Showing posts with label Tiramisu. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tiramisu. Show all posts

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, 30 November 2013

Pizza's have always been associated with the genome of fast food but in reality pizza's during it's inception era was indeed a single complete dish more often associated with healthy food. But over the years, thanks to the various marketing activities of international food giants the entire concept has changed. It has now become common to associate a pizza that is related anything to American as the fast food version of the well known pizza. These are often the ones topped with loads of toppings and cheese. But can you imagine a pizza chain that has a very American name yet the pizza's served there reflect the authentic Italian ones in nature. Yes, I'm talking about the famous "California Pizza Kitchen" which has its branches all across the globe.

CPK as it's commonly known is a well recognized american chain of restaurant that differs a lot from the regular pizzeria. CPK in addition to pizza's also serve up numerous other exotic dishes such as pastas, salads finger foods and so on. My first introduction to CPK was through a relative who used to tempt me with his experiences at CPK in the US. So when I knew CPK was launching in Chennai, I just couldn't wait to savour their offerings. Being in the now hip mall in Chennai, the Phoenix Market City, it was quite a drive from central Chennai during the bustling traffic. But from my experiences that evening, it was a drive quite worth it.

Tucked in a corner of the mall, the first thing that strikes you is the decor of the restaurant. It has a mix of traditional wooden feel coupled with a modern contemporary look. As we were being seated, I noticed that they has a semi-open kitchen that was constantly dishing out beautifully plated dishes. The first dish that made it to our tables was the 'Thai Crunch Salad'. This is an original creation of the CPK kitchen and consisted of crispy rice sticks, some crunchy wontons, roasted peanuts tossed in a overwhelming mixture of cabbage, carrots, cilantro, green chillies and chicken. The dressing for the salad was their in-house signature lime-cilantro along with some peanut dressing. The next up was the 'Mediterranean Salad' which was a pure veg salad comprising of a mixed leafy combination of cherry tomatoes, onions, kalamata and some olives. This was served with some pita breads on crumbled feta cheese topped hummus bed.
(Thai Crunch Salad)
(Mediterranean Salad)
This was followed up by the appetizers. The first of the lot was the 'Mediterranean Foccacia'. It is basically a pizza bread served with some flavoured olive oil and parmesan. The next was the 'Sonora Chicken'. The chicken was perfectly grilled with flavours of lime. It was accompanied with a salad and chipotle dipping sauce. This was followed by the 'Spicy Chicken Supreme and Slaw'. It consisted of boneless breast strips coated in a very crisp Panko breadcrumbs. It was served with a special coleslaw and a ranch dipping sauce. The last among the appetizers was the 'Lettuce Wraps'. This dish was unique in a way that the wok seared Shiitake mushrooms along with water chestnuts in soy ginger sauce needs to be mixed with the crispy rice noodles that it is served on and then this entirely needs to be wrapped in the provided iceberg lettuce cups. It was very refreshing and packed a punch.

(Mediterranean Foccacia)
(Sonora Chicken)

(Spicy Chicken Supreme and Slaw)
(Lettuce Wraps)
With the appetizers done, it was finally time for the pizzas. The first one up was the 'California Veggie'. The crust was a deep dish multi-grain crust with exotic toppings such as broccoli, grilled zucchini, grilled baby corn, sun dried tomatoes along with the regular vegetables. To be honest it was more like a salad pizza as barring the mozzarella, the pizza was a full fledged healthy affair. The next up was the 'Chicken Fajita Pizza'. First impression completely blew me out. The pizza was wafer thin but enormous in size. True to its name, the pizza had fajita written all over it. Spread with cilantro pesto, the pizza was topped with lime marinated onions, assorted peppers and shredded chicken with ample amount of mozzarella and cheddar cheese. This was of the most unique pizza's I've ever tasted and trust me it's a must try. This was followed by two different pastas. If you are wondering what pastas are doing in a place called pizza kitchen, don't be mistaken, their pastas are a fusion between the American and Italian flavours. The first pasta served was the 'California Putanesca', which was a penne served with imported Italian tomatoes, some basil, red hot peppers along with garlic and black olives. The non vegetarian version is served on a bed of grilled chicken breast. The next pasta was the 'Aglio E Olio'. This was a spaghetti literally on fire. Tossed with red chillies, garlic and olive oil, it was served with cubes of juicy chicken bites.
(California Veggie)
(Chicken Fajita Pizza)

(Really really thin!!!)

(Chicken Fajita Pizza)

(California Putanesca Penne)
(Aglio E Olio Spaghetti)
By the time the pasta's were done, we started getting signals that the tummy was reaching it's breaking point and it was time to wrap up. But then how can we miss out on the desserts. It was when this thought was running that we spotted on the menu a dessert that no one can say no to. There tucked in between few other desserts was the divine 'Tiramisu'. In all honesty the Tiramisu at CPK, was one of the finest I'd tasted in India. It is another of a their must have dishes.
(Tiramisu)

Though Chennai has always been at the fag end when it came to international restaurants opening shop here, it is better late than never. The overall experience at CPK was very good and contrary to their brand name, this place has loads of non-pizza dishes that are truly worth a try. A meal for two should cost you anywhere between ₹1500 - ₹2000 depending on how big your appetite is.

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

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