Truffle Festival at Casa Colombo.

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.

The Conclusion

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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