivate my diners from the moment I present them with their amuse bouche - the opening chapter to what I think is a delicious meal.”
Passion is perhaps one of the most important aspects of being a Chef, but striving to curate the best version of your menu every service takes a lot more than head-over-heels immersing yourself fully in culinaria. The life of a Michelin restaurant is sparked by playfulness, exploration and harmony.
The playfulness that Chef Jonathan Brincat brings with his dishes is unfounded; from the fish tea he pours tableside to the explosion of flavour that will pique any diner’s interest through their ‘own olives’ - a sensation that I dare not spoil for any diner intending to try Noni’s current Tasting Menu.
Chef Jonathan’s exploration tactic comes with many layers, as it should.
Knowledge is uncapped in the kitchen, and luckily the means of exploration are first activated by trying new cuisines, discovering international Chefs and their menus and of course immersing yourself in culinary cultures for flavour profiles and textures to inspire and manifest into something completely new and uniquely made your own.
It is a well known fact that the life of a Chef is challenged by long days, late shifts, heated environments and the constant battle to outdo yourself and your last dish. But when all this comes together, harmony is achieved and what a wonderful expression it is.
A Chef’s harmonious presentation of dishes means that the salty, the sweet, the bitter, the sour and the umami all work together seamlessly. It means that the texture is right and the temperature is right. Harmony in a dish should leave you speechless - as Chef Brincat’s dishes at Noni often do.
Menu items are always developing - they’re never ‘finished’. When a dish is finished, for me, I feel as though it no longer deserves a spot on my menu. The challenge is over and the excitement for the diner is gone, as they know exactly what to expect. This is why Tasting Menus are so important in the culinary arts and why we should learn to embrace them a whole lot more.”
But what about consistency? Consistency is something that the Michelin Board considers as one of the factors to deem a restaurant or Chef worthy of a star. But rather than thinking of consistency as a photocopy of a previous dish - what about looking at consistency as an experience?
Visiting Noni is consistent. You are always welcomed with grace and appreciation, seated with friendliness and politeness and presented your dishes with enthusiasm and care.
And that’s merely the level of service alone, because even if you were to pick your menu items blindfolded, you’d know that the consistency in Chef Jonathan’s kitchen mastery, his pairing of flavours and his presentation will all ignite the same feeling of quality and value that you’d expect from a Michelin restaurant - all the way down to the lighting, tableware and added frills that make dining out a cravable sensation.
“When you come to Noni, you are taking a seat and enjoying your evening in our home. We strive to entertain our diners with quality and a little bit of the unexpected to ensure that each of your senses are triggered in the most soothing and thrilling ways possible.”
Chef Jonathan followed the same path and passage as many great Chefs of our time - he began his training in local restaurants such as Guze in Valletta while even playing bigger roles in eateries such as Waterbiscuit at the Intercontinental, Malta together with a number of other kitchen roles locally and internationally, namely London’s Corinthia where he worked under Michelin-starred Chef Gary Hollihead. But with every role he played in each of these established food spots, Jonathan always dreamt of starting something of his own.
Jonathan’s return to Malta led him to Valletta, where an authentic century-old oven would be only a part of the genuine experience he and his sister Ritienne would orchestrate through their little nook and sensory goldmine Noni.
Carrying an old family nickname to mark the warmth and honesty of both service and fine dining, this dynamic duo compliment each other in bounds and leaps, and for those who care to realise, it’s so very apparent.
The ultimate expression of Noni is seen through Malta’s
micro-seasons and their menus, both à la carte and
degustation, where an evolution of food is captured
through locally sourced and sustainably conscious
ingredients - allowing a main ingredient to be celebrated
as a main ingredient with combined flavours refining and
playing along with the star of the dish.
Chef Brincat’s aspirations for Noni are exciting and
pioneering - accents you’d expect from a chef-patron
devoted to a Michelin-starred restaurant.