Alba at JW Marriott is hosting an Italian Summer food festival, featuring a menu curated by Chef Maroune Rahali. And we were invited for a preview tasting last Friday. I am rarely ever early for a tasting but there I was. And well, there was some serious downpour in the city that day, knee deep water et al. The dinner started late, but we meanwhile had the chef telling us about the summer food in various parts of Italy, the kinds of fresh salads and energizers used in the dishes to keep the ‘spirits’ up!
Our meal started with bite sized portions of the gaspaccio soup (served cold) with focaccia croutons topped with salad. Delightfully refreshing and packed with a nice crunch, this is your ideal appetizer for this weather. Meanwhile another antipasti was brought out, a rather summery looking salad – Insalata Estiva that comprised of an assortment of vegetables and summer fruits, feta cheese and tomato vinaigrette – quite simple and nice to bite into. The smoked salmon salad followed with grilled asparagus and an assortment of sesame seeds. While the combination of salmon and asparagus was very nice, the salmon itself could have been slightly tender. The Astice tiepido alla catalane was an absolute work of art, our favorite at the table. Warm and juicy half lobster served with crispy vegetable salad looked and tasted equally fabulous – with the succulence of the lobster meat being a crowning success all the way!
The next course primi opened with ravioli and pasta. Broccoli and potato ravioli, cherry tomatoes and basil sauce was served in a neat assortment of a dry ravioli with discreet swirls of sauce. Beautifully presented, and absolutely enjoyable to eat. My favorite in this course however, was the Tagliolini fresh pasta. Tossed in prawn sauce and cherry tomatoes on the side – this brought a lot of nice and distinct flavors together. The basil zucchini cream in this dish along with the texture and flavor of the tagliolini – absolute winners in this dish.
You think you are done with the meal as the delicious primi concluded, but the secondi was a delectable selection too. Tonno grigliato su insalata di finocchio – grilled marinated tuna with fennel salad and red capsicum sauce – again aced the assortment. I do prefer my tuna either as mash or slightly finer fillets, the chunky bits didn’t work well for me. The next dish – Agnello al caffe mousseline di patate verdurine estive – was something that was curious when Chef Maroune first told me about it. So coffee marinated lamb loin served on a bed of potato mousseline and grilled summer vegetables – I could actually taste the hint of coffee and the creamy mousseline complemented the lamb perfectly, and yes the red wine too. Well done Alba!
To be honest, the secondi pretty much concluded my meal. But dessert is something we can never live or have a meal without, so I persevered on! My best pick from the summer desserts selection would be the Pineapple carpaccio, basil cane sugar, fresh lime. And that’s mainly for its ingenious simplicity and the presentation. A close second, almost neck to neck with the carpaccio is Orange flower parfait garnished with pistachio crumbs – the parfait was so well balanced in flavor, consistency – I could just keep eating it! The Lemon mint jelly with watermelon and melon was yet another interestingly conceptualized summer dessert.
And Finally –
Italian summer menu is quite distinct from the Italian food that we atypically eat. With lighter dishes prevailing this time of the year. The slice of Italian Summer is available at Alba until June 6th, for dinner only – priced at Rs.1500 plus taxes. If you’re an Italian food lover, this is a festival that you shouldn’t miss!