Caprese, Shangri-La Bangalore: A Culinary Journey Through Southern Italy

Caprese, Shangri-La Bangalore: A Culinary Journey Through Southern Italy

Native Calabrian Chef Luigi Ferraro from Shangri-La Delhi unveils Calabrian delicacies at Caprese – Review

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The south of Italy is known for its food and Caprese, Shangri-La celebrates this in a festival called #CapriToCalabria.

Caprese, Shangri-La Hotel’s Mediterranean Speciality Restaurant located on the 18th floor, boasts of an upscale address and is all about experiencing an unhinged food journey with an arresting view. Located in the heart of Bangalore, the restaurant with its contemporary design and beautiful architecture offers a captivating view of the Bangalore Palace and spectacular, uninterrupted views of the city skyline.

Beautifully designed showcasing over-sized metal lanterns hanging from the ceiling with warm wood finishes and austere wooden sculptures that bring fluidity to the view and beautifully complement the green treetops below; Caprese presents an unequalled luxury experience in the midst of an elegant and relaxed environment for a business lunch, dinner or meeting, social gatherings and celebrations.

Presided over by Anurudh Khanna, the hotel’s executive chef, this 94-seater restaurant is a splendid example of authentic Italian culture and cuisine. With the restaurant’s accomplished culinary team serving fresh Mediterranean delights; Neapolitan delicacies, artisanal pasta, and delectable slow-cooked family-style pizzas, to classic Italian tiramisu prepared carefully right in front of the guests, Caprese is living up to its ambition of being an engaging diner. But guest engagement is not its only priority; the restaurant lays accentuation on the use of high-quality ingredients, which are either hand-picked locally or imported, adding health and nutrition to each bite! And, with a remarkable collection of fine wines selected by professional sommeliers, you are warranted an unforgettable dining experience.

 

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But the true star this afternoon, with 22 years of culinary experience under his belt, is Italian MasterChef Luigi Ferraro who hails from the sun-kissed region of Calabria {Italy’s southern-most tip, characterized by its conventional villages and beautiful beaches}, and whose expertise in traditional and authentic Italian dishes using seasonal and regional ingredients, is almost natural given his native roots.

 

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I have the pleasure of sharing a warm conversation with Chef Ferraro whose infectious enthusiasm for his craft is manifest not only in his demeanour but also in the gorgeous creations that reach my table. I discover that he developed an inherent passion for cooking when he watched his mother and grandmother whip up tasteful delicacies in his childhood days. His curiosity about Italian cuisine and how each dish is prepared led him to unravel the family’s cooking secrets which he uses today to add “magical elements” to each of his creations.

For a chef who is celebrated for his exceptional talent, I am surprised to find out that Chef Ferraro nurtures simplicity and creativity as the hallmarks of his cooking. Like a girl in wonderland, I curiously imagine as he explains that the kitchen is his “ideal cultural space”. This is where he connects with his inner-self and lets his imagination journey, and his creativity dominates all his senses. Every time he walks into a kitchen, he is stimulated to meld in with the local culture and rework traditional recipes to craft new unique and creative dishes which are always on the move, just like him.

Some of the Southern Italian courses on Chef Luigi’s specially curated menu that I have been invited to experience today are Sea Bass with Saffron Potatoes, Fagottini with Lobster and Tiramisù parfait. Featuring alfresco seating, soothing music and bona fide Italian flavours, this feast at Caprese promises to take me on a delightful journey through the cobbled streets of Italy!

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My meal is complemented beautifully with a delightful selection of wine pairings that are expertly suggested by the in-house sommelier

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What is an Italian meal without some delicious bread – which is the kind that you can make a complete meal out of – with olive oil and balsamic vinegar on the side.

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Breads – Ciabatta, Fougasse & Focaccia

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Dips – Olive oil and balsamic dip, Red bell pepper and walnut dip, and Olive tapenade dip,

 

AMUSE BOUCHE

Sorrento Potato Parmigiana

{Potato and Parmesan croquettes with cherry tomato confit and San Marzano tomato sauce with Parmesan foam and basil oil}

Starting the course is the Amuse-Bouche for the afternoon – crispy croquettes – the ideal balance of crunchy & creamy. The marvellous flavour of the stuffing coupled with the textural punch is a palate delight! At times, the ingenuity in crafting a dish lies in the effortless yet exacting flavour combinations that strike a note and make you want to go back for repeated bites. A beautiful beginning to an eventful afternoon indeed.

