Showing posts with label Italian. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Italian. Show all posts

Friday, 18 March 2016

The food scene in Chennai has witnessed a tremendous growth in both varieties of cuisines and quality of produce being used over the last few years. However, one cuisine that has not scene a great explosion in terms of choice is Italian. Going above the regular pizzas and pastas, there are only a handful of dedicated Italian restaurants in the city and when it comes to fine dine, maybe about three odd restaurants. One that stands out truly amongst them is the one this review is about.

Place:

Focaccia @ Hyatt Regency, Chennai – Teynampet, Anna Salai

Focaccia is the first restaurant that you will see as and when you step out of the elevator at Hyatt Regency in Chennai. Being one amongst the few dedicated Italian fine dine restaurants in Chennai, it is always buzzing with culinary action and a reservation is a definite must on most days. 

Ambiance:

Focaccia presents itself in a very rustic environment with a wine cellar welcoming you right at the entrance. While you adore the amazing collection of wines the cellar holds you are guaranteed to be hit with the aroma of fresh focaccia breads & pizzas being baked right across the cellar in the wood fired ovens. As you cross and head towards your table you get to witness the hustle bustle of the kitchen thanks to the vast open kitchen concept the restaurant embraces. You are also spoilt with choice of seating with options between next to the open kitchen or closer to the windows with a view over looking the busy Anna Salai.
(The Wine, Cheese & Chocolate section for the evening)
Food:

Focaccia is currently hosting an Italian Fair under the able guidance of Chef Alessandro Persico who is the Chef de Cuisine at the award winning Italian restaurant Celine at Grand Hyatt Mumbai. He is here in Chennai to showcase some of his signature dishes over a four course meal. The first thing that struck me on meeting the chef was how closely he resembled Chef Gusteau from one of my all time favourite movies, Ratatouille. I just couldn’t control myself that I went all gaga over it. It was more like meeting a super hero. This raised the expectations big time for the evening. And I must say that I was thoroughly entertained by his creations and his interactions with me. 
(Chef Alessandro Persico)
The evening meal started with ‘Ravioli di Barbabietola’ which was a beetroot ravioli stuffed with truffle goat cheese and served with a parsley salsa verde. This was my first time even hearing about a beetroot ravioli. Being a fan of beetroot I thoroughly enjoyed it as the goat cheese gave a very soothing balance of flavours and textures. The next appetizer was the ‘Anatra in salsa tonnata con cipolline brasate’. This was a duck confit salad with tonnata sauce with the salad being braised with pearl onion. The flavour was very distinct and full of joy but not being a great fan of duck felt the confit a bit over powering. The last of the appetizer was from the sea, the ‘rotolini di salmon affumicato con panna acida e caviale’, a smoked salmon stuffed with braised lettuce and topped with sour cream and caviar. Being a salmon lover, I couldn’t ask for a better combination of ingredients to savour the salmon.
(Ravioli di Barbabietola)
(Anatra in salsa tonnata con cipolline brasate)
(Rotolini di salmon affumicato con panna acida e caviale)
With the appetizers done it was time now for some pastas and risottos. The first pasta that travelled to our table was the ‘Penne Integrali con tonno in salsa puttanesca’ which was a diet conscious diners delight. Some whole wheat penne tossed with a tuna puttanesca sauce and green capers, it provided a great balance of flavour to keep the palate kicking. This was followed by the ‘Risotto con salmone affumicato, zafferano e limone’, a simple looking smoked salmon risotto with saffron and lemon. This was truly delicious and takes a big rank in my all time favourite risottos. This is a definite must have if you visit them. To bring this course to an end was the ‘Linguini con aragosta e rucola’, a very fresh tasting pasta. This refreshed the entire palate once again preparing us for the main courses. The lobster combined with fresh tomatoes elevated this pasta and also sort of acted like a palate cleanser thanks to the arugula that was also present in the pasta.
(Penne Integrali con tonno in salsa puttanesca)
(Risotto con salmone affumicato, zafferano e limone)
(Linguini con aragosta e rucola)
With the pastas and crunchy risottos done, we headed to the mains. The first mains to make to the table was the ‘Cannelloni di spinaci al forno’. The cannelloni was an oven baked spinach and ricotta stuffed cannelloni served over a bed of fresh tomato sauce. It was extremely cheesy and flavourful and along with the tomato sauce gelled well. This was followed by the ‘Tortino di patate e funghicon fonduta di caprino’ which was basically a mash potato flavoured with lemon and dished in the form of a basket loaded with grilled vegetables and forest mushroom. Although the mash was fantastic, felt the dish was slightly dull in comparison to the overall fare. Next up was probably my favourite mains of the evening, the ‘Scaloppine di pollo piccata’. This was an eggs chicken scaloppini with lemon caper sauce and some root vegetables. What made this dish fantastic was the lemon caper sauce over the perfectly baked chicken slices. Yumm!!! 
(Cannelloni di spinaci al forno)

