Truffles, pecorino and The Drama Chef, Part II



What is it with truffles (not the confection)? Does it bring out the generosity inherent in some folk? At a recent cooking workshop in Bangkok, the chef handed us a few knobs of the fungi and told us to slice off as much as we needed to top our fois gras lasagna. And now, responding to Chef  Mauro's invitation to dine at Focaccia Theatre, every dish was finished with  generous shaves of it! Hmm... I'm so inclined to think so.

Chef Mauro at Theatre Focaccia. 

The Drama Chef aka Chef Mauro has returned from a vacation with a suitcase full of exotica. This time, 3 ingredients take centre-stage - the aforementioned truffles, pecorino cheese and chestnuts. While the truffles were mostly used as a topping, their earthiness permeated all through the other ingredients of the dish. Some of the dishes had all three ingredients which made them stand out from what is usually passed off as Italian food in the city. Personally, I liked the "cheesiness" of pecorino and perhaps that has something to do with the shorter maturation time that this cheese requires as compared to that of Parmesan.




This time, the drama lay in the way each dish was presented - restrained yet appealing, the eye being drawn to the slivers of truffle, micro greens, flowers (or at times, a single petal) or even just a sprig of thyme. Chef Mauro was a picture of concentration as he plated each dish, allowing his creations to receive all the accolades.

Truffle, edible soil, crispy truffle vegetables, pecorino cheese fondue

The vegetarian appetiser certainly looked like a garden. It had truffle soil, neatly cut vegetables and beetroot balls served with pecorino cheese fondue and foam and finished with extra virgin olive oil and a flower.

Potato, egg, pecorino cheese fondue, black truffle

Appetiser No. 2 looked like a mashed potato flowerpot surrounded by pecorino cheese fondue and truffle and by now, we knew the drill - expect the unexpected. Slicing into it revealed a beautifully cooked egg, the liquid golden yolk flowed slowly into the fondue.



Slow-cooked chicken, grilled red capsicum, pecorino cheese, truffle edible soil

Chef Mauro had done some magic with the chicken because it was so tender that it almost melted in the mouth. All he told us was that it was slow-cooked! There was "soil" made from truffle and some other secret ingredients; the textures on this plate of food were just divine.

Sea bass carpaccio, zucchini julienne, pomegranate sauce, black truffle

If raw seafood is your thing, you'll love this  exquisite sea bass carpaccio. The zucchini lends crunch and pomegranate arils add little bursts of sweetness.

Pumpkin soup with ravioli, chestnut and casera cheese

Pasta courses included:

Leek fondue risotto with truffle. Simple ingredients, stunning flavours!

Handmade spaghetti with white truffle sauce & truffle shavings; the texture of the pasta is incredible

Gourmet truffle pizza - thin crust topped with truffle cream, mozzarella & shaved truffle. If only all pizzas were made this way!

Gourmet truffle pizza in the making

Zucchini & truffle leaf halibut with chickpea puree

Potato & truffle stuffed chicken breast with butter, chestnuts & cauliflower puree. Yum!

Chocolate millefeuille with chestnut mousse; chestnut soft cake with rum sauce

Time for dolce and we watched Chef Mauro pipe chestnut puree between chocolate discs to make his chocolate millefeuille. Dots of raspberry coulis helped to tone down the sweetness.
Italians love chestnuts and use it in both savoury and sweet dishes. However, the dessert that took the err... cake was the chestnut soft cake. The light, airy cake and the smooth creme anglaise was a fitting end to a beautiful meal.

I do hope there will be an encore!!

The Return of the Drama Chef food festival is on till 22nd October at Focaccia, Hyatt Regency Chennai and only for dinner, from 7 - 11.30 pm. The menu is a la carte.


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