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My Four Course Calabrian Set Menu:

Chef Ferraro’s mantra lies in taking classic Italian dishes and giving it a sophisticated twist. While you still enjoy flavours and aromas that are resonant of the true soul of Italy, the dish dons a new garb through the chef’s skilful presentation.

ANTIPASTI

Tomato Tartare, Buffalo Mozzarella and Basil

{Mozzarella cheese, San Marzano tomato sauce, cherry tomato confit, dried black olive dust, aubergine purée and capers}

This delicate dish is a mouthful of fresh and flavourful, creamy goodness!

Inspired from the Insalata Caprese, the three main ingredients in this elegant yet simple dish are tomato, mozzarella and basil. A diced medley of colourful tomatoes are topped with dried black olive dust and served with creamy buffalo mozzarella which gets a hint of colour from the micro greens and fresh basil toppings. A plank of delicious San Marzano tomato sauce completes this beautiful and delectable dish. Such an artfully chic presentation too!

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*The recipe below reinterprets the exemplary Caprese salad giving it a sophisticated edge through its presentation while leaving the authentic combination of flavours that are characteristic of this dish intact. Whip up this summery hors d’oeuvre when your garden {the local grocer} is plentiful with ripe tomatoes and it is too hot to cook in the kitchen.

For the tartare:

400 g tomato

10 g cappers

2 g basil

2 g garlic

10 g black olives

Clean the tomatoes and cut into cubes. Combine all the remaining ingredients in   cubes.

 

For tomato sauce:

50 g onion

40 g oil olive extra virgin

4 g garlic

10 g basil

400 g tomato

Q.b. salt and white pepper

q.b. xanthan

Cook the onion and garlic with olive oil, then pomodor dice, bake and then blend, then finish cooking in the thermomix at 60 ° C. Finally cold mix with xanthan.

 

For cherry tomato confit:

200 g cherry tomato

1 g garlic

1 g thyme

2 g lemon zest

5 g oil olive extra virgin

q.b. salt and black pepper

q.b. icing sugar

Bake at 80 ° C for about 6 hours, and then keep in extra virgin olive oil
For fresh tomato:

100 g yellow cherry tomato

100 g red cherry tomato

100 g green cherry tomato

q.b. oil olive extra virgin, salt and black pepper

Cut into slices and season with salt, pepper and oil

 

For aubergine sauce:

500 g aubergine

q.b. tahina

q.b. lemon juice

5 g garlic

1 g origan

q.b. salt and black pepper

Roast the eggplant on a flame, and then bake in the oven. Remove the peel and the seeds, and then blend all the ingredients.

 

For the mozzarella:

1 l cream

500 g mozzarella

4 gelatine sheets

12 basil leaf

q.b. plastic balloons

Cook cream with the chopped mozzarella and basil leaves, mix all together eliminating the basil leaves and add the gelatine, with the help of a syringe to fill the balloons and keep them in water and ice.

 

For pesto basilico pacojet:

110 g basil leaves = 60 g cooked

20   g pine nuts

20   g parmigiano reggiano

5     g garlic

140 g oil olive extra virgin

Combine all ingredients, then place in a blast freezer, and then go to pacojet; repeat the process several times.

 

Ingredients to complete:

Tomato powder, dry skin and blend

Fry cappers

Black olives powder

Fresh basil

Tomato seeds

Crackers

 

Composition:

At the base of the pot, pour the tomato sauce, and then all the other ingredients.

 

PRIMI PIATTI

Fagottini with Burrata and Lobster

{Hand-made Fagottini stuffed with lobster, burrata cheese, asparagus & green pea sauce and finished with pumpkin jelly and Amalfi lemon froth}

Fresh fagottini filled with a unique combination of Italian flavours & textures – unadulterated indulgence!

Exceptional pasta shapes render uniqueness to the afternoon’s specially curated menu. The smaller filled cousin of the classic Italian staple – the beautiful, triangular-shaped “Fagottini” – is stuffed with delicious lobster and burrata, and artfully presented. The fine cheese melts in my mouth and the outstanding sauce prepared using asparagus and green peas works its magic to create this flavourful, delicate and creamy dish finished with Amalfi lemon foam for a significantly more indulgent treat.

This dish is truly a cheese lover’s delight where no single ingredient outshines the others. And, the distinct difference between home-made pasta and processed pasta is so apparent here.  A relatively softly textured wine can be a splendid accompaniment for this dish.

