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Japanese Thorn in an Italian Rose?







Festivals, like pasta, comes in all shapes and sizes. There are regional cuisine festivals, festival based festivals, street food based festivals, but besides biriyani, I don't remember a festival based on one dish. No other dish seems to deserve that kind of respect, but the chefs at Leela Palace have conferred that honour upon the pasta.

I could talk about the thin Agilo Olio, the beautiful Lamb Ragout or the Boccocini Gnocchi, but that will be of grave injustice to two dishes that took the cake and the baker's wife! The Duck Cappellacci, that turned a non-duck fan into one. Duck has never been my cup of, well, tea. I've tried some 'fabulous' ones in Paris, a carpaccio by Vikram and a few more, but nothing had me ever hooked to duck. In fact, I avoid it and if I have to choose a main course with duck as an option and a vegetarian dish, I normally go for the vegetarian. The chef's table hosted for us had me regretting for not choosing the duck. A beautiful duck confit with a nice smoky flavoured pink duck meat to complement a set of four cappellacci which was stuffed with duck meat on a base of artichoke puree and sun dried grapes was the dish of the day. My co-diner was kind enough to share a piece, but I would have loved an entire plate for myself.

Because it got me loving a meat that I avoid, I called it the dish of the day, but make no mistake. There was a vegetarian dish that could have put most meat dishes to shame on any given day. A pyramidoli, stuffed with mushrooms and truffle oil on a base of porcini mushroom sauce, shimeji mushrooms and parmesan crisps was a stunner of a dish. The beautifully nutty flavour of the shimeji mushrooms and the creamy porcini mushroom sauce added so much of flavour depth to the dish that it was difficult to stop eating. What was a Japanese mushroom doing in an Italian dish? I have no idea, but a mushroom similar to Shimeji also grows in Northern Europe, but hey, Italy is way south! So either way, it is beautiful how an ingredient that is out of place has actually added something to the dish. In this case, the thorn has made the rose a little more beautiful.

Available till the end of May, the pasta festival is available as a-la-carte on top of the massive Spectra buffet. Without the buffet, a meal for two will set you back by about Rs. 2500. 

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