Did you know that there is not a single Michelin-starred restaurant in the Middle East? No, not even in Dubai. But for the next few days, we have the chance to go and eat the stellar food of Italian Chef Giancarlo Morelli. He's been brought in by the Grand Hyatt and is cooking his delicious, precise, and decidedly regional Michelin-starred food at Tuscany there for the next three nights.
Chef Giancarlo wears brightly-coloured glasses (he owns 130 pairs!), and has a dazzling smile and a track record for inventive food - I suppose you don't get that star without taking a few risks. Back in his restaurant Pomiroeu, in a peaceful courtyard just outside Milan, he creates dishes that take local traditional flavours and ingredients, always in season, and fashions them into technical, innovative dishes with the flare of new combinations. Take a look at some of the items on his a la carte menu there: 'Experiments with Carrots'. 'King Crab with Curry and Vanilla'. 'Rabbit with Pineapple chutney'!
Last night we spent a highly pleasant four hours or so with the five course set menu (and paired wines) that Chef Giancarlo has prepared especially for his visit to Muscat. Cue the menu porn.
Roasted Italian artichokes, fresh sardine, salted butter mousse and Norcia black truffle. The hit of the night for me, this was the delicate but powerful, and I wish it could have gone on forever. Those at the table who didn't like sardines, loved this. Truffle-haters swooned over its subtlety. Plates were sent back uniformly clean.
It would have taken a better food photographer than me with my increasingly tired phone to get a decent picture of the pasta course - beige is so hard to capture on camera. This one was really intriguing though, with a toasted bread cream and sesame seeds which were a happy if unorthodox addition. The lamb which starred in the main course was paired just as perfectly, just as surprisingly, with a smoother than smooth cardamom mousseline potato.
There were no hints on the menu of how superb the dessert was going to be. With unwarranted Italian humility, the tiramisu was introduced only as "our style". What came out was a show-stopper: absolute spot-on flavours, classically simple, but with a little bit of theatre too. Presented almost cake-style, looking a little dry in fact, we were given a few seconds to peer at this odd configuration.. Then, chefs started gliding from table to table with pots of hot fresh coffee, pouring it onto our individual plates and eliciting an "oooo" from every seasoned foodie in the place as the dessert sprung to life in front of our eyes.
Chef Giancarlo is at Tuscany until March 12th. For more information and to make bookings (do it! So worth it!), call the Grand Hyatt on 24641234 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.