It’s restaurant week time! Only this time you’re getting to visit Europe, taste European cuisine, savor fresh European produce, while sitting right here in Mumbai. The European Union (EU) collaborates with partner restaurants across the city to bring a three week long European food extravaganza, so that we can experience European culture through their food. And in my opinion, experiencing the local food is the only way to truly experience a new destination. Food makes us travel without budging an inch! And I experienced a culinary vacation of sorts. Read on for more. Buon Appetito!
About Tastes of Europe food festival:
The Tastes of Europe food festival kick starts with a ‘Restaurant Week’ from the 6th to 12th of September, where you get to enjoy set meals at ten different partner restaurants across the city. The meals are designed with the focus on highlighting different European ingredients. The second week is a ‘Retail Week’, where you get to taste European produce across various specialty stores, and decide what you’d like to take home. Finally, it culminates with the Annapoorna World of Food India Exhibition 2014 from 24th to 26th September in Mumbai where you can attend food seminars, celeb chef classes and a lot more.
Restaurant Week celebrations are on at a host of partnering restaurants, right from Smoke House Deli, Bandra Kurla Complex, to Olive Bar and Kitchen, Khar, to Vetro at The Oberoi, Nariman Point. The restaurants offer set meals priced at Rs. 1500/- onwards with the focus on European fare. We decided to visit Prego at The Westin Garden City, Mumbai to try out the Italian menu that everyone’s been buzzing about.
My first visit to The Westin, and boy was I impressed. This sprawling, 5 star, deluxe hotel is aptly located in the up-coming, bustling suburbs, close to the International airport and Goregaon Film City. And inspite of its location, The Westin does not compromise on sprawling green trees, peace, and tranquil. Situated on the ground floor, Prego is the in-house Italian restaurant at The Westin having been awarded the “Noteworthy Newcomer” under the “Best Italian Restaurant category-North Mumbai” by the Times Food Guide- Mumbai Awards 2011.
We were lucky enough to get to meet Executive Chef Ajay Chopra, and he explained Prego’s concept of ‘Fun Dining’ to us. Not fine dine….but fun dine, with the focus on enjoying your food as you eat. The entire menu for Restaurant Week is curated and revamped keeping in mind, European ingredients as the star.
Prego has a fun, colourful indoor space which is fairly spacious, so you’re not bumping elbows with the next table. The outdoor, al fresco seating would be perfect for a dinner date under the starry skies. I love the concept of an open kitchen, so you’re entertained while you eat, and Prego has just that! We spent our entire meal, gazing at the chefs flipping our pizza and tossing our salad. It was lovely of Sous Chef of Prego- Shrikant Parashar to take us around the kitchen and show us the sections for pizza, pasta, cold meats and my favourite: the gelato corner. Prego is famous for their in-house Italian gelatos.
The Taste of Europe menu at Prego is a four course elaborate spread with a number of options to pick from for Rs. 2500/- plus tax. The task of choosing from the menu was so daunting, we asked Chef Shrikant to surprise us with his favorites from the menu, and boy, were we pleasantly surprised!
Our first course was a light Insalata Rucola e Feta, or a rucola leaves salad with feta cheese and balsamic. I’m not a salad person (or a soup person) but this salad I really enjoyed. The rucola leaves were uniformly doused in balsamic and interspersed with feta. I loved the candied walnuts and pine nuts that added crunch and texture to the salad, and the ocassional orange providing a citrus burst. Such a summery, fresh salad!
Next up was the Zuppa del Doge, or a Venetian-style tomato seafood broth served with country bread. It may have been one of the best soups I’ve ever tasted. Even before I dug in, I could smell the aroma of the seafood from a distance. The soup is a hearty tomato broth bursting with flavours from under the sea. We were made to eat the soup without a spoon, using the flat bread as a scoop to dish out the broth and the seafood. It was a different experience altogether, dipping the bread in the soup and fishing out either a prawn, or squid, or mussel or olives. Look ma, no spoon!
Next up was a Passion Fruit sorbet that acted as a palate cleanser. Loved the passion fruit flavor bursting through, but it got too sweet after three bites. A glass of wine in one hand, sorbet in the other, and the promise of good food coming up. Aah, this is the life!
The Pizza Nello stile del Lazio was a thin crust pizza topped with bacon, pecorino cheese and liaison which in this case was an egg base. Firstly, I loved the thin base. It was neither too crispy like a papad nor too soggy like a roti. The pizza had all the ingredients of a traditional Carbonara pasta: egg, Pecorino cheese, black pepper and bacon. It was an interesting twist to a classic. I only wished for more bacon, being the meat lover that I am.
The Fussilli Bolognese was your conventional bolognese sauce and al dente pasta. Points to them for cooking the pasta al dente, and not as an overcooked, soggy mush that the Indian palate is used to.
The meal ended on a sweet note with a trio of Italian desserts. The classic Tiramisu was indeed a ‘pick me up’ (that is what it means in Italian). It was creamy, airy and I loved the bitter espresso syrup nestled in the bottom. The coffee Panna Cotta was comparatively average. The Giandouiotti or the hazelnut mousse with chocolate glaze was my favorite dessert, purely because I’m so partial to hazelnuts. I loved the hazelnut coated chocolate bits on top.
Prego is Italian for ‘you’re welcome’, and we left feeling welcome, indeed, with such good, hearty food and hospitality. Tastes of Europe is a lovely initiative, allowing us to sample European food, and I’m sure it will put Mumbai on the world cuisine map. The afternoon was like a mini trip to Italy. Grazie!