Sign up for a four-course set menu at Ottimo on March 21, as master chef Vittorio Greco and team celebrate French gastronomy.
I AM Italian, of course, but I do love French cuisine as well,” exclaims master chef Vittorio Greco. He presents the menu that he has devised for Gout de France (see box) with a flourish. For starters, Greco has created a masterpiece out of an artichoke heart. At the centre of it he has placed a sliver of pink salmon, topped it with a wobbly egg yolk that has been flamed into place with a salamander, plus a sprinkling of orange salmon roe. There is a scattering of snow peas, spears of asparagus with olive dust to link all the separate parts. In some of the other plates involving potatoes stuffed with Brie, flavoured with lavender and almond, there are tiny florets of petals in white and gold, and olive dust.
As I contemplate Greco’s secret recipe, the image of Catherine of Medici floats across my mind. As Italians will tell you, it was the Italian princess who transformed the culinary tastes of the French nobility in the early 16th century when she went to Paris as a bride. She taught the French how to eat with forks. They had been stuffing their mouths with food speared on the tip of their knives and possibly even swords. She introduced them to artichokes, baby peas, broccoli and cream cakes, flaky pastry, candied vegetables and the manufacture of ice-cream. Some authorities claim that she even persuaded them to wear knickers, not the edible kind that you may see in some parts of Paris today, but the sturdy linen variety.
A futurist moment
Like Catherine de Medici, chef Greco uses the latest instruments of culinary expertise to create masterpieces borrowed from the arsenal of micro and molecular gastronomy. Liquids become tiny sparkling globules that explode on the tongue, olive oil and tomato sauce appear in the form of edible dust. For instance, he serves a compote of mushrooms in a glass jar that he fills with a reduction of shitake mushroom stock. “It’s French food with a contemporary take on it,” explains Ajit Bangera, senior executive chef, who is hosting this dinner with the French connection. We have a glass of Californian red that complements the quail, the lobster thermidor and the lapin (or pan-seared rabbit) and a Baron de Rothschild “Sauterne” that goes with the cheese platter. Dessert consists of pastries and macaroons, but with such a superb wine, who would want dessert?
The four-course set menu, served with a French elderflower liqueur, is priced at Rs 3,500 plus taxes. Only on March 21, at Ottimo Cucina Italiana, ITC Grand Chola.
From 7 pm to 11.30 pm.
Need to know
Goût de France or Good France will celebrate French gastronomy in various locations worldwide on March 21. Over 1,700 chefs on all five continents are expected to join the event, with dinners celebrating the merits of French cuisine.