Swagata is a dear friend who despite having a deadline precariously hanging overhead, held up by a single strand, herself, agreed to play along and check out Italia’s new winter menu. Her notes on the vegetarian selections served to us are mentioned below.[nggallery id=174]
The Non-Vegetarian Part[singlepic id=2229 w=320 h=240 float=left]We started with a salad of Aubergine, Sun Dried Tomatoes and Fresh Ricotta Cheese, a description of which you’ll find in the vegetarian section below. It’s non-vegetarian counterpart was a Chicken & Parma Ham Saltimbocca Romana; pounded chicken breast rolled with parma ham and basil, then finished in a hot pan with red wine reduction and butter. A classic and popular dish across more than just Italian cuisine, it delivered a complex blend of textures and flavors and will undoubtedly gladden the heart of even the most serious carnivore. Think of the meaty, salty chewiness of the parma ham and the succulence of the seared chicken freshened by a hint of fresh basil.
Vegetarian Gnochetti came next, covered by Swagata below. Served to me was Pancetta, Salami and Red Wine Reduction Risotto. The risotto was awesome. Being a rabid consumer of commercially sacrificed fauna, I normally wouldn’t order a risotto as a main course; even for lunch. Chef Basu however, outdid himself with this dish. I loved the textures and flavors in the risotto; the saltiness of the pancetta (Italian bacon) interspersed with creamy al-dente risotto and the soft meatiness of salami, the dish perfectly balanced textures and flavors while perhaps being a little over on the salt; a forgivable offence given the utter brilliance of the dish.[singlepic id=2225 w=320 h=240 float=right]Swagata has covered the Crispelles below, during which time I was served a platter with two mini-dishes within; Fillet of Red Snapper with Mustard Potatoes and Caper butter sauce sharing space with Milan style New Zealand Lamb Chops with seared Polenta, Pesto Rosso and Assorted Greens. The Red Snapper was perfectly cooked. It’s so easy to go wrong with fish; a minute either way and you end up with fish that’s either undercooked or overdone. This fillet was tender, moist and firm all at the same time and got along famously with the mildly piquant potatoes with both benefiting from the enriching company of the caper butter sauce.
The Milan Style New Zealand Lamb Chops were a little disappointing for me. Flattened lamb chops stuffed with Fontina cheese, breaded and deep fried, served with rosso pesto (The Sicilian version of the Genovese classic, with the addition of tomatoes, substitution of almonds for pine nuts and less basil), polenta and assorted vegetables. Fact is, the dish was very well done. Unfortunately, I don’t like my meat meddled with and would much rather than have simply grilled chops rather than the fancy-pants breaded and stuffed versions. Having said that, I object to the presence of polenta on a platter that already has a breaded component. Also, given the rather heavy foods on the platter, I would have liked the addition of a simple vinegary salad to offset the richness of the rest of the food. That’s me. You may just love it.
The Vegetarian Part by Swagata[singlepic id=2226 w=320 h=240 float=left]It was supposed to be a quiet night of fine dining. Such an absolutely deliciously tempting offer that I set aside that evening’s class; something I almost never do, put impending deadlines on the backburner, resigned myself to a sleepless night (of work) after the repast… and stepped out eager to share a slice of the pie on offer. A joint review of the new winter menu of Italia at the Park with Siddhartha! (I was along for the experience, but it just sounds better when I say ‘joint review’)
Well, quiet it most definitely was not. Having been ushered onto the moodily lit terrace into the dulcet winter evening’s embrace by a visibly delighted manager, our few moments of peace for the ‘quiet’ part were quite decisively torn asunder by the cacophony emanating from the karaoke night at News Cafe next door. Over enthusiastic, severely under equipped non singers assailed our pained ears the whole evening thereafter, despite our fervent prayers to the celestial powers that be.[singlepic id=2223 w=420 h=340 float=right]We were soon joined by an extremely personable young lady, our host for the evening… and things took off from then on. My choice of drink, prompted by the ever smiling and attentive manager at my elbow, was an absolute knockout! Aptly labelled Fire and Ice, it was the most divine combination of lemonade, a hint of mint and the unexpected zing of freshly sliced green chillies; mouth-wateringly refreshing and incredibly flavourful! Fascinated as I was by that drink, the Porcini soup couldn’t fail to draw it’s fair share of attention either! A dream of mushroom and cream drizzled with truffle oil. Designed to enhance the mushroom experience, the soup alone was reason to celebrate. The thin crust foccacia were amazing with the pesto; a shoo in as a winning entre.
I thought the flavors and textures in the salad of Aubergine, Sun Dried Tomatoes and Fresh Ricotta Cheese could have been made more interesting. A little tough on the untutored palate! The covering was a bit leathery and the stuffing a little difficult to decipher the contents of!
Sid: The sun dried tomatoes were too fine to be noticed for their tangy chewiness and the ricotta lacked sufficient character to carry off the dish. I would have used larger bits of tomato and replaced the cheese with a smoked variety like scamorza.
The next course, hand rolled Gnochetti pasta with Pesto, Beans and Potatoes was another delight to my senses. I loved the crunchiness of the beans, the sudden transition from pasta to potato and the smooth texture of the sauce all through. Generous portions of everything ensured that we were forced to leave part of each course behind in the interest of the one to come! The vegetable crispies, Crispelle of Spinach, Mushroom and Caramelised Onions with Grilled Asparagus and Porcini Cream that came in as the final course looked like miniature pan rolls but the taste lingered on long after the last morsel had been eaten. If you ask me what the filling was, I couldn’t begin to tell you to save my life; suffice to say this too was top drawer stuff!
[singlepic id=2222 w=320 h=240 float=left]The piece de resistance lay in the dessert-Tiramisu; bitter and nearly fluid coffee at the bottom, topped with a large dollop of fluffy unsweetened cream and soaked cake in between. Truly lip smacking that was!
Sid: The Crispelles were excellent with the sole exception of the caramelised onions, the flavor of which didn’t come through; an unused asset that probably needs to be made a bit more obvious.
Now while all of this was heavenly enough in itself, let me assure you, this write-up isn’t a tithe to reality, because I was largely occupied with trying to get my ducks to stand in a line while I enjoyed myself… and ended up strapped to my laptop the whole evening! So if this is how much I remember after such fleeting contact with the food, can you imagine the impact on totally focussed senses? An absolute must-go-to sort of place designed to cater to all the senses (if a little cacophonic on the ears, thanks to the neighbours) and satiate!
The new menu at Italia deserves a thorough checking out. Do let me know what you thought of it after you’ve visited.