Hello! I am back again after (yet another) travel hiatus – and I bring good tidings. Very good tidings. Get ready to gorge: Citibank Restaurant Week India is right around the corner.
Starting September 23, over 70 restaurant kitchens in Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangalore will strut their stuff with prix fixe menus created specially for the week-long event. All menus are priced at Rs.750 (excluding taxes and surcharges), and if the sneak-peek preview dinner I enjoyed at Olive Beach, Bangalore is anything to go by, every one of these meals is going to be an absolute steal. Bookings open 18 September, so get ready to get clicking!
Making Up For Lost Time…
First, I have a confession to make. I have only ever dined at Olive Beach three times. Four, if you count the meal I’m about to review. Do I hear a collective gasp of disbelief? It’s true. I always thought that it was an overpriced much-ado-about-nothing. A meal I ate there when the restaurant first opened in 2005 confirmed that opinion (yes, I know that was eight years ago, but what can I say? I can be unforgiving like that. Especially at fine dining restaurants.)
Several months ago, The Spouse, Giant Vacuum Cleaner and Mr.
Small Tall convinced me that enough time had passed (!) for the restaurant to get its act together. We each ordered the three-course prix fixe lunch, and all four of us, without exception, enjoyed every morsel of every dish. That’s no less than one dozen dishes between us – with no complaints whatsoever from four overly picky diners. Quite a feat. Unable to admit that this was anything but a fluke, I dragged GVC back there for a mother-son lunch earlier this month. Again, we each enjoyed a flawless meal.
When I was invited last week to pick a Citibank Restaurant Week participant to preview and later review, I chose Olive Beach over several five-star options because I feel like I have so very many not-dining-at-Olive-Beach years to make up for. I am pleased to say that the Restaurant Week preview meal did not disappoint.
[Dislosure: This meal was complimentary. The restaurant was aware of my identity as a food writer, as well as of the time and date of my reservation]
In my book, one of the best measures of a good menu is how hard it is for a diner to make a choice. And this particular menu left us stumped. We could each choose one starter (from six), one entrée (from six), and one dessert (from four). Unfortunately, everything on the menu sounded like something we wanted to taste, even the vegetarian dishes. Throwing our hands up, we decided to place ourselves at the mercy of the chef.
We received three appetizers and four mains instead of two (see? even the chef was spoiled for choice!)
Tuna and An Egg made for a very pretty plate. Ten diminutive slices of seared, rare tuna sat in a neat little row, topped by cute-as-a-button baby-potato chips. Black olives and cherry tomatoes punctuated the small mound of greens, and a soft-boiled egg oozed its gooey yellow goodness onto the salad. The chips added a nice crunch to the leafy salad; however, I felt that the egg completely overwhelmed the delicate flavor of the tuna. Since these two otherwise work well together, I’m guessing that the proportion of egg to tuna was too high. Learning: if you order this dish, eat the egg yolk after you have consumed the tuna.
The Spouse, meanwhile, was tucking into his Wild Greens Filo Pie. Closely resembling a Greek spanakopita, this generously-sized appetizer consisted of sauteed greens, nuts, and feta cheese encased by flaky layers of filo pastry and served piping hot. It was delicious. A word of warning though: if you wait too long for the pie to cool, the pastry tends to become more difficult to cut into cleanly. The one thing I would like to highlight here is that the chef has chosen to use indigenous greens – bathua and other local greens that (at least in my book) are more flavorful than spinach. Read more about this particular chef’s passion for local produce.
Before either of us had finished, a third appetizer was trotted out – Baby Mushroom Tarte Tatin. This was my personal standout dish of the evening. Tarte Tatin is a tart that is baked upside down but served right side up, with the ingredients held in place by sticky caramel (in the case of fruit-based or other sweet fillings). In this case, a circle of tiny button mushrooms seemed to be anchored to its puff pastry shell by caramelized onions and a layer of herbed chèvre. A puff of foam (garlic?) topped it off. The whole was perfection – flaky pastry meets tangy goat cheese meets meaty, flavorful mushrooms.
Next up, entrées.
I received a dish called “gnocchi alla Romana“. I enjoy well-made gnocchi – those delectable little light-as-air puffs of potato. So you can imagine my dubious reaction to finding a single, puck-sized disc of something that looked like polenta on my plate. Subsequent research taught me that gnocchi alla Romana – made from semolina – is the oldest form of gnocchi, making its appearance in 14th century Italian manuscripts. Marcella Hazan, a leading authority on Italian cuisine, believes its roots go further back. In “The Classic Italian Cookbook“, she writes that Marcus Gavius Apicius, the 1st century Roman gourmet, enjoyed this type of gnocchi deep fried and served up with honey. The version I sampled at Olive Beach seemed to have been baked, not fried. It was accompanied by a tangy vegetable ragoût, asparagus spears, and a sliver of grilled artichoke. If you’re a vegetarian, this is something very, very different for you to try.
The Spouse got the Parmesan-crusted sea bass that I had earlier been drooling over. A perfectly golden-brown crust of parmesan cheese encased a generous hunk of moist, flaky fish. And it was fish! Not passes-for-fish, a.k.a. basa. Red-pepper coulis added a hint of pungency and a bed of diced mushrooms lent their meatiness to the otherwise delicately flavored fish. This one came together beautifully; every component counted, and the dish would have been diminished by the removal of any one of them.
We were pretty full by now, so when the waiter brought out a Moroccan Chicken Stew and a serving of Roast Tenderloin, the table was not the only thing groaning.
The stew was fragrant with spices – the menu says that the meat was marinated in ras el hanout, which is essentially a mixed spice rub. Although we both liked the taste, we were too stuffed to fully appreciate it – or indeed to be able to finish it.
Ditto for the roast tenderloin. I loved the cubist look of the dish, especially the roast potatoes. And the meat was as tender as a baby’s bottom. I could only eat a couple of mouthfuls, but The Spouse soldiered through it bravely, refusing to let a good piece of red meat go to waste.
My dessert comprised a very interesting take on an apple tart. A large, rectangular pastry shell containing green apple jam and cinnamon-laced baked apples was topped with lashings of cream cheese mousse and translucent slices of whole apple. Praline (instead of vanilla) ice cream was a great accompaniment. The Spouse’s Eggless Chocolate Cake was decadent. Its taste and texture reminded me of Royce’s Nama chocolates, to which I have become addicted. I will be heading back there during RWI specifically for this one.
While other participating restaurants may or may not have chosen to do so, Olive Beach has created a menu specifically for Citibank Restaurant Week. Of the 16 menu items, only two (the smoked chicken salad and the lemon mousse) are available as part of the restaurant’s usual à la carte offerings. This is one of the key reasons I will be visiting Olive Beach again during RWI. That, and the chocolate cake.
If you, like me, have always thought of Olive Beach as being overrated, Restaurant Week offers the ideal opportunity to test the waters. Who knows? Maybe, like me, you’ll become a reluctant – but happy – convert.