Italian Fair at Focaccia, HRC

Wholewheat penne with tuna puttanesca, gorgeous chunks of lobster and fresh tomato sauce tossed through perfectly cooked linguine - a full-bodied Italian meal with nary a pizza nor cheesy sauce in sight!

Chef Alessandro Persico, chef-de-cuisine at Celini Restaurant, Grand Hyatt Mumbai is at Hyatt Regency Chennai to present his signature specialties at the Italian Fair hosted by Focaccia. To recreate the atmosphere of a busy Italian marketplace, there are baskets of fresh colourful produce, portobello mushrooms as big as saucers, a selection of wines, cheese, olives, cold cuts and chocolates that line the counters at Focaccia, HRC's award winning Italian restaurant. In the open kitchen, chefs bustle about stirring pots of risotto, sauteing vegetables and plating up delightful main courses. Mamma mia...!

Sparkling white wine

Invited to the Chef's table for a four course authentic Italian meal, I reach late and by the time I enter the restaurant, the group has already feasted on the appetisers of beetroot ravioli, duck and salmon rotolini. Sommelier Sachin Shetty, who has worked at Michelin-starred La Trompette in London knows exactly what to do and pours out a glass of cool, crisp Prosecco by Luna Argenta.

Chicken and sweet potato soup

Crema di pollo patate dolci is cream of chicken and sweet potato soup. One spoonful and I'm on my way to chicken soup heaven. It has chunks of chicken, loads of flavour and the sweet potato adds body and a mild sweetness to the soup. Like Oliver Twist, I wanted to ask for some more...

Sommelier Sachin selects Piccini Bianco Toscana, a blend of Trebbiano, Vermentino and Chardonnay grapes to accompany the pasta course. It's a slightly dry white with citrusy notes, a perfect pairing with the dishes that follow.

The risottos - asparagus and smoked scamorza; smoked salmon and saffron

Do Italians make good risotto? Risotto con asparagi e scamorza affumicata - asparagus and smoked scamorza risotto should put all doubts to rest. Creamy arborio rice that bursts with flavour and is served on a bed of lightly sauteed asparagus. The smoked scamorza cheese that it is topped with gives it a slightly smoky caramel note. The second one has salmon, saffron and lemon - risotto con salmone affumicato, zafferano e limone. Dusted with crunchy roe, it is very, very difficult to decide which of the two is better.

Aubergine rotolini

Chef Alessandro plates up the vegetarian version of a rotolini - thin, rolled up slices of aubergine stuffed with a medley of vegetables and topped with tomato and pepper sauce. Most of us dislike aubergine but gobble it up when it comes like this! Ahh...the paradox of life!

Wholewheat pasta with tuna
Penne integrali con tonno in salsa puttanesca is whole wheat pasta in a simple sauce of garlic and olives - puttanesca or peasant style. Bits of tuna form a crunchy crumble that is sprinkled over the top. It's delicious, the flavour of the fish is mild but it lends a certain robustness to the pasta. Even if you don't like tuna, you'll love this one.

Ruby red Chianti is the pairing wine for main courses

Baked spinach and ricotta cannelloni

Cannelloni di spinaci al forno - baked cannelloni stuffed with spinach and ricotta served on a bed of tomato sauce was simplicity itself but the flavours are stunning.

Mashed potatoes with forest mushrooms and goat's cheese

Tortino di patate e funghi con fonduta di caprino translates into mashed potato pie with forest mushrooms and goat cheese. Topped with frizzled leeks, the mushrooms are juicy, the cheese paired brilliantly with it but for me, the mashed potato was acidic and that was the only discordant note of the evening.

Fillet of snapper with taggiasca sauce

Filetto di dentice in salsa taggiasca had fillets of snapper kissed by a thread of heat. But that was enough to cook the the fish to translucent. Red salsa, taggiasca olives, asparagus spears, cherry tomatoes and sauteed onions added their individual flavours to round off the whole into a symphony of texture, taste and colour.

Busy chefs...but they weren't spoiling the broth!

Linguini con aragosta e rucola - a delicious dish of pasta, where the sweetness of the lobster was tempered by peppery rucola. This was truly a standout dish.

Medley of root vegetables with mashed potatoes

Another for the vegetarians was this dish of mashed potato with a medley of root vegetables. The flavour of thyme was subtle and added to the deliciousness of the vegetables.

Scallops of chicken with lemon caper sauce

Perfect little discs of chicken - scaloppine di pollo piccata, coated in egg, cooked and served with a lemon caper sauce was another winner of a dish. Salty little caperberries provided perfect contrast to the tender meat and the frizzled leeks not only were an interesting garnish but also added a delicateness to the meat. 

Champagne sabayon; chocolate brawny

We had a choice of two desserts - zabbaione con composta di fragole e meringa soffice - strawberry compote with champagne sabayon and topped with meringue and coppa caprese - chocolate brawny with vanilla ice-cream and creamy chocolate ganache. I have absolutely no idea what a brawny is but the textures of silky smooth chocolate combined with vanilla ice-cream was simply sublime.

At the end of the meal, Chef Alessandro joined us for a glass of wine. We learnt he is from the port city of Genoa, studied at culinary school in Italy and trained at Grand Hotel, Monaco and has worked in hotels in the US. No wonder every dish he presented had a masterly touch to it! 

Italian Fair at Focaccia with Chef Alessandro Persico is on till March 20th, 2016, both for lunch and dinner. Lunch is from 12.30 pm -3 pm, dinner from 7 pm - 11.30 pm. A meal for two without alcohol would be around 3500++.

For more information or reservations, do call +91 44 61001234.


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