Chef Oriana Tirabassi conjures up an Italicious storm at the Courtyard. Looks like there's more to Italy than just pizza!

We arrived hoping to catch her at some of her much-talked pizza acrobatics. But late that Saturday night, we missed the tosses and twirls. What we did get in exchange was a first taste of Italian food as it's meant to be.

And an over-two hour long, easy dinner chat with Italian master chef and culinary designer Oriana Tirabassi at her gregarious, gesticulating best. The conversation flowed from Italian cooking methods and the benefits of Parmesan cheese to governance in India, Mumbai's potholed roads (Chennai's way better, she declares) and her fetish for Dal Makhani.

Chef Tirabassi was in town earlier this month to redesign and re-launch the Italian menu at Rhapsody, Courtyard by Marriot.

The entrées began with Romano style ravioli, a pasta variation with artichoke, mascarpone cheese and asparagus, topped with mint and balsamic vinegar. The dish, the result of four hours of cooking, is wonderfully cheesy and quite filling for a starter. As is the gnocchi, a potato dumpling with gorgonzola cheese and a touch of cream and black pepper. The small pieces of pear and walnut make for an interesting addition to the gnocchi. Next was the rice-based ravioli in white truffle oil with a dash of white wine that's allowed to evaporate while cooking, a subtle hint of garlic and, of course, some of the ubiquitous cheese – shavings of parmesan this time. (Chef Tirabassi informs that truffle oil is here a substitute for the real thing; white truffle being one of the most expensive ingredients in the world. Sold by auction, it's dealt with “more care than a live baby”. And to think; they're fussing over a fungus.) For all its exoticness, these dishes will take some getting used to for first-timers.

Main course

The main course was fillet of salmon in beetroot sauce, which can be coupled with either spinach and parmesan butter or creamy, blood-red balsamic sauce. The fish was fresh and juicy, well-grilled with a crunchy upper crust, to which the balsamic sauce works better as a dip.

But the best was saved for the last. Dessert was the rich, creamy, melt-in-the-mouth-soft and yummy-ily, layered Tiramisu. One of my favorite gelato flavours, now even better as an improvised pastry! Tiramisu di Rhapsody has soaked savoiardi biscuits (think sponge cake) with a dash of amaretto liqueur and soft hints of coffee every now and then. It's a great way to polish off a meal. The palline di cocco, a coconut dollop with lemon cream set in a hard outer layer of chocolate, dulls in comparison.

If you're willing to experiment with new tastes, love cheese and cream, and aren't counting calories, try Rhapsody. Dinner for two should cost you around Rs. 1500 (excluding taxes).

Tanya is a IIIrd year B.Com Student at Stella Maris College.

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