Serafina: An Italian Experience to Remember

I'm quite hopelessly addicted to Masterchef Australia. Since I'm at work during the usual time it's aired (which is 9 pm IST, give or take), I make it a point to stay up till the wee hours of the morning to catch the repeat telecast. If I happen to miss an episode I desperately try to hunt it down on Youtube. But what pains me at the same time about the programme is that I hardly get to cook with any of the bountiful ingredients the contestants are provided with. There are actually some that I haven't even tasted! Take for example fennel, radicchio, rhubarb, clementine, oysters, rabbits and the list is endless. In the last season there was this one particular team challenge where a certain team decided to put up Beef Carpaccio for appetizers. I made my own guess as to what it might taste like and my assumption was confirmed by Wikipedia which said, carpaccio is an Italian dish of raw meat or fish (such as beef, veal, venison, salmon or tuna), thinly sliced or pounded thin and served mainly as an appetizer. The first thing that struck me after reading it was, "Damn, I'll never get that in Calcutta." But guess what? I was so utterly wrong! Because the new North Italian restaurant in town, Serafina, is dishing that out and so many other mouthwatering delicacies that would actually take you on a high with gastronomic pleasure.
Serafina is the latest addition to the culinary boutique that is housed in the fifth floor of Quest Mall. It is a New York City-based enterprise and the Calcutta outlet is the 17th one overall and 3rd in India, after Mumbai and Bangalore. Truth be told, I was originally a bit on the fence about the concept of "American Italian" but the great things I've heard about their Tiramisu (to which I'll come later) made me quite eager to visit this place.
Picture courtesy: Serafina
A warm welcome and a refreshing glass of Kaffir Lime Margarita later I found on the table something I never expected to find in Calcutta. Oh yes, I am talking of the Beef Carpaccio. Fine slices of prime fillet mignon with boiled potatoes and black truffle sauce set the tone of the meal. The completely melt in the mouth meat totally had me drooling. The bar was set high and thankfully, the experience just got better!

The other starters included a fairly simple and hassle-free Tomato, Basil and Garlic Bruschetta (which was a tad salty for the normal palate), some lovely Crispy Fried Calamari with Marinara Sauce and an amazing Goat Cheese Salad with Apples, Walnuts and Beetroots. The salad came with thin layers of bread croutons topped with the gooey deliciousness of the goat cheese. Needless to say, all of us had second helpings of that!
And then came the star of the meal — something like which I had never had anything before. The Truffle Pizza (with rabiola cheese, fontina, truffle cheese, truffle oil and sliced black truffle) was the hands down winner for me. I have been itching to have a Six Cheese Pizza for quite a few weeks now but I think after this truffle extravaganza my "object of affection" is, and very duly at that, going to change.
The bar was set so high by now that the Leggera Pizza that came after that did disappoint a fair bit. With tomatoes, mozzarella and basil sandwiched between two thin slices of foccacia-like crust, it was a uniquely conceptualised pizza but fell a bit short of glory. Maybe because the tomatoes on the bruschetta were a bit salty and we had pointed that out, the ones in the pizza were a tad under seasoned. But we were still dwelling in truffle heaven and even though full to the brims, made way for the pastas and mains.

The pastas were yet another slice of heaven. The Ravioli Al Porcini (with porcini mushrooms) and Ravioli Gorgonzola E Paprika (with spinach and gorgonzola) were the best ever raviolis that I've tasted. Creamy, luscious, yet with the sharpness of the cheese, the raviolis were absolute show stoppers. These went a long way in proving that as long as you have good cheese, you don't need meat to complete a luxury dining experience!
 But meat there was, oh yes! Our exceptionally warm hosts at Serafina ensured that they fed us till the point we couldn't move. The pastas were followed by the New Zealand Baby Lamb Chops (marinated in rosemary and garlic and served on a bed of mash). I loved the chops, but doted on the mash! The Chicken Breast Paillard (served with tomatoes and arugula) was a one-of-a-kind dish where the breast was hammered to form a thin pizza-base like structure. It was fine, juicy and full of flavours. The Basa Al Pinot Grigio was a delicately flavoured steak of basa, melt in the mouth, and wrapped in potatoes and served on zucchini and leeks.

We had reached the peak of gastronomic ecstasy where there came in two more types of pasta and a risotto. The Risotto Primavera and Pasta Primevera were decent (However, I am a risotto snob and wouldn't personally recommend this particular one — go for something else guys, you'll be spoilt for choices here!) but what I really liked was their Spaghetti Aglio Olio Al Pacino —  simple dish, done perfectly. It's a pity I was full to the brims but that one strand of spaghetti that I tasted left me wanting for more (on some other day and preferably on an emptier stomach!)
It was now time for the cherry on the cake — Serafina's "best in town" Tiramisu and the Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta. The Tiramisu was good, very good, but I can't vouch for its word of mouth title because I've hardly had tiramisu anywhere else in Calcutta and out of the ones I've had in other cities and abroad, let me just say, I've had better. But this does not take away from the fact that the Tiramisu was brilliant in itself (despite not containing any trace of alcohol). The Panna Cotta was smooth and with a distinct flavour of vanilla bean and boasted of one of the best textures of panna cotta in my experience.
A happy and hearty meal (and a coke to wash it down) later we were ready to pack our bags, camera gear and make a move. But the inviting aroma of the truffle didn't leave us easily. I'd be going back there soon. And so should you. Yes, the pinch on your pocket will be more than usual, but trust me, you'll never be able to get over that Truffle Pizza or that Porcini Ravioli ever in your life!

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