Viva Italia with Chef Ferrari at Hyatt Regency Chennai

There's something comforting about walking into Focaccia after the sun sets. The lights are dim but there's enough of it to watch the chefs working their craft. Stand in front of the large brick oven and you can feel its warmth on your face. The pizza chef smiles at you while he rolls out dough with an enormous pin, loads it with toppings and dispatches it into its cavernous interior. The chef-de-cuisine is almost always at his station and even though he's busy, there's a cheery "hello, how are you" called out...even if he and you are seeing each other for the first time.

Chef Mauro Ferrari is Hyatt Regency's newest expat chef. Born in Saronno, famous for almond-laden amaretti biscuits and amaretto liqueur, this Milan-based chef has worked at the Michelin-starred Pomeroeu Ristorante Soranno. He is also a sommelier and an entrepreneur, having opened 2 restaurants - at Tuscany and at Milan. He's come to Chennai from his last posting at Grand Hyatt Muscat and when he came over to talk to our group of bloggers at the end of the meal, he confessed that he found Chennai very humid and preferred the weather in Oman.

Chef Ferrari has enhanced Focaccia's existing menu with some of his signature dishes. We were told that he cooks authentic Italian food just the way it is done at Milan or any other city in Italy. As a chef, he does not believe in overloading a dish with ingredients, just 3 to 4 at the most.

Baked onion, burrata, yellow capsicum coulis

Invited to review the degustation menu, some of our friends blogger friends were vegetarians so we got to try their courses as well!

The first appetiser was onion, burrata cheese and yellow capsicum coulis. The onion had been baked and the layers separated into little cups that held the soft creamy Italian cheese. It rested in a pool of smooth capsicum coulis surrounded by blanched tomato slices, micro herbs and dots of pesto. The onion tasted mild and the cheese absolutely stole the show.

Pan fried shrimp, calamari, confit potato and tomato, green bean & garlic croutons  

Pan-fried shrimps, calamari, potato, green beans and tomato confit was a deliciously light dish. The prawns were juicy, the calamari tender and the riot of textures ranging from soft cubes of potato to crisp croutons to firm tomatoes to crunchy beans, was interesting, each bite a revelation of the chef's understanding of how the ingredients worked together.

Potato gnocchi, vegetable ragout, basil zucchini cream

We had handmade pasta - potato gnocchi with vegetable ragoĆ»t and basil zucchini cream and it was definitely an unusual dish. The gnocchi had a melt-in-the-mouth quality but the flavours in this dish though mild, were underwhelming. 

Lobster and red chilli pepper risotto

Lobster risotto certainly had a bit of a bite from the red chilli. Chunks of lobster were stirred though beautifully cooked risotto but for me, the flavour of the lobster stock was overpowering. Even so, it was delicious, the rice beautifully cooked. Talking to the chef later, we learnt that lobsters available in the local markets taste different from those caught in the colder Northern seas.

Pan-seared sea bass, asparagus and chopped tomato

The first of the main courses was pan-seared sea bass. The fish was so fresh and a fork was all that was needed to flake it into smaller pieces. What a lovely contrast to the crisp skin! Placed on a bed of asparagus spears, it was topped with diced tomatoes. A deceptively simple dish but one that will be loved by seafood aficionados.

Beef cheeks with Milanese risotto

Beef cheeks with Milanese risotto - saffron-tinged risotto with beautifully cooked beef cheeks resting on it. Long cooking ensured that the meat was very tender and the flavours had so much depth and balance though the risotto was slightly underdone.

Crepe with ricotta, spinach & beetroot leaves, pok choi, Parmesan fondue 

We were curious about what the vegetarians were being served so we tried some of their ravioli. The pasta was a tad underdone but crespella di ricotta, spinaci, foglia di barbabietola e costa con fonduta di parmiggiano (crepe with ricotta, and a mix of leaves - baby spinach, beetroot and pok choi with Parmesan fondue) was so yummy... bellisima!!

Muskmelon with organic rosewater and ice cream, Hot Chocolate Cup, apple cinnamon jelly

With us was L. Nitin Chordia, founder of Cocoatrait and India's only certified chocolate taster so we knew chocolate in some form would be part of dessert... and we were not disappointed. It was a Hot Chocolate Cup - a baked pudding made with a blend of 70% dark chocolate from Peru and Ghana, along with other ingredients. The surprise element was apricot jam at the base of the pudding. It wasn't too sweet but it offset the bitter notes in the chocolate perfectly and had us almost licking our cups to get the last bits out. A second dessert was muskmelon and home made vanilla ice cream. The fruit had been so beautifully perfumed by the fragrance of reduced organic rosewater from Rajasthan. There was also a scoop of apple-cinnamon jelly on the plate and whatever combination you spooned into your mouth was nothing short of bliss. Both jams are from Bhuira.

Every dish  had simple ingredients allowing the main ingredient in each to stand out. Plating of each of the dishes was simple yet sophisticated, the colours pleasantly pastel. Less certainly is more!

Catch Chef Ferrari at Focaccia
Hyatt Regency Chennai
365, Anna Salai, Teynampet, Chennai.

Do call +91 44 61001234 for more information or reservations.


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