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Risotto rising

The versatile risotto finds its way into rice balls, puddings and truffle at I.t-ALIA's special promotion



There are over 10 risottos on offer, all dishes with a bite. - Photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy

IT'S HARD to escape the fact that you're at an Italian restaurant when you settle down at I- t.ALIA. The name spells Italian, there's the opera music raging in the background and the menu all week is a risotto special.

But just in case you weren't paying attention, a pair of loud, gesticulating foreigners settle down at the table next you, declaring in pronounced Italian accents that they know I.t-ALIA's high-profile consultant Italian chef personally and would like their order tailor-made to their expectations. It will be done, of course.

It may be small and its dιcor might be crying out for some attention, but the chefs at I.t-ALIA know their food.

The Park hotel's risotto promotion continues its yearlong Italian celebration, highlighting one type of cuisine each month. Risotto is a versatile Italian short-grained rice, which, at I.t-ALIA, shrinks into balls with camembert, roasts with cocoa and blends with spinach, effortlessly. Good risotto is not glutinous and pasty but has body and bite.

There are over 10 risottos on offer, an equal number of vegetarian and non-vegetarian.

We began with one of the menu's high points: the camembert and mixed herb arancini with arabiatta sauce. Arancini are Sicilian rice balls and when you bite into the ones at I.t-ALIA, the camembert cheese immediately comes alive, taking over the dish.

The flavours in the arancini quickly split into two levels with the camembert cheese leaving its distinctive taste on the tongue and the lighter flavours of the risotto rising above to supplement it.

The arancini is light and fluffy, but since the risotto is so unobtrusive, this is a camembert dish all the way (no complaints, of course). The next dish we tried really was a risotto dish. Paired with spinach, goat cheese and leeks, this risotto is full-bodied and you could really feel the bite of the rice.

The flavouring winds its way into the dish, so that the risotto, greens and cheese all work in prefect harmony making it both a great choice at a risotto festival as well as an intelligent combination of ingredients.

The next (green) risotto combined asparagus, mint and rocket. Although tasty, the rice and the flavourings didn't work perfectly in tandem.

The rice was well cooked, an art the chefs at I.t-ALIA have mastered by now, but the subtle hints of rocket struggled to counter the full body of the slightly grainy risotto.

Truffle risotto

And then there were the desserts. When the menu promises chocolate truffle risotto, your curiosity would already have been niggling at you through the entire meal.

Many risottos later when the chocolate truffle dessert finally arrives, it does not disappoint. It's a warm dessert, which means the arresting smells of cocoa announces its arrival in a more meaningful way than any detached silver spoons placed at the side of your plate ever could.

The regal-looking vanilla risotto pudding with mixed berry coulis has deep rich berry sauce spilled across the transparent plate in a dessert that gathers grainy sauce, nuts and the risotto to work in a complex but successful harmony.

Any apprehensions about risotto in dessert should have been successfully wiped out by now, leaving you ready for some coffee and chocolate before you head home to nurse all that risotto with a well-deserved siesta.

The risottos are priced between Rs. 325 and Rs. 475 and The Park can be contacted on 25594666 for reservations.

* * *

Wallet factor: Expensive

Ambience: Unobtrusive

Service: Excellent

Specialty: Spinach, leeks and feta cheese risotto

HEMANGINI GUPTA

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