Monthly Archives: April 2017

La Terrazza : Homely food, simple and flavoursome

Simple fresh ingredients characterise Italian food and perhaps that is why it is one of my favourite global cuisines. The extensive use of garlic and olive oil further endears this cuisine to me. Rustic pastas, crisp pizzas, fresh salads, creamy and luscious desserts. Oh I can never have enough of Italian food.

Trattoria style Italian food, cooked in home-style is my weakness, so I entered La Terrazza at Hyatt Regency Pune, the swish and elegant restaurant replete with a warm vibe, with a bounce in my step. No, this was not my first, I have savoured a memorable meal here two years ago and the excitement was thus justified. Furthermore, I was told a lot has changed since then, so the excitement was two-fold.

Executive Chef Anirban Dasgupta and his team including Chef Surajit, welcomed us and we were seated comfortably in this cheerful restaurant. Cosy and elegant, yet casual.

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A dinner buffet is a new inclusion, I noted, since my last visit. A walk around and I noticed that the spread was lavish. Yes, lavish in terms of the variety, but otherwise, typical Italian food, cooked in homes in Italy- grandmother-esque cooking. Robust, rustic and simple. Pastas, pizza, anti pasti, soups, mains and desserts- there was a lot to choose from. Of course the soups and mains are served straight from the kitchen to the table.

The live counters were a delight as one could watch chefs in action and actually see what is being cooked and served.

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I relished the in-house focaccia as I waited for our food to arrive.

Our Buratta Caprese  – Fresh burratta cheese with assorted marinated cherry tomatoes, arrived. The creamy burratta simply melt-in-the-mouth and the salad was bursting with fresh flavours all the way. What was heartening to know that chef had actually sourced most of the ingredients locally, as he is a great believer of eat local, think global. I second that completely.

 

Roasted pumpkin cappuccino with truffle oil came next. Normally I am used to a somewhat heavy pumpkin soup but this one was light in texture but high on flavours. The garlic infused roasted pumpkin soup was aromatic and comforting. The truffle oil added another dimension to the flavours.

Vishwanath, serving us, was polite and extremely well-versed with the dishes he was offering and that was impressive. The Fungi trifolati, was a medley of textures and flavours. Mixed mushrooms sautéed with garlic, lemon juice and parsley with asparagus. I was delighted with the unusual textures amalgamated in one dish. But then, that is Chef Anirban’s passion and forte. He enjoys playing around with textures, giving a simple dish that ‘wow’ factor by imparting unique textures to an ingredient or two.

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Gnocchi a la Norma, I must confess no longer excites me as I have sampled it at almost every Italian restaurant. But a bite into the one served here and I was proven wrong. This was certainly out of the ordinary. The aubergine parmigiana fritti in the centre, completely revolutionised this otherwise simple dish. I was mesmerized by the texture this element added to the dish. Chef Anirban truly proved he is a master of his craft.

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Just when the gnocchi had cast its spell on my taste buds and I thought I had sampled the best, the piece de resistance for the evening came in the form of the Risotto Asparagus. The crusty texture that one bit into before the creamy risotto enveloped one’s mouth was enough to plunge any gourmand into a coma. And I was no exception.

Fresh ingredients, simple cooking methods. This was honest food to the core.  No unnecessary drama here.  The food was true to its region, yet, with a twist. With diverse and ever-changing culinary landscapes, these additions and skilful changes to each dish, given by chef, are what give the food at La Terrazza, that extra edge.

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For once, the mains had left me so spellbound that I almost forgot I was to relish desserts. Of course I was not going to skip Italian desserts. Tiramisu nostrano – La Terrazza signature twist, Mahabaleswar strawberry compote and Sicilian Cannoli Dulche de leche, Amarena cherry sauce were pretty as a picture and equally decadent in taste.

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The attention to detail and fresh flavours of the cuisine here, are bound to contribute further to its popularity among locals as well as those visiting Pune. Of course La Terrazza is already a preferred dining destination for many. Open for lunch and dinner throughout the week and only dinner on Sundays, this place offers value-for-money food and tremendous variety.

I was transported to an Italian countryside that night as I dined at La Terrazza. Inspired flavours, but homely Italian cuisine at its best. That was the thought I left with.

Rating: 4/5

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Lucio: Celebrating the flavours of Goa

The Goan in me is perpetually craving authentic Goan food, even when I am in Goa or perhaps more so as chances of getting home style food there are stronger.

Lucio at Radisson Blu Resort, Cavelossim South Goa proved to be the perfect choice. The Goan cuisine Master chef Peter Araujo was in command and the menu there, read like a dream for me.

Soups, Starters, Goan curries, Rice, Breads, Desserts- the menu offered them all. And yes, there were vegetarian options too.

The decor is chic and contemporary and the lay out  with wooden tables and chair, neat. The natural light filtering in, gives it a warm vibe.

