So Anindya challenged Auroni for an omakase experience in The Salt House. Well, not really challenged but wished in a previous post. Auroni, being this daring and creative chef took it up and within no time, invited us over an omakase at The Salt House, where the theme was Death by Guanciale.
The slow death and the assassin – The Italian Job
It was a 9 course dinner where Guanciale was part of every dish from appetizer to dessert. For those of you, who are unaware of what a Guanciale means (so were we before this), Guanciale is an Italian cured meat from pork cheeks, similar to a pancetta but with bolder and stronger flavour.
Every dish we had was splendidly executed and perhaps, we had never seen or tasted some of these before. The menu came handwritten or rather scribbled. Everything seemed simple- a calzone, fig and pig salad, BLT, Spanish omelette, Surf and Turf, Carbonara, Ramen, Cassoulet and Affagato. On the face of it, nothing out of the world but each and every dish was painstakingly crafted with unique ingredients providing multiple textures and flavours. Even his choice of micro greens was thought provoking. A simple fig and pig salad was so refreshing and crunchy, sweet and salty with the different textures of salad greens, soft figs, pomegranate, pine nuts and of course Guanciale lardons which were so crispy and so incredibly salty. Small calzone pockets came with cream cheese and guanciale. The BLT also was quite a stunner with crunchy garden greens and thin strips of guanciale- complete fresh and honest flavours bound together.
The surf and turf was bacon wrapped prawn but the prawn was a large chingri which was cooked in several ways including confit. Wrapped in a thin layer of bacon, it was sitting on a bed of hollandaise flavoured with scallion oil and seasoned with Guanciale salt. I cut into the prawn, smeared some hollandaise over it and put it into my mouth. The texture of the prawn was not just soft. It was something different. It felt different in the mouth as a result of various techniques of cooking. It was sort of soft and meaty and sweet and the saltiness from the thin bacon and the sauce was just perfect. While I was trying to clean off my plate, I could see from the corner of my eye that Anindya and even Tugga, were trying desperately to do the same. At the end of it, Anindya banged his spoon on the table as a note of appreciation.
The master mind – The Punisher
All this while, Auroni kept hopping back and forth the kitchen and our table, making sure things were perfect. He even created the menu keeping in mind Tugga was going to be a part of it. So I actually did not have to order anything separately for him. Then came the carbonara which excited all of us at the table. It was a raviolo in carbonara sauce. The surprise was when we ran our knives into the raviolo and out came sunshine. The golden yellow egg yolk simple came running out and mixed with the beautiful smooth carbonara which had bits of Guanciale. My god!! I could go to heaven after this. Creamy indulgence at its best.
How about a glimpse of the same of that famous scene –
There was nothing Asian about the ramen bowl other than the presentation. It was a bowl of freshly made linguine pasta with soft glazed pork belly, oyster mushrooms, guanciale lardons and micro greens. The broth was a clear one, almost like a consomme made with 3 kinds of stock and wonderfully sublime.
I don’t think I have words to describe the cassoulet. By this time, Tugga was already done with his meal and I was kind of out of breath. Two large confit legs of duck sat on the broth with an unbelievable amount of elements that went in to a single dish. Auroni personally carved the meat for us into the broth and asked us to taste. What we tasted was unexplainable by lesser mortals like us. If you are from my generation, can you explain how you felt when the Late Sridevi danced in Hawa Hawai? What came out instantly were the bits of candied walnuts which provided the sweetness to balance off the saltiness from the intensely flavoured broth.
The Final Act
By the end of it, we begged Auroni to not send the dessert. He promised it was just an affagato. But we knew better. He had to create a wow factor and elevate a boring dish like an affagato to a different zenith. The cortado was flavoured with bacon fat and maple syrup. The ice cream was bacon guanciale ice cream. A sip of this and a spoon of that and it was magical. What I loved the most was the sweetness and the smokiness from the maple syrup that blended so well with the guanciale ice cream.
We left with a happy heart and soul with the excitement of sharing our experience with all our near and dear ones. 2nd of March 2018 will forever remain memorable for us. Initially I had thought of writing a facebook post. As I went on, I realised I couldn’t do justice to the food if I had written only a small post. I had to do this. I had to pour my heart out in a blog post which would remain with me forever.