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SECONDI PIATTI

Sea Bass with Saffron Potatoes

{Sea Bass, saffron potato purée, purple potato, Amalfi lemon foam, dried black olive dust and crispy chilli}

Delicate, light and fresh!

The beautifully sliced sea bass exudes freshness and its distinctive taste is enhanced by its artful presentation. Served with roasted red bell peppers and delicate micro greens, the dish gets a wonderful pop of colour from the purple potato wafers served beautifully on a bed of saffron potato purée – adding layers of texture and flavour to the dish.

The culinary team at Caprese have a way with sea food which is inarguably amazing. The simplicity in the cooking is seen in the mild flavours of the fish which is crisp on the outside but moist and juicy on the inside. This turns out to be one of those dishes where every forkful brings in a marriage of tastes and each bite is delicious in a different way!

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Chicken Breast and Thigh with Wild Mushrooms and Pumpkin with Rosemary 

{Chicken breast with sautéed spinach and Saracena Moscato sauce, Chicken roulade stuffed with wild mushrooms & spinach, with hazelnut flakes on a bed of velvety smooth Truffle purée}

Simple, contemporary and delicious!

Lyrical adjectives would be an understatement about this dish where the hero is the spot-on cooking of the chicken breast. The remarkable infusion of flavours from the deliciously rich pan-sauce and the smoky-crunchy hazelnut that blends beautifully with the mushrooms and spinach, transforms this modernist rendition of chicken roulade into something quite exceptional!

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* Each dish I am served is characterized by a perfect symphony of flavours where a careful balance is struck between the complexity of textures and the simplicity of seasonal ingredients intent on creating an unforgettable dining experience.

 

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Executive Chef Anurudh Khana with PR Director Shamira Danish Bhat

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Restaurant Manager Ayan Karmakar with Service Leader Wilfred Mario

 

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What seems like a fitting end to this harmonious meal is the duo of sinful desserts that Chef Luigi personally comes to the table with.

 

Citrus Tart, Cream and Nuts

{Flambé meringue, lemon curd, fresh seasonal fruits, nuts and pistachio powder}

Creamy, comforting and delicious!

For all of you looking for a burst of flavours before you end your meal, get your hands on the deconstructed Citrus tart -where the well-balanced sweetness of the fluffy meringue beautifully complements the tangy taste of lemon curd. Pair it with the raspberry jelly to unravel the beauty of this dish.

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Here’s where I decide to try their highly recommended in-house dessert wine. Acting as a palate cleanser, this luscious and velvety smooth delight is indeed a welcoming part of my gourmand experience at Caprese.

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Tiramisù Parfait 

{Mascarpone cheese, espresso, coffee crumble, dark chocolate crumble, hazel nut crumble and savoiardi gravel, topped with pistachio powder and raspberry jelly}

If you’re up for some “dinner table drama”, then this is high on the #UDRecommends list.

Literally meaning “pick me up”, the highlight of my meal is the popular Italian dessert, Tiramisu. A delightful amalgamation blending the contrasting bold flavours of authentic cocoa powder and espresso with savoury mascarpone cheese encased in a chocolate sphere – making it a rich treat indeed – the Tiramisu dates back to the 1970s. It’s delicate and light and the coffee hit comes right at the end elevating the whole flavour. And the spectacular plating acts as the icing on the cake!

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Conclusion:

There’s nothing that I love more than authentic Italian food! Caprese offers freshness, health, authenticity and variety in its carefully curated menu, where the prudent use of herbs promises a wonderful conjunction of tastes. Chef Luigi Ferraro clearly has a love for food. His creations are ingenious with each dish being executed perfectly and presented beautifully.

Caprese has created a new benchmark in the industry when it comes to authenticity and quality. I strongly feel that the city is yet to see another restaurant which can offer exemplary dishes that intend to showcase the craft of culinary wizards and put seasonal ingredients into the limelight to create an authentic Italian experience.

Note: If you love the azure summer skies, then head to the beautifully designed Al Fresco seating area.

 

Getting there:
Caprese – Shangri-La Hotel, 18th Floor, Palace Road, Vasanth Nagar, Bangalore 560051.
Phone: +91 80 4512 6460

 

*Disclaimer: This review was done on an invitation from the restaurant. Due judgement and care has been applied by the author to remain objective and unbiased in the review.

Photography: Poornima M Reddy

 

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* I love bringing together a bunch of conflicting items and weaving my own sense of one-ness to them. *

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