Can Modern Italian Michelin-starred fare be paired successfully with single malts? I indulge in pure excess to find out…

Last night, I was at an epic dinner created by All Things Nice, the brainchild of sommelier Nikhil Agarwal. The evening brought together Chef Beppe De Vito, whose restaurant Braci in Singapore has a coveted Michelin star for its modern Italian cuisine, with Glenfiddich and The Balvenie single malts for an experience curated to wow Mumbai connoisseurs.

Beautiful table settings at Mahi at JW Marriott Juhu

The stage is set
Mahi at the JW Marriot Juhu was dressed up for the occasion. Monochromes that were by no means muted, exquisite glassware and fresh flowers made up a white centrepiece at every table, which was set with neatly folded napkins and a flight of five golden single malts that gleamed glamorously.

Three to tango: A mozzarella gnudo, a sunchoke pesto with aged balsamic, and a potato skin filled with mousseline

The opening act
The trio on the amuse bouche platter delighted in different ways. A gorgeously slippery mozzarella gnudo with tomato, basil and sumac was served in a soup spoon. It had the freshness of a summer Caprese salad, with the tangy sumac adding a touch of the exotic. The next one was a study in contrasting textures, and it was lovely to sink my teeth into the potato skin filled with the silken truffle mousseline. The third amuse bouche was a tiny cupful of pesto made with Jerusalem artichoke and pumpkin seed, a parmesan foam and a heady 25-year-old Balsamic that foretold of great things to come. It was quite cleverly paired with the radical Glenfiddich IPA Experiment that’s finished in craft IPA barrels and tastes fruity and zingy at the same time.

Seasons in the sun: A bright dish of fresh vegetables, warm-hearted white miso cream and fennel pollen
A lighter shade of pale: Delicious white asparagus with a beautiful burrata, piquant pesto and roasted hazelnuts

The dramatis personae
The first course took my breath away with its plating. The beautifully laid out Spring Garden had artistic dabs of white miso bagna cauda and a fennel pollen along with a number of vegetables performing at the best level of their crunch and flavour. Chef De Vito explained to me later, “Bagna cauda is similar to a fondue, served with various vegetables. I used white miso to represent the creaminess of the garlic and anchovies in this vegetarian version and fresh, spring vegetables to highlight the seasonality of the dish.” Paired with the equally fresh Glenfiddich 12 YO that is fruity at first and transitions into sweeter, heavier flavours, this course was the perfect start. The white asparagus plate that was placed in front of me next was exciting too, as it’s rare to find such chunky yet oh-so juicy specimens of this rare, seasonal treat even in our best luxury goods stores. Served with a delicate burrata that melted in moments on the tongue, a unique pickled pesto and toasty hazelnuts, it was one of the highlights of the meal for me in its sophisticated simplicity. It paired very well with The Balvenie Doublewood 12 YO, with its own nutty aromas and hints of cinnamon. As Agarwal admits, it’s his “happy drink” and I was happy it was served with this course.

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Squisito! Tortelli filled with lobster and served with pumpkin puree and fermented truffle
Holy smokes! Eggplant on a bed of pistachio and artichoke puree, with balsamic and a smoked egg yolk

Next came a creation I was waiting for, having heard paeans to it from friends who had attended the masterclass with Chef De Vito the day before. The luscious lobster tortelli was served on a bed of pureed pumpkin and flavoured with fermented truffle. The vegetarians had chard instead of lobster inside the silken pasta. With every one of the 88 plates in the room licked clean, it was obvious this was a very well received dish that was savoured by all with the equally sweet and silky Glenfiddich 15 YO!

Yolk tale: Duck on a bed of pistachio and artichoke puree, with marsala jus and a smoked egg yolk

After such delight, it was understandably hard for the next course to live up to rising expectations. The duck that floated in on a pistachio and artichoke puree in a lake of marsala jus could have done with more flavour, even though the smoked yolk that accompanied it on the plate was perfectly done. I chose the vegetarian option – eggplant instead of duck and balsamic instead of the jus. This too could have done with a bit more smoking to bring out the natural sweetness of eggplant like we in India do with our baingan bharta. The smooth Glenfiddich 18 YO came to the rescue with its warm exuberance of candied peel and oak.

Just dessert: Capri, chocolate, caramel, coffee and bayleaf gelato

The dessert was rather disappointing too. The fashionable mess of Capri, chocolate, caramel, coffee and bayleaf gelato didn’t quite come together cohesively and some elements could have been fresher. The golden caramel was divine though, and I really enjoyed it with the fruitiness of the Glenfiddich Project XX that also had vanilla and liquorice notes.

Petit force! Burnt apple tartlets and fig and vincotto pralines

The grand finale
From the petit fours that arrived on the table at the end of the meal, I particularly liked the fig & vincotto pralines that mixed the sticky fruit with the sticky cooked wine I’d first tasted in a dessert in Venice. Bringing a subtle touch of the traditional into his modern Italian was a smart move by Chef De Vito and evidence of his artistry.

Where: JW Marriott Mumbai Juhu
Juhu Tara Road, Mumbai – 400049
Phone: 022 6693 3000

Note: The writer was invited by the restaurant but all the opinions expressed herewith are her own

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