Friday, 29 May 2015

Time Travel through the Food @ Ottimo - ITC Gardenia, Bangalore

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With over a year into operations, the highly acclaimed and award winning restaurant has been a delight to visit. With memories of my first meal here still fresh and alive on my mind; I was most certain that this visit will only create more memories. Expectations were set knowing that Chef Vittorio Greco was at the helm of things and a festival was curated to specifically make diners travel through time; from classic to contemporary.

At Ottimo, ITC Gardenia; it is hard to decide if the restaurant brings out the vibrancy in Chef Greco or it is Chef Greco's vibrancy that results in the vibrancy of the restaurant. 'Vibrancy' a term most often used in relation to ambiance; here seamlessly extends to the service, food being dished out of the kitchen, the plating and the complete experience itself.

Getting back to the food at this festival aptly named 'The Art of Time Travel', Chef Vittorio works his magic in a whole new way by curating two experiences on one single plate - the traditional versus the modern or reinvented new-age Italian cuisine. Every course that arrived was a delight in every sense and also to every sense one can experience at a steal price of Rs. 2250 ++ which also includes a glass of domestic wine or beer.

With a special menu crafted and personalized for me, I couldn't help but just looked forward to starting the experience with 'Antipasto' which was 'Insalata di Pollo' - a classic and a modern take on this signature Italian salad. This was one dish that gave me a hard time deciding which was better. One version was just topped with capers providing for a nice salty and briny zing to the subtle chicken salad and the other was topped with pickled vegetables like asparagus, broccoli and more for that nice crunch in every bite. 

'Primi Piatti' or 'Primo' is a course known to have a pasta preparation and is usually a course served hot. My pick from the non-vegetarian choices in this course was Lamb Ravioli artistically prepared and presented to showcase a classic and modern take of this Italian favorite. The lamb in the ravioli was clearly treated with a lot of love. The contemporary version was served as a long roll of lamb ravioli topped with the broccoli coulis or sauce and a drizzle of garlic dusting.

In vegetarian, I got to try the classic spinach and ricotta cheese stuffed ravioli. A quick look at it and you might just not spot the difference but a closer look and you realize that the classic had just the one pocket that contained the stuffing of spinach and ricotta cheese prepared together while the modern had 2 compartments - one for the spinach and the other for the ricotta. The difference might seem really subtle but making this wasn't a cake walk. Likewise, the modern and classic versions also felt very different in terms of taste and texture. While the classic version is a favorite world over, I loved the modern take for the dense texture and clearly different flavors of the ricotta and spinach being prominently felt.

The wines we stuck to all through the evening was the smooth and creamy Fratelli Sangiovese Bianco and the rich and oaky Fratelli Sangiovese.

The next course 'Secondo Piatto' is considered the main dish of an Italian meal structure. There was a classic and reinvented version of 'Seabass Livornese. While both were great and the flavor composition was really different, I loved the modern take on this dish for the flavors of the prime ingredients - fish and the deconstructed sauce were distinctly felt on the palate. 

The difference between the two versions? The classic version of this dish came as fish fillet and the delicious sauce of tomato, olives, pepper, olive oil cooked together while the modern came as a deconstructed version with the sauce topped with olives, herbs, and other ingredients with the fish cooked all by itself which helped it retain the flavors of the sea. 

Another non-vegetarian option for those who do not enjoy seafood as much was the 'Chicken Caccaitora' where again the modern version stood out for me. It was chicken stuffed with vegetables and base ingredients like tomato, onion and garlic which make the sauce. Served on a bed of velvety mashed potatoes; I absolutely enjoyed this dish.

Continuing on 'Secondo' was also a vegetarian classic 'Puttanesca' a dish famed in South of Italy. A classic version uses spaghetti as the pasta tossed in a sauce of onions, tomatoes, olive oil, capers and olives that give it a salty flavor. The modern take used risotto instead of the spaghetti and was again a deconstructed form. This is inspired from the food habits of North Italy where risotto is widely consumed. While I love risotto and this deconstructed form tasted as delicious as the classic; I'll go the classic way on this dish.

The classic & my pick
Dolce was something I waited for through my meal. There was coffee written all over it. 2 versions of the ever delicious 'Tiramisu'; It couldn't have gotten better. The modern take was a deconstructed version served as a dome filled essentials to make a delicious tiramisu and surrounded with espresso, coffee beans, crumbed lady finger biscuits etc. Which was better? Both... It contained coffee. :)

If you thought this was the end of our meal; it clearly wasn't. We had to finish it with a coffee made the way Italians make it each day at home - Espresso made in moka pots. Simply delicious!

Dining at Ottimo is an experience and with the festival being hosted by Chef Vittorio; it's clearly an icing on the cake. Do make sure you manage a visit by the 2nd of June as the festival is till the mentioned date. This time travel through the cuisine of Italy comes at a lovely price of Rs. 2,250++ which also includes a glass of wine or beer.

Address: ITC Gardenia, 1, Residency Road, Bangalore
Phone Number: +91 80 4345 5140 

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