Eighty-eight, at Hyatt Pune, regularly sets up a buffet for breakfast and evening dinner. The hotel has a 4 course meal option available for lunch (Express Lunch). Eighty-eight has various festivals on through the year and those festivals are a part of their evening buffet. This time they decided to concentrate on Italian cuisine. This cuisine happens to be one of my favourites, which is why when I was invited by Team Food Prowl for the tasting, I instantly agreed to attend the event. The beautiful menu for the festival ‘Gusto d’Italia’ has been curated by Chef Sarika Kamble: she specializes in Italian cuisine.
As we settled into our seats, the servers placed platters of cheese with crackers, crudités and nuts before us. The varieties of cheese on the platter were Provolone, Edam, Emmenthal, smoked Scarmoza and my all time favourite, French Brie. As most of you know, all it takes to make me happy are two ‘C’s; one of which happens to be cheese. I, intermittently, munched on the nuts but gave the crudités a miss as I steer clear of raw vegetables. My favourites cheeses of the evening were the smoked Scamorza and the Brie (but of course). An honest confession: I’m nibbling on a wedge of Brie as I type this and I know I will polish off the wheel by the time I’m done with the write up. (Shameless, greedy grin)
They served us a cooler made of Strawberry, thyme and basil. I couldn’t have asked for a more delicious and refreshing drink on a warm summer evening. I loved it!
Next, platters of antipasti made their way to our table. There were slices of prosciutto, bacon, pepperoni, and salami. Digging into this platter was a sheer delight for this hard core carnivore! Meat overload!! Yayyyyy! :-)
They also served a Caprese Salad, Parma Ham & Melon and Baked Figs with Goat Cheese & Nuts. As usual, I gave the salads a miss but everyone at the table dug in happily hence I can confidently say, they were very good salads.
I did try the Caramelized Onion & Fig Bread served with the salads. It was so delish that I reached into the basket for a second piece. Yes, you read right, I ate figs. It was yum!
The Pea soup with chicken and chive cheese quenelle was creamy, hearty and very satisfying. The creaminess of the soup came through beautifully, and in fact, this carnivore could well have done without the chicken in the soup. Says a lot about the soup, doesn’t it?
For the mains we were served Honey Rosemary Glazed Lamb Chops with Courgette Roulade & Jus, Pan Seared Sea bass with Parmesan Potatoes and Tomato Caper Anchovy Sauce, Parsley Buttered Prawns served over Crab Cakes with Garlic Sauce, Stuffed Chicken Breast with Wilted Spinach and Parmesan Potato, Wild Mushroom Brie Cheese Risotto and Spaghetti Bolognaise.
The Honey Rosemary Glazed Lamb Chops with Courgette Roulade & Jus was the star of the meal! It was grilled to a deep warm brown from outside and a beautiful pink from within. A few of you, on seeing the photograph, may say the meat looks raw. It was not! The chops were a perfect medium-rare in every sense of the word! Questo piatto era delizioso! (As done in Italy, kissing the tip of my fingers and blowing a kiss towards Chef Sarika in total appreciation of her cooking skills).
The Wild Mushroom Brie Cheese Risotto was another winner. Can anything with Brie be anything but classic? The Arborio rice was creamy and yet retained that light bite. The only thing I missed in the risotto was that delicate sharpness that a drizzle of white wine lends to the risotto. The chef was unable to use white wine because of the ‘no alcohol 500 meters from the highway – Indian Supreme court’ issue. What a terrible letdown for the culinary artists of our country!
Pan Seared Sea bass with Parmesan Potatoes and Tomato Caper Anchovy Sauce, Parsley Buttered Prawns served over Crab Cakes with Garlic Sauce were also gorgeous dishes.
The fish and the crustaceans were cooked to a ‘spot on’ texture.
The Stuffed Chicken Breast with Wilted Spinach and Parmesan Potato was the only dish that needed looking into. Though well seasoned, the chicken was a tad too dry and overcooked. If the chicken had been cooked till moist and succulent, this also would have been a stellar dish.
By the time they served the Spaghetti Bolognaise I was so stuffed that I merely took a bite from the dish. The spaghetti was cooked al dente (perfecto!) and the mince was deliciously robust in flavour. Had I not stuffed myself with the other dishes I would have dug into these savoury strands of wholesome goodness with immense gusto.
The desserts for the evening were strawberry ice cream, Berry Cheese Cake, an in-house Pistachio Biscotti and Panna Cotta. The ice cream was the regular kind but the other three desserts simply blew me away. If only I could lay my greedy paws on those in-house Pistachio Biscotti’s, they’d be a snack I’d nibble on for a life time. I fall short of words to describe it! The biscotti’s were outstanding!
The Berry Cheese Cake was light and tangy, just the way I like my cheese cakes to be. As for the Panna Cotta, as usual, the first thing I checked for was the luscious wobble. Oh it wobbled alright; it wobbled just right! It was creamy and melted on the tongue in a jiffy. A perfect Panna Cotta, no doubt!
Gusto d’Italia (Taste of Italy) festival is on until May 17, 2017 (dinner only/priced at 1300+taxes and well worth the price). Heed my advice; check it out. I promise, you won’t regret it!
I extend a heartfelt thanks to our hosts Hyatt Pune (Chef Sarika and Shruti Sengupta) for having us over and for trusting our taste buds and our feedback. It was a wonderful summer evening, with delicious food, spent in the company of marvellous friends. Dolce vita!
Address: Adjacent to Aga Khan Palace, 88 Nagar Road, Kalyani Nagar, Pune.
Tel: 020 41411234