(Scaloppine di pollo piccata)
(Tortino di patate e funghicon fonduta di caprino)
Next had to be the final course of the evening, the mighty desserts. We were served with two desserts with the first being ‘Zabbaoine con composta di fragole e Meringa soffice’ which is basically a champagne sabayon with strawberry compote topped with a soft meringue. Although the sabayon was perfectly dressed I personally felt the dessert to be a bit on the sweeter side. On the other hand, the second dessert was a clear winner with chocolate aficionados. It was a ‘Coppa Caprese’ which in simpler terms is a chocolate brawny sandwiched between layers of vanilla ice cream and a creamy chocolate ganache. To add a bit of crunch we had some chocolate tuiles. This dessert was truly divine and I kept nom-noming so much that I couldn’t believe that my portion was over even before I could realize it. But the ecstasy it left on my taste buds kept me recollecting it all through the night. Was a fantastic dessert. 
(Zabbaoine con composta di fragole e Meringa soffice)
(Coppa Caprese)
Price:

Being a limited time fare, this special Italian Fair menu by Chef Alessandro also comes paired with a unique wine for each course resulting in the course being relished in its true essence. This special menu should cost about Rs. 4,500 – 5,500 for two depending on the dishes being selected from the special menu. This is a limited time fest and is available till the 20th of March. So head there quick if you would like to savour the same.

Location:

Focaccia is located at Lobby level at Hyatt Regency Chennai. Located on the main arterial road of Chennai, Anna Salai, it is quite easily accessible from all corners of the city. I would strongly recommend a reservation so as to not be disappointed.

