Beyond Pizza and Pasta
Did you know that in India, the highest selling cuisines have always been Indian, Chinese and then Italian? However, recently there has been a shift and Italian has moved in to the second spot after Indian!
Now is the chance for lovers of Italian food to gorge on the best of the dishes in five different city hotels. Part of the Worldwide Week of Italian Cuisine, where there are 130 participating countries, 5 city hotels have taken part in this euphoric journey. We were privileged to be a part of 3 of these restaurants where we were invited. Read more for our experience.
We were invited to The Hyatt Regency Kolkata for a preview of the Italian week as a part of Italy on a plate celebrations. Anindya could not make it; however, I was more than happy to be a part of this experience since La Cucina has always been one of my favourite restaurants in the city. For this festival, Hyatt has flown in Chef Mauro Ferrari to weave culinary magic on a plate for a week at La Cucina. The Chef is from Rome and is currently with Hyatt Regency in Chennai. Other than having years of experience in working with renowned Italian chefs, he also owns 2 restaurants in Milan and Tuscany. His dishes are modern, while keeping in touch with the tradition too. Every single dish that I had there was splendid; however the chicken diavola stood out. It was a whole chicken breast with a crispy topping of breadcrumbs along with a sauce made with mustard and the flavour enhanced with the inclusion of bacon and rosemary. Every bite of the chicken when doused in the smoky and salty mustard sauce, took me to heaven. The scallops with peas dish, with crispy bacon was interesting too. It was the first dish we tasted, and I really liked the combination of the sweet peas and scallops along with the salty bacon bursts. This dish was quite light, as it should be and modern in its representation. Finally, I think everyone at the table was bowled over by the flourless chocolate cake in a cup with vanilla ice cream. The cake was hot with a melting centre and was rich and decadent at its best. La Cucina will be serving this special menu only for dinner till the 27th of November 2016.
The Oberoi Grand Kolkata, known for doing the best at whatever they chose, has brought in Chef Francesco Francavilla, who is currently with the award winning Vetro in Oberoi Mumbai, to curate and bring to a plate a very special Italian menu. He is known for unique and modern representation of the traditional Italian food. The showstopper here was a simple salad made with fresh burrata. However, this simple dish became magical with the addition of an asparagus sorbet, asparagus meringue and some chlorophyll mayonnaise while taking the taste to another level altogether. The chef here loves his pasta and his spaghetti Amartriciana is one to look out for. We had the privilege of trying the tomato and honey risotto with pine nuts and herbs. The risotto was creamy and buttery and the tang from the tomatoes along with the just the right amount of sweetness from the honey made it a perfect dish. And the chef did enhance the spice level to cater to the local taste. The Italian Week at Grand will be held at Baan Thai till the 27th of November for both lunch and dinner service. Truly kolkata is enjoying its week of Italy on a plate.
When we got the invite for ITC Sonar, we were already down 2 great meals. However, it was ITC and that too, Chef Vittorio Greco, who is heading the Ottimo restaurants at ITC Hotels across the country. The food had to be exquisite. Chef Vittorio spent a good amount of time with us explaining his food funda. He has worked in a number of Michelin starred restaurants in Italy as well as Australia before coming to India. From his experience of cooking for Indian guests, he was quite surprised that people in India do like to experiment and try out new flavours and that every city that he has been, the people are different in their choices of food. So, in Chennai, people are extremely experimental while in Bangalore, the vegetarian clientele is more prevalent. Delhi, on the other hand has a lot of request for meat and pork dishes. Before starting the course, he asked all of us if we had any food preference and allergies. And then just before service started, he said- “Buckle up and brace yourself” and so we did!
We were served 2 kinds of antipasti. I am tempted to describe every element of the dishes that I had since they were both brilliant. However, in short, the first one was made with a trio of aubergine, tomato and Parmigiano mousse with some parmesan and aubergine salad. The interesting part of this smooth dish was the drizzle of charcoal oil which gave a smoky flavour to each spoonful of the mousse. For me, the second antipasto was the showstopper. It was sous vide chicken in a tuna sauce with sesame crisps. ‘Tuna Sauce’!! Never even heard of one. And believe me when I say -It was stunning. The sauce had flavours from tuna, anchovies and capers. The flavours were deep and the sauce was smooth as silk and every bite of the soft chicken pieces with the sauce was outrageously fabulous. Anindya’s favourite was the ‘Zuppe’ made with Jerusalem artichokes and enhanced with bits of gorgonzola and a thin slice of dark chocolate. Yes, dark chocolate in a soup. Although chocolate and gorgonzola has been traditionally used before, the combination of these in a soup brought in a lot of doubt. But I must agree, the chocolate added that bitter sweetness aftertaste to the very sharp tasting gorgonzola. If there is second dish which is a must try, I would recommend the sea bass (read Bhekti) braised with celery, capers and olives in thyme and white wine scented broth. I was simply overcome by the aromas in the broth and the soft white fish fillet cooked to perfection. ITC Sonar is having the festival at West View Bar and Grill till the 27th of November for dinner service only.
The important thing to note here is that even though it is all about the celebration of Italian cuisine and to some extent, educating the world beyond the pizza and the pasta; the Consulate General of Italy in New Delhi has announced that 2 Euros from each plate of pasta al Amatriciana will be donated to the municipality of Amatrice, which is the town in Italy which recently got destroyed in a devastating earthquake.
So, don’t waste time and rush to one of these restaurants to get a taste in a plateful of Italy. – Madhushree