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My spinach and potato soup was replete with subtle flavours. The texture was sufficiently creamy. The prawns rissois, were delectable- creamy prawns in a white sauce, generously filled in a karanji -shaped choux pastry case and deep fried. Of course the menu had abundant choices- crispy fried prawns, calamari, croquettes and more.

Cashew xacuti, red rice, mutton sukhem and Goan fish curry along with sannas and prawns kismur was what we opted for.

The fish curry was tangy and subtly spiced, just the way I like it. The freshly ground coconut paste, was adeptly blended into the curry, so as to give a hint of the flavour, without revealing the crunchy texture. It paired well with the red rice and made me nostalgic. This was truly home cooked food.

The cashew xacuti was unique. Spicy but not overpowered with masala. The coconut here too was well-meshed with the gravy. The kismur struck me as unusual- the melange of textures and flavours was perfect.

Chef Peter obviously displayed his skills and mastery even in the simple home-style meal he served us. In fact that to my mind is a tough task and he succeeded with flying colours.

What can I say about the mutton sukhem? the pieces of mutton were succulent and the masala wrapped over it, just perfect- no overdose of gram masala or chillies. Tantalizing the taste buds but not drowning the flavours in the spices.

Vegetarians need no fret- foogath, varan, rissois, mushroom xacuti are all available for one to gorge on.

The simplicity of the meal was what blew me off completely. The spices used were of the best quality, the cooking methods authentic and the resultant dishes, just the way Portuguese and Goan families would eat.

No meal in Goa is complete without the customary date and black jaggery pancakes- Alle Belle. This was exceptionally well-made and the filling simply melt-in-the-mouth.

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The staff is pleasant and willing to assist and the dishes, flawless. Along with Chef Peter, Chef Leon deserves a mention for his extraordinary communication skills apart from being a great and knowledgeable chef. Brajendra the Asst. F&B Manager was exceedingly hospitable and helpful

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I stepped out with a smile on my face after having relished a traditional Goan meal sans frills or modern twists.

Greco : Simply Greek in Goa

A cheerful vibe envelopes you as you enter the Greek cuisine restaurant Greco replete with pristine white and bright blue decor – quintessentially Greek. Although located at Radisson Blu Resort, Cavelossim in South Goa, the separate entrance with the menu placed outside, gives you an option to enter this place, without having to go through the Hotel.

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The striking decor actually transports you to Greece and you could well be in a taverna with a relaxed setting. An arch way leads you to the outdoor seating which is of the inimitable courtyard style and offers a spectacular view. Of course, there is ample seating inside too. In fact the plush interiors, with a swish, well-stocked bar and the mood lighting creates an unparalleled atmosphere.

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A  simple but complete menu largely representative of Crete island in Greece,  is palced before you. However, there are other specialities from other parts of Greece too, giving a diner an insight into this cuisine. The menu has been cleverly crafted by Chef Stelios, a native of Greece. Sea food expectedly abounds in the offerings.

My Psarosopa is a medley of sea food flavours- subtle and comforting. The sea food stock has been cleverly used and is not overpowering. The Greek Mezze here is quite different from the various versions that are often passed off as the original mezze. The tzatziki is bang on in flavours and textures. The kalamata olive paste wows my palate as well, but it is the aubergine salad which unexpectedly stands out. With the warm pita bread dipped into these in turns, I relish every morsel I eat.

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The garides saganaki- a simple but flavourful prawns dish in tomatoes with a dash of ouzo (liqueur) perks up my taste buds. The prawns are fresh and of a superior quality. The tragani feta bursting with fresh flavours, encased in a crisp covering drizzled with honey, with a characteristic sweet and savoury flavour, was the piece de resistance for the evening. It clearly bore testimony to the chef’s mastery over his craft.

The gyros chicken is well-made too. Sea food and poultry apart, for hard-core carnivores, there is a fair amount to choose from. Vegetarians need not despair as there is ample variety too.

My dessert is special, yet, traditional. Galaktoboureko – a sweet and sour cream on a pastry crust immersed me in a food coma. A bite into the crispy phyllo and the creamy semoilna custard filled one’s mouth. Made to perfection, it was a dessert which left you satiated and yet, craving for more.

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I observed that nowhere in my entire meal, did the spices (although minimal) drown the flavours of the core ingredients and the chef had donejustice to all the ingredients by using simple cooking methods.

The use of extra virgin olive oil, ouzo and fresh authentic ingredients adds the right amount of punch and flavour to the dishes. The food is high on flavours and the quality of the ingredients, shines through. It is simple and uncomplicated fare.

If a cocktail is what you fancy, the bartender behind the glitzy bar will make you something to your taste. And of course the selection of wines will lure you as well.

The staff is well-informed about the menu and the service is quick and alert.

Greco truly surpassed my expectations and I felt that for the first time in India, I had a Greek meal which was an honest representation of this simple but flavoursome cuisine.

Rating: 4.5/5