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Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Chennai has truly never had an issue with Italian cuisine be it pastas or wood-fired pizzas. However most of the restaurants were the typical ones that dished out a variety of regular pasta’s in different sauces or replicating the traditional pizzas from Italy. So if one was looking for a more intricate avatar of the Italian cuisine, it was almost a challenge. Considering how much Chennaities love Italian food and also the business connection between Italy & Chennai thanks to the large leather industry has provided an opportunity for a couple of Italian fine dine restaurant to start shop.
One such restaurant that recently went a grandeur makeover is ‘Prego’ at one of the prestigious hotels in Chennai, the Taj Coromandel. With a new young and talented Chef Luca at the helm of the kitchen, Prego has truly created an impression. When a restaurant of such calibre decides to throw in a colourful pasta festival highlighting what distinct flavours make up coloured pastas, it was something not to be missed. 
(Chef Luca at his Workshop)
(Different Shapes of Green Basil Pasta)
Prego is currently running a ‘Festa Della Pasta’ which literally means ‘Feast of Pasta’, introduces us to the different types of coloured pastas. And by colour it isn’t the sauce we are talking about instead the pasta itself. The evening started off with a small master class by the chef himself where he provided us with a live demonstration of how pastas are rolled and shaped. Once we were awestruck at the pace at which he was dolling out pastas, we just couldn’t wait to get our hands on them.
(Potato beignets with goat cheese cream, tomato coulis, leek puree and some caramelized cherry tomato)
(Truffle scented provolone and Leek soup)
(Ortolana and Feta Cheese)
The five course meal began with an Amuse Bouche. We were served with ‘Potato beignets with goat cheese cream, tomato coulis, leek puree and some caramelized cherry tomato’ to top it off. The beignets were crispy on the crust while delicately soft inside. The combinations of dips gelled well with the dish and the presentation was top notch accurately reflecting the passion of the creator. This was followed by a fantastic ‘Truffle scented provolone and leek soup’ along with an ‘Ortolana and feta cheese’ pizza. The soup was delectably light and creamy providing a very comforting environment for the rest of the course that was to follow. On the same tone, the pizza that was served was thin enough to hold the weight of the toppings yet was very light. The fresh ingredients had a tremendous impact on the flavour which made it outstanding.
(Tomato flavoured Tagliolini Pasta tossed with fresh Basil Sauce)
(Flavoured Lasagna layered with Beef Bolognaise)
This was followed by a sort of mini main courses. My choices for the evening were one each from the vegetarian and non-vegetarian menu. I chose ‘Tomato flavoured Tagliolini pasta tossed with fresh Basil sauce’ for the vegetarian variant and a ‘Flavoured Lasagna layered with Beef Bolognaise’ for the non-vegetarian dish. To start with the tomato flavoured pasta was extremely flavourful with short burst of tomato hitting you ever subtly as you dwell in the basil sauce and the crunchy vegetables that accompanied the course. The topping of pine nuts helped provide a good textural balance between the pasta and the veggies. Just writing about the next dish makes my palate go gaga. I just have one thing to say about the ‘Beef Bolognaise Lasagna’ here at Prego, mind blazingly amazing. The best lasagne I’ve ever had by a huge distance. This particular lasagne has redefined my standard for Lasagna and I’m sure to be heading here more than often as lasagnas are my favourite Italian food. The pasta sheets were of perfect thickness and it was delight to watch the Lasagna which was demoulded hold it shape till the very last spoon. There were bits of crunch in the sauce which was surprising and assume was because of the way the beef was cooked. It was just WOW!!!
(Stuffed Chicken with Cheese Sauce)
(Goat Cheese and Spinach Ravioli in a Saffron Sauce)
After having such a gastrorgasm, I was least interested on what was to follow as my mind was all set on when to come again to savour the amazing lasagne again. However as part of the evening, we had to continue our meal course and I was provided with a choice of catch of the day or a stuffed chicken. Being someone who is very choosy on seafood, I went in for the stuffed chicken. Not too sure if it was the Lasagna effect or what, I felt the chicken wasn’t as great as I would have expected it to be. To me it was a bit on the dry side but the disappointments were only with the meat as the accompanying cheese sauce and the potato sides were flavourful. I don’t know how the potatoes are called but it was in the form of thin slices apparently marinated or soaked in some sauce that gave it a truly unique taste. I would have loved to gorge on it all evening. With all this happening, Chef Luca decided to throw us a surprise and dished out one of Prego’s most sought after dish from their regular menu, the ‘Goat Cheese and Spinach Ravioli in a Saffron sauce’. No wonder it is the sought after dish as the ravioli’s were packed with some amazing flavours with the saffron sauce being the gloss on the flavours contained with the ravioli.
(Bitter Chocolate Flavoured Lasagna)
(Chef Luca’s Deconstructed Tiramisu)
To bring closure to the evening, we were served with two desserts, one which is a stronghold of any Italian restaurant, the ‘Tiramisu’ while the other dessert for the evening was from the Festa Della Pasta menu, namely the ‘Bitter Chocolate flavoured Lasagna’. Every time I see chocolate lasagne or pasta on TV or online forums, I always wondered when someone would dish one up in Chennai. So being uber excited dwelled into it first. I found the lasagne didn’t have as much bitter as I was expecting as the dish had bitter on it but nevertheless was a fantastic dessert and made my first experience of chocolate pasta a memorable one. Now coming back to the Tiramisu, the version we were presented with was a modern interpretation of the classic. Aptly named ‘Chef Luca’s deconstructed Tiramisu’, the dish had all elements that made it a winner just with a glance. Apart from structural differences, the other major difference from the traditional variant was that the ladyfinger biscuit was swapped with an equally soft and chewy sponge. The espresso drizzle provided the kick that was required along with the other elements to authentically replicate the same flavours as the original. This tiramisu is now officially on my ‘Must have Desserts list of Chennai’. To realize that we were taken on such a gastronomical tour by a Chef who was all of 27 is sure to make us introspect on how talented people can become at very young ages.

The ‘Festa della Pasta’ is on till the 19th of July, 2015 at Prego – Hotel Taj Coromandel located in Nungambakkam. An A La Carte meal for two should cost about ₹ 3000 - ₹ 5000 depending on the number of courses. You can also select one of their pre-set course meals that start from about ₹ 1500 per person for a 3 course meal.

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Saturday, 4 April 2015

Gone are the days when there were only a handful of amazing restaurants located within five star hotels. With the mushrooming of several new properties every year, the existing hotels are continually looking at increasing their revenue by revamping the restaurant offerings situated within. One such chain of hotels that has been consistently great with their restaurants is Hotel Raintree. Among my multiple visits to both their properties in Chennai, I’ve never left back with a single iota of worry. So when I was told that the Coffee Shop at their St. Mary’s road hotel had been renovated, I just couldn’t wait to check the new place.

