There are few ingredients, in my opinion, that can hold their own and stand out, even when mixed with several other, sometimes, even stronger, vegetables/meats/spices. Mushrooms, in all their varieties, fall in this category. Whether tossed into an Asian stir fry, pureed into a creamy soup; or mixed into an Indian curry with other vegetables; these versatile funghi impart their own personality to a dish, while not taking away from the overall taste experience.
Full marks then, to Executive Chef Manek Magotra, of The Trident Hotel, Hitech City, Hyderabad, for envisioning and creating Funghi Fiesta – a food festival centred around the magic of mushrooms. No, he did not use the magic variety which gives you a high; but the ones he did use were – Shiitake, Porcini, Oyster, Morel, Portobello, White Fungus and Button Mushrooms.
These versatile little funghi have always been a favourite of mine, from childhood, when we ate the Morel mushroom in a pulao; and a dried mushroom only available in the North of India, which we called dhingri, in a curry. These are now available for a king’s ransom, at over Rs 40,000 a kg. But, the more common ones thankfully, don’t cost as much, so one can still relish them.
We started the dinner with the appetiser – Chocolate and Crumb Fried Button Mushrooms, served with saffron cream, pepper coulis and Balsamic reduction – which set the mood for the rest of the evening.
The chocolate coated one was created on the lines of Umami – described by Wikipedia as – Umami (/uˈmɑːmi/), a savoury taste, is one of the five basic tastes (together with sweet, sour, bitter, and salty). A word from the Japanese – Umami can be translated as a pleasant savoury taste. Coated with chocolate, with sea salt sprinkled on top, it was unusual. But the Crumb Fried Button Mushroom stole its thunder, if I had to compare them.
The Wild Mushroom Cappuccino, a frothy soup, had an extra edge to it with the espresso foam that had been blended in. I thought I was mistaken when I got the familiar whiff of coffee from the soup, but Chef explained that the espresso gave the soup a twist which has proven to be quite popular with guests. And rightly so, because it did taste different from the usual mushroom soup.
Then came the Pizza, made with an Oriental crust, topped with seafood, white fungus, galangal and lemongrass.
The lemongrass and galangal flavours were extremely subtle, while the white fungus and the salmon dominated the dish. A pizza that was certainly different from those normally served at Tuscany, the Italian fine dining restaurant of The Trident Hotel, where the festival is being held.
The two dishes that followed, to my mind, were the masterpieces of the festival. Definite must-haves in my book, the pasta was an outstanding Salmon Ravioli with dill cream, shiitake mushrooms and caper jus. The smokiness of the dill with the crunch of the shiitake mushroom were a perfect foil to the salmon filled ravioli. This mix of ingredients, certainly not a commonplace one, had created the piece de resistance of the festival.
The Risotto: Given all that Italian cuisine has in its ouvre, a Risotto for me is the last option after the pastas, antipasti and pizzas on offer. In other words, not my first choice at an Italian meal. But here, the Portobello Risotto, made with sundried tomatoes and mascarpone cheese, besides the Portobello mushrooms, was delicious enough that, had I not been so full already, I might even have had a second helping. That is saying something, since I am not a big eater to start with. The flavours delicately underlined that of the mushrooms, and came together in a concoction that was surprisingly light.
A fitting end to the meal was the Chocolate Mud Pie, served with vanilla and truffle oil ice cream. Sinfully creamy on the palate, it more than matched the other dishes served earlier, in terms of taste and presentation.
Note: There are several more options on the menu available as part of this promotion. The dishes mentioned here are the ones I tried.
The Fungi Fiesta Festival is on till the 28th of August at Tuscany, the Italian restaurant at The Trident Hotel. The restaurant is open only for dinner. For reservations, call: 91 40 6623 2323