Saturday, April 18, 2015

Italian Food Festival at Asian Kitchen, at Four Points, Vashi

I went out for another Navi Mumbai Foodies meal, this time to the Asian Kitchen at the Four Points by Sheraton hotel at Vashi. Located right next to the well known Inorbit mall this business hotel is one of the premium properties in Navi Mumbai. The Asian Kitchen is one of four restaurants in the hotel and has a primarily Asian a la carte menu. This restaurant is headed by Chef Mukul Jha and hosts special food festivals that celebrate a variety of cuisines, both Indian and European, quite frequently. Currently they're having an Italian Food Festival that's on till the 23rd of April.

I browsed through the menu and was pleased to see a good mix of seafood, poultry, lamb and pork, plus a decent selection of vegetarian options too. Though not quite a 50-50 distribution of veg and non veg options, it was still a reasonably balanced menu. From soups and salads, through antipasti, mains, pastas, pizzas and risottos, ending with desserts, the menu was varied and interesting.

We started with the soups. Anticipating that the portions would be large we requested that we be served tasting portions of the four soups that were on the menu.

This is the Seafood Soup with Plum Tomatoes. If you like seafood, especially shellfish, then don't miss out on this one!

The Chicken and Shitake Mushroom Soup with Garlic Oil didn't quite do it for me but I loved the Oven Roasted Fennel and Asparagus Soup with Creme Fraiche.

I tried two salads.The Prawn, Endive and Asparagus with an Orange and Mint Reduction was fresh and flavourful. What I really appreciated was the perfectly cooked prawn. Most restaurants tend to murder prawns by over cooking them and I have developed a wariness about eating prawns outside. It was a joy munching on the succulent prawn with the fresh and crisp curly endive leaves and that zesty simple dressing.

The second salad was something really unusual. In fact, when it arrived at the table most of us thought it was hummus and wondered what it was doing in an Italian Food Festival! However it turned out to be one of the best things I've ever eaten though I don't know if it fits in with most people's concept of a salad :)

Called Pollo al Tonno, this was a simple combination of roasted chicken slices topped with a creamy tuna mayo. I'd never have imagined that the two would go so well together but they did. And how! 

The vegetarians tried the Insalata Caprese, a classic salad that's as Italian as it can get. I've always seen this one with slices of tomatoes, cheese and basil. At the Asian Kitchen it looked like this -

and the vegetarians at the table approved. That's a ball of bocconcini in the middle, instead of the usual mozarella. 

Chef Mukul came over to the table and we had a long chat with him in the course of which we also decided to just let him send us what he felt we would like best. It took the choosing what to eat part of dinner out of our hands and I really feel the chef is best equipped to suggest the best stuff on his menu. And that worked out really well.

From the anti pasti Chef sent us the Lemon Gazed Sea Bass topped with a Salmon Rosette and splashed with Dill Cream. To say the least, it was delicious. Simple clean flavours, fresh produce, and well executed, I would have happily eaten a full portion of this.

The show stopper of the evening was what came next. The Goat Cheese and Red Onion Marmalade Tart. I could go back and eat just three of these and die happy! 

I had noticed pork among the main course offerings so it will be no surprise to anyone that I opted for it. The Pork Fillet wrapped in Parma Ham served with a Sweet Potato Roesti sounded delicious and I waited eagerly for it.

This turned out to be quite disappointing, unfortunately. The roesti was lovely but the pork was seriously overcooked and dry. Being a diehard porkaholic I felt the disappointment keenly, but everything else was so good I forgave this one blip in an otherwise perfect evening.

This is the Olive and Rosemary crusted Chicken served with a Garlic Spinach Risotto and Pickled Beetroot and Red Pimento Cream. While the meat eaters at the table quite enjoyed the dish what stood out for most of us was the pickled beetroots. Tangy and flavourful, and absolutely yum!

If you like pesto this Ravioli in Pesto Cream Sauce will make your evening. The ravioli has a spinach stuffing. We also asked for some Almond White Wine Sauce as an extra, just to try out. It was superb.

The menu has pastas, pizzas and risottos with sauces, toppings and flavouring options listed. You can choose a pasta and combine it with a sauce of your preference. Or if you feel like munching on a pizza just choose what you want on it and they'll make it for you. You can also build your risotto to your preference. 

This risotto in a beetroot red wine sauce was spectacular. 

We also tried out the Pan Seared Yellow Fin Tuna with Crisp Potato and an Olive, Tomato and Grape Salsa. I'm not a fan of fruits so I passed on the salsa but I enjoyed that tuna thoroughly. The crisp discs of potato were great and I wished there was more of those. 

Finally it was time for dessert and I asked for something that Chef Mukul had mentioned from his regular a la carte menu at the Asian Kitchen - a concoction of chocolate and habanero chillies. I was intrigued and wanted to try out this much touted pairing of chocolate with a spicy chilli. The others at the table were happy to try out the desserts from the Italian menu and soon there was a steady stream of sweet goodies arriving at the table.

Tiramisu, panna cottas, gelato, everything you'd expect on a menu celebrating Italian food was there! And they were lovely. The panna cotta came in three fruit flavours - kiwi, berry, and coconut, and it was the simplest, yet prettiest dessert I'd seen in a long time. The pale pastel shades were such a welcome change from the usual lurid loud colours of most commercial desserts that are often overloaded with artificial colours. 

This is the chocolate and habanero chilli dessert. I was too stuffed to remember to ask what this was called. A thick set disc of chocolate with what I felt was a faint hint of chilli far in the background. It was really nice though I would have liked the chilli to be a little more evident. However, the others at the table found it to be perfect. Quite a winner! There's a little dollop of berry sauce at the top which I discovered half way through - that sauce takes this dessert to a new level entirely and I felt a drizzle of this sauce on the plate so there's more of it would be far better than the chocolate sauce that was there, because there's already plenty of rich luscious chocolate in the middle. 

If you like good honest food that's presented and executed well then this Italian Food Festival is a must visit. I liked the fact that Chef Mukul hasn't experimented or fooled around or given a mandatory twist to everything in sight - he's stuck to letting good ingredients tell their story without interfering and that was what won me over this evening. 

The Italian Food Festival is on till Thursday, 23rd April. 

Disclaimer - This was a hosted dinner for the Navi Mumbai Foodies by the Asian Kitchen at the Four Points by Sheraton, at Vashi.