Few ingredients are as prized in the food world as truffles—not the chocolate kind, although those are prized as well—the odd, pebble-shaped fungi that are so rare and expensive that they routinely sell for thousands of dollars. With most of the high-quality truffles in the world unearthed in France and Italy, it is far from easy to get your hands on the aromatic 'shroom. So when we heard that Casa Colombo had gone so far as to dedicate a whole festival to the fungi, we were intrigued. Although we don't routinely feature promotions, this one was too momentous to miss.
We've said it plenty of times before, but it's impossible to not be struck by the colourful eccentricity of Casa Colombo when you walk in. A cross between a stately colonial mansion and a kitsch-loving designer's wet dream, the hotel's sweeping expanse is filled with several water bodies and seating areas, and quirky touches like a glittery, gilded ceiling that would put South India's gold fixation to shame. The relentless quirkiness can be a tad over-the-top, but on the flip side, it's nice to be able to enjoy fine dining without the fussiness.
Truffles were the sole item on our agenda. With an understandably compact menu of just a couple starters, half a dozen mains and one side of truffle fries to choose from, it didn't take us too long to place our order. But the rest of the evening didn't proceed as speedily. Although there were only a few diners, the kitchen seemed to falter under the strain of the orders.
Our appetiser, vol-au-vents made of puff pastry topped with a smidgen of porcini mushrooms and truffle cream, disappeared in three swift bites. Crisp, buttery and soaking in the signature muskiness of the truffles (even though the topping was seriously small), there was little to fault about this perfectly executed appetiser.
On the flip side, our appetite was now stoked and there was no food in sight. After a whole hour had passed, our mains finally began to appear. The service gaffes wouldn't end there, though — instead of the porcini risotto I originally ordered, I was served fettucine. But to their credit, the kitchen rapidly rectified the mistake.
Of the mains, the tagliata-style grilled beef steak (Rs. 3,250) looked like it had been plated hastily, with a pile of iceberg lettuce (instead of the promised rocket) plonked in the middle of slices of steak.
Although the meat was done to a perfect medium, a little more seasoning would have gone a long way towards adding depth of flavour to this dish. Despite the truffle shavings that had been sprinkled on top, it didn't floor us in quite the way we had expected both in terms of fragrance and flavour.
The home-made gnocchi with tiger prawns, clams and black truffles (Rs. 2,250) came smothered in a rich, cream-based sauce infused with truffle flavour. Soft and pillowy, the gnocchi certainly passed the test, and paired well with the sweetness of the prawns and clams. We would have liked more of a truffle punch though – as well-seasoned as it was, the creaminess of the sauce seemed to overwhelm everything else.
Although it didn't come in the promised pecorino cheese basket, the porcini risotto with black truffle (Rs. 2,500) was still our unanimous pick of the three mains. A substantial serving of creamy and aromatic rice, cooked just a tad over al dente, it came with a small pile of micro-herbs on top. The meatiness of the porcini mushrooms generously distributed throughout the risotto paired perfectly with the earthiness of the truffles. Surprisingly, the micro-herbs weren't simply there for visual effect: the tiny bites of sharpness added an interesting counterpoint to the overall richness of this nuanced dish.
Having tried a fair share of truffle fries (usually, with just a whiff of truffle oil by way of flavour), I was sceptical about an ambitious menu dedicated solely to the funky fungus. Casa Colombo's new menu deserves props for attempting it — and doing justice to the ingredient for the most part. None of the dishes we tried skimped on truffles, and a couple of them were pitch perfect. However, some others were let down by tardy service and not enough attention to detail. Given the beauty of the ingredient and the price you pay for it, that's a bit of a shame.
The truffle menu is available till mid-September. It is in addition to the regular menu. Call the hotel on 011 4520130 for details.
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