First things first, the restaurant has been rechristened as ‘The Colony’ and flows seamlessly all the way to the lobby with a different ambiance set up near the lobby and a very colonial set up with art pieces depicting the Colonial era of Chennai inside the main dining area. As I settled down into my place, I was greeted by the Executive Chef Mr. Hushmoin Patell, whose looks immediately made me feel that I’m in for a delight tonight. After brief pleasantries, Chef informed that their concept of buffet is slightly different as in addition to the spread, a few dishes are made on order and served hot and fresh right at the table.
(Chicken and Mushroom Cappuccino)
(Salad Counter)
(Cold Meat spread)
(Cold Platter)
(Grilled Prawns on a bed of Couscous)
While I waited for the soup to be served, I made a visit to the spread and was quite surprised at the same. The cold counters had an assortment of salads with a cold mezze platter too. Some of the salads that were intriguing were a ‘Salad of Broccoli, Orange & Bocconcini’, ‘Surati Fafda’, ‘Vietnamese rice paper rolls with raw Mango & Vermicelli noodles’, ‘Salad of Wine poached Pear, Asparagus and Arugula’, a delicious ‘Grilled Prawns on a bed of Couscous’ and a whole lot of dips including ‘Mustard Mayo’, ‘Hummus’, ‘Babaganoush’ and ‘Labneh’. By the time I could pick up my choice from the cold counter, the ‘Chicken & Mushroom Cappuccino’ made its way to the table. The soup had the perfect balance of both flavours and along with the biscotti made me feel as if it was a meal all by itself. The beginning was just fabulous.
(Mutton Chapli Kebab)
(Spicy Bean Fattayar & Kudamulagai Bonda)
(Prawn Pollichathu)
With the entrĂ©e’s complete, there was an order placed to the kitchen for some of the made to order items from the buffet. First up was the ‘Mutton Chapli Kebab’. Although looks similar to the Galouti, this is quite different as the texture is coarser. On enquiring, Chef informed me that the Chapli is from the Indus region and is considered to be the forefather of the Lucknowi Galouti. With the plate completely swept, I made way for some ‘Spicy Bean Fattayar’ and ‘Kudamulagai Bonda’. While the fattayar was a mix of flavour, the bonda did not fancy me much. Not wanting to stuff myself, I wanted to try out something that was unique to the restaurant. So ask the Chef and he says I’ll get you some ‘Prawn Pollichathu’. I was excited to try it out as it has always been Meen Polichathu and being a prawn lover, was expecting a burst of flavours. The presentation was cute with the prawn beautifully wrapped in the leaf served along with some crunch. However, the first bite and I was slightly confused as I couldn’t feel the taste that you get from a claypot. Upon enquiring, Chef revealed that they don’t use a claypot due to the complexities involved as this is the only dish on the menu that may require one. Nevertheless, the prawn was still amazing and great selection.
(Buffet Spread)
With different flavours playing inside my mouth, I just had a quick sneak peak of the other main courses on the spread which included a yummy ‘Badami Murgh’, a crispy ‘Kozhi Erakai Varuval’ and ‘Roasted lamb with waterchestnuts’. In addition, I also tried the ‘Shahi Paneer’ which had a very succulent paneer. With about 60+ items on the buffet menu, it was one large spread yet by the way the spread was placed didn’t look that massive.
(Dessert Counter)
(Dessert Counter)
To bring closure to the evening, I headed to the dessert counter and realized that vast variety of selection that was displayed. Being very confident that not more than a couple can be accommodated by myself, I picked up the ‘Apple Strudel’, ‘Carrot Pudding’, ‘Rasberry Mousse’, ‘Chenna Malai Sandwich’ and a ‘Mango Velvet cake’. With this done as I was just about to call it an evening, the Chef asked me if I wanted to try a speciality dessert of theirs. Me being someone who will go to any extent for desserts, was game for it.
(Madras Filter Coffee Panna Cotta)
What came next took me by a big surprise. The speciality dessert was a ‘Madras Filter Coffee Panna Cotta’. Mighty heavens it was just mind boggling. The aroma was just like our original filter coffee while the panna cotta was perfectly set and to balance the textures it was accompanied by a lime curd and peanut Florentine. This was by far one of the best panna cotta that I’d savoured during my food journey and is on the must have dish list that I’m compiling for Chennai. Truly outstanding. If you are looking for a different buffet experience with a wide variety of cuisine, then I may say that “The Colony” awaits you.


