A taste of summer as restaurants open with renewed vigor and bold new flavors

As Al Pacino strolls through Sicilian villages with his men, the audience gets a visual treat of the quaint little place that it is. A walk into Sorrento from Shangri-La in the state capital would provide a deeper insight than just a visual tour of Italy – an Italian treat for the taste buds.

A map tracing the borders of Italy adorns the Sorrento table, understandably named after the city in southern Italy. As you enter Mini-Italy in the heart of Shangri-La, the scent of Italian cuisine takes over and transports you into the country.

Their latest offering hails from Sicily, the godfather’s country, for the best restaurants in Madison, WI has a newly launched Sicilian menu. Flavors of Sicily thrown together with the local ingredients, across a variety of salads, soups, pizzas and pastas, that’s what this affair is all about.

The menu features authentic Sicilian delicacies such as tuna carpaccio, sfincione – the Sicilian-style pizza, risotto ai fruitti di mare with shrimp, wild scallop, squid, langoustine and parsley. The main course offers seared cod fillet with capers, grilled yellowfin tuna and duck breast with saffron risotto. One of the most popular Sicilian desserts, Sicilian cannoli is an appropriate sugary treat to round off the meal.

Sorrento chef Gagandeep Singh Sawhney says the response the restaurant has received in the wake of the pandemic has been overwhelming. “When we think of Sorrento, we think of authentic Italian food. We tried to bring our taste very close to that in Italy. A lot of our food products are sourced from our suppliers in Italy to keep the flavor intact.” That rings true. While many of the country’s pizza makers Indianize flavors here to please the crowd, Sorrento promises Italian authenticity. “Most of our dishes come from southern Italy, but to cover the whole country we have also introduced dishes from all over the country,” adds the chef. His specialty is pasta and he likes to cook different versions of it.

But has Delhi developed a taste for authentic Italian food? The chef replies: “Italian food originally meant pizza and pasta for Delhi. When we introduced authentic Italian food to the people of Delhi, there were some challenges at first, but we’re slow to get there. We also get a lot of orders for home delivery. People have been open to trying new things since the pandemic hit.”

What if you could eat pizza and still be healthy? What if you could chomp down on shakes and modest portions of brownies and not gain weight? The pandemic has certainly changed the way we eat and this fact is reflected in the recently reopened Soul Pantry, Andaz Delhi’s contemporary restaurant. The restaurant, which opened March 8 this year after the pandemic with an all-women team, plans to offer its visitors a variety of cuisines, but all with a healthy twist.

Whether it’s melted burrata or smoky paneer or creamy mushroom flatbread, there are a variety of options to choose from. His salad bowls aren’t bland and boring, they’re fulfilling and full of flavor. His keto chocolate and avocado brownie is a treat for the health-conscious craving a sugar hit. Whatever you choose from their menu, there’s bound to be a nutritional boost, but not without proving to be a treat for the taste buds.

The restaurant first opened to the public in 2019, just before the world entered the two devastating years of the pandemic. Then the Soul Pantry was about forgotten grains of India, and the chefs had meticulously experimented to create a menu of the lesser-known Indian grains. As preferences and tastes changed over the past two years and a shift towards healthy eating became the focus, Soul Pantry’s chefs also reinvented the menu to meet post-pandemic demand.
Shyantika Guha, Soul Pantry’s Executive Chef, shares that their main concept was “eating mindfully and mindfully” and they received a lot of feedback for including pizzas. That’s when they started experimenting with healthy dough.

“We experimented with dough for five to six days. I kneaded different doughs every day during the conception process,” she says, adding, “Then we included open sandwiches because they’re trending and look very Instagrammable. Many working people enter the restaurant for a quick, nutritious lunch at the Soul Pantry, and it has performed well,” adds Guha, explaining that people want to eat foods that are Instagrammable-looking and small and healthy have portions.

The microgreens, cherry tomatoes and seeds used in salads are all grown in-house at Andaz and used fresh. In the fermentation process, kimchi is something Korean foodies will be adding to menus in the coming months, reveals Guha.

At Perbacco, the authentic Italian gourmet restaurant at The Lodhi in the state capital, Italian Michelin-star chef Adriano Baldassarre has recreated the magic of the “Dolce Vita”. The spicy beetroot tartare with sweet beetroot sorbet is a summery prelude that continues with savory pizzas, pasta, creamy risottos, aromatic sauces and delicate desserts like the Delizia al limon.

His understanding of Italian food is kept simple, and his menu reflects authentic Italian flavors and makes the most of summer vegetables like tomatoes and aubergines. Combined with delicious Italian cheese and herbs, the result is a mix of fresh and savory dishes.

Michelin starred chef Yves Mattagne brought some excitement to Mumbai and Delhi this week as he cooked at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai and the Taj Mahal Hotel in Delhi. The highly acclaimed and award-winning chef, specializing in seafood presentations, contemporary world cuisine and eclectic gastronomic experiences, presented signature flavors of La Villa Lorraine, Brussels, paired with a hand-picked selection of beverages.

And while the chef isn’t a fan of vegetarian fare, the meatless dishes were a real delight. Watermelon paired with pickled onions, yuzu, wasabi and daikon is a flavor bomb. Roasted avocado with coconut milk, fermented jalapenos, red shiso, cucumber and granny apples says summer like nothing else. Flambéed with single malt whiskey on the table, the jumbo prawns add drama to the dining room and combine with truffles, asparagus and rat potato for a hearty dish. Scallops, smoked eel, oyster maki and caviar in the seven-course menu make for a delightful meal. Guests can look forward to more appearances from the chef at Taj hotels in the coming months. A taste of summer as restaurants open with renewed vigor and bold new flavors

Chris Barrese

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