Chennai’s Quattro: where food is an art

Vegetarian delight Quattro offers food that is Italian and Mexican. Expect both drama and dry ice.

September 28, 2018 12:18 pm | Updated 07:36 pm IST

Non-vegetarians might as well stop reading right now, but vegetarian readers, gather around, nay, join me, as I rant about what we go through at every social gathering. Pushed to one corner of the table, shunned as everyone else pretends to not know us. Asked to choose between the orange paneer butter masala and the slightly more orange paneer tikka masala . My aim here is to not evoke sympathy, but to highlight the joyous relief I felt entering a restaurant like the Italian-Mexican Quattro in Nungambakkam.

“You should try our taquitos ,” says owner Shruti Jain, when I ask her what their special dish is. The taquitos come in shot glasses, with a base of salsa fresca , holding in a cone of rolled taco shells, topped with avocado ice cream. The dish below is covered in hissing dry ice to keep it chilled.

Frankly, I don’t get the avocado craze. If anything, it tastes a little bland to me. But the fun lies in biting into the crunchy taco shell, stuffed with beans, cheddar cheese, and chilli mint mayo sauce. The spicy juiciness of the salsa goes well with the tacos.

Meanwhile, a spiced watermelon drink arrives in what a stout version of a hookah jar, with a long siphon functioning as the straw. The potion keeps frothing up, as if demanding my attention. As the name suggests, it’s sweet but leaves a spicy aftertaste.

Every table at the 75-seater is provided with little bowls of condiments, Italian (tomatoes, olive oil, parmesan cheese, and basil) as well as Mexican (salsa, habanero, chillies). “If the customer wants, they can order a bread platter to go with that,” says Shruti.

I try the bruschetta which arrives dressed to impress. And yes, there’s more foam. The bread is layered with basil-flavoured foam, and balsamic vinegar crystallised into caviar-like molecules on top of buffalo cheese. When you bite in, foam lathers your upper lip. The vinegar’s sharp tang is tempered by the cheese. And then the bread crumbles.

The filo pockets, stuffed with sweet corn, are fun, but nothing to write home about. The chimichanga, which comes dressed in the Mexican colours of red, green and white, is also satisfactory. Apart from a hint ofchipotle, the Mexican queso tastes like your average paneer tikka for the most part. Nothing wrong in that, but not worth the price you are shelling out here. Which, I should add, is quite a bit.

Have you ever had a dish that you feel exists just for you? The lasagna fritta at Quattro is just that. It’s deep-fried lasagna , cupping in white and red sauce. A special word for the tomatoes, which are fresh and vibrant. However, there are no veggies to crunch on in this dish, so make sure to mix it with enough white sauce; otherwise the tangy flavour of the tomatoes can get overpowering.

For dessert, I try blueberry cheese mousse. And here’s where Quattro ups the theatrics even more. The pastry chef comes out with a blue box filled with liquid nitrogen. Cream is swirled and frozen in front of us, placed on a layer of biscuit crumbs on a spoon, then topped with blueberry jam. It all comes together in a tasty puddle that near well freezes the insides of your mouth.

Clearly, this is the kind of place you go to when you look at food as an art. Ideal if you enjoy culinary theatrics when you dine out. Just remember, foam isn’t cheap.

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