The Colony is located at Hotel Raintree, St Mary’s Road in Alwarpet with the buffet priced at ₹1,300 plus taxes.

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Monday, 10 March 2014

When it comes to movie stars, I'm sure most of us believe that they have a very strict diet regime. But have you ever wondered as to what they would indulge in on those days that they set aside to binge without any restrictions? What could be the dishes your favourite movie stars like? If you have such questions, then you should head straight to California Pizza Kitchen. The pioneers in California-styled pizzas have introduced a limited time special menu that encompasses some of Hollywood's favourite dishes. The last time I was at California Pizza Kitchen, they wooed me their amazing pizzas & pastas. You can read the review here. So when I was invited to try their Hollywood menu, the expectation were quite high.

The special menu comprised of 2 Mocktails, 5 Pizza's, 2 Pasta's, 2 Speciality dishes and 1 Dessert. Once we were showed our way to the tables, we were briefly told about the why this special menu. Apparently CPK wanted to give their Indian diners a little peep into the life of Hollywood & what their celebs eat at CPK. It was all about showing the home of Bolly/Kollywood the food of Hollywood. 
(Hawaian Chicken & Grilled Pineapple Pizza)
(Jamaican Jerk & Chicken Pizza)
(Rustica Pizza)
(Spicy Sonora Pizza)
The first dish on the table was the 'Hawaiian Chicken & Grilled Pineapple' pizza. This is one pizza that had already made it's way into Chennai since the first pizza chain opened up, probably because it is a classic recipe. The next up was 'Jamaican Jerk & Chicken' pizza. This was more of a healthier pizza option as there were ample amount of spices, a unique pizza sauce, roasted peppers and the famous Jamaican Jerk Chicken. This was followed by the only vegetarian pizza in the special menu, the 'Rustica Pizza'. This ain't the same old Italian rustica but was more of a take by CPK made up of grilled zucchini, white mushrooms and olives over a very very thin crust. The penultimate pizza which was the ultimate pizza for me was the 'Spicy Sonora Pizza'. This was probably also the most favoured pizza amongst all of us. The sauce is a lime cream sauce with roasted corn & black bean salsa and some spicy smoked chicken along with cilantro. The last pizza to be served was 'Deli Style Bistro Pizza' which I had to skip as it contained bacon.
(California Peri Peri Chicken)
(Spinach & Paneer Malfati With Milan Sauce)
Once the pizza shower was over, we felt a quench and decided to try out their mocktails. Against the choices of 'Mango Mint Ecstasy' & 'Pineappe Twister', I went for the Ecstasy. Although the flavour of mango was somewhat present, the mint had a very overpowering effect thereby making it a minty drink. The next mains to be served were from the specials section. The 'California Peri Peri Chicken' was again a crowd favourite. The boneless chicken was grilled in their secret California peri peri marinade and then baked in a creamy sauce. We loved the dish so much that we went to extent of asking for one more serving of the same. This was followed up by the vegetarian special which was the 'Spinach & Paneer Malfati with Milan Sauce'. This was a Paneer-Spinach Gnocchi cooked in a creamy caramelized onion sauce served with roasted corn kernels and flavoured with Garlic and Feta Cheese. 
(Spaghetti Carretierra)
(Mediterranean Roasted Mushroom Spaghettini)
(California Delight)
The first pasta of the evening was the 'Spaghetti Carretierra' which was yet another CPK's twist of the Italian classic. Although it doesn't have any chunks of meat, this is a non vegetarian pasta as the creamy sauce is made use chicken broth. It also comes with bocconcini which are small ball shaped mozzarella cheese. The alternate vegetarian pasta on the menu is the 'Mediterranean Roasted Mushroom Spaghettini' made of roasted mushrooms, garlic, chillies, Mediterranean herbs and tossed in olive oil. It tasted similar to the pasta Aglio e Olio. To finish the evening, Hollywood's special dessert was served. Aptly named 'California Delight', it was a trio of white chocolate, strawberry & dark chocolate mousse with cranberries along with some almond praline to give some crunch.

A meal for two should cost about ₹ 1500 and the Hollywood Special Menu is up until the 16th of March, 2014.

California Pizza Kitchen in located on the ground floor of the swanky Phoenix Market City in Velachery.

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