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What is the first thing you think of when you are told to dress Mediterranean and/or Italian for lunch? My first thought involved linen suits with open shirts, chinos and magically growing a bed of chest hair.
Naturally, that train of thought took me to The Sopranos and The Godfather. What I realised aside from the preponderance of crime in my favourite entertainment list is that movies about Italy and Sicily always have a litany of scenes involving food.
The Godfather has its iconic restaurant meeting, numerous food preparation scenes and of course, oranges, i.e. the mise-en-scene death harbingers. Sopranos starts and ends with an iconic food scene and throughout the show, food brings people together, heals wounds (sometimes opening new ones) and of course, makes me want to make some fresh pasta.
There is not one film or show that comes to mind in which Italians reject food of the homeland. Instead, family recipes are guarded as closely as state secrets; family members come together to cook elaborate meals for important events and gather around the table to indulge shared tastes.
So, last week, when the Jumeirah Royal Saray Bahrain (JRSB)’s Chef Claudio Dieli invited us to try out his new six-course evening Mediterranean Food Adventure, it was an offer we simply couldn’t refuse.
Hosted at the JRSB’s Brasserie Royale, which has a wonderful terrace overlooking the cabanas and the pool, it was the perfect excuse to enjoy the wonderful Bahrain weather these days.
The feast began with The King, a tuna tartare concoction, served with two pieces of cannelloni pasta stuffed with sour cream and topped with Osetra caviar, all on top of a drizzle of parsley oil. It was flavourful yet simple and paired with the cannelloni, was the perfect bite of the ocean, marinating in my mouth as I took a sip of the fresh orange juice.
The next course, taking us into the tide, appropriately named Deep from the Sea, featured seared langoustine from Norway on top of a slice of avocado, topped with some pickled onion and with a leaf of red chicory on the side. The avocado was covered in a delicious red powder which Chef Claudio told us is dried tomato. It takes a well-trained chef a fair bit of time to prepare whilst retaining the freshness.
The thing about this menu is that it has to be enjoyed slowly, taking time to fashion each bite as you discuss your next sailing adventure or perhaps, who has been enjoying naptime with the fishes.
Chef Claudio, who has carefully crafted this menu with each course building on the previous, stopped by and told us: “When guests come to try this new menu, my aim is to take them with me on a journey by the Mediterranean Sea, where flavours and authenticity meet to create a reminiscing moment. I want them to discover the essence of a delicious cuisine in which each dish has a story to tell.”
The third course, the Squid Ink Lobster Lasagna, surprised me. The lasagna sheets were black and the sheets were not perfectly stacked like most lasagna. However, the slight angle that they were on, allowed us to see the different layers, topped with Oman lobster, tomatoes, Ricotta cheese and green peas, all bathing in a creamy shellfish sauce. I have to confess, this course I simply devoured, enjoying the salty yet ethereal taste of the squid ink lasagna, pairing each bite with lobster, cheese and/or peas.
The fourth course, Provencal, was also surprising as I had never had breaded lamb chops. They were served with potato and eggplant ‘fries’ with bell peppers and olive jus sauce on the side. The lamb chops reminded me of the scene from The Sopranos where instead of telling Tony to go on the lam, Furio tells him to “lamb chop it for a while,” aware of the possibility of official eavesdropping.
We weren’t even thinking of going on the lam, as Melissa Lalande, marketing and communications manager at JRSB warned us: “The meal is supposed to not fill you up until you get to the main course, but do save room for dessert.” And boy was she right.
The fifth course, Sicilian canoli, was stuffed with Ricotta cheese with small chocolate balls, which were supposed to be devoured by hand and we gladly obliged, adding yet another worthy contender to the clean plate club.
And the final course, which you must save room for, was the vanilla panna cotta topped with oranges, grapefruit and a sliver of cress. This was definitely the highlight for me; the creamy taste of the vanilla with a slice of orange was nothing short of celestial. I definitely hope fishy naptime in The Godfather used the associated oranges for this kind of panna cotta to be served for the rest of time.
The Mediterranean Food Adventure with Chef Claudio Dieli is available every night at Brasserie Royale from 6pm to 11pm. It’s priced at BD25net inclusive of soft drinks and BD27net including select beverages. For reservations, call 77707070.
l Embark on a virtual Mediterranean Food Adventure by scanning the QR code below.