An evening with Mauro Maccioni at Circo - InterContinental Hotel, Abu Dhabi
But tonight is also about food of course, and Mauro tells me the dishes will be a celebration of the type of food Circo is famous for.
|Mr Mauro Maccioni|
The 5-course dinner starts off with an amuse bouche I have had the pleasure of having before, or a slight variation anyway - the Crudo di Tonno Marinato agi agrum, a salt sured red tuna crudo with a selection of citrus and vegetables. On a previous visit, I referred to it as a dish that celebrated the onset of Summer. Tonight it allows me to experience that same Summer, but this time on the beach. How many glorious summers have you not had at a beach? This is what this dish evokes in me. Pebbles of different colours and a clam shell are held in glass shaped bowl, with a martini glass top without the stem placed at the mouth, on top. So, when you look at the dish which captures early Summer, you see and feel the beach.
Red grapefruit explodes in the mouth to release all that natural goodness. moisture and flavour. Sweetness from the orange is countered by radish and fennel, while avocado offers neutral ground for the stronger flavours in the dish. It is the texture, though, that thrills me about the avocado.
I think the diverse flavours come together perfectly while the tuna remains so pure, untouched, natural. Finally, it is accompanied by a 2014 Attems Pinot Grigio that is fresh and mildly fruity and manages to keep Summer alive, Summer at the sea.
We start dinner proper with an antipasto of beef tartar, the Tartare di Manzo 1824 a tartufo. A self-confessed fan of beef tartar, the Australian 1824 offers a good balance between taste and affordability. I am immediately attracted by the shaved Winter truffles. Who does not love these wonderful additions to a dish?
It is an original interpretation on a classic dish, with blue cheese bringing an olfactory sensation that is obviously so distinctive. Then, there is also a Sicilian tapenade that makes this quite an intense dish, but caramelised walnuts balance it quite well. This is a hearty sized starter, even more so because it sits on a base of focaccia. There is one element missing from an otherwise good dish, however, and that is a bit of moisture. I end up missing a quail's egg which would also have held the ingredients together, literally.
However, the following course is just perfection - the Risotto al nero di Seppia or Ink squid risotto. You will always be challenged to make ink squid risotto an attractive looking dish, but Chef Matteo achieves that. But the success of this dish transcends the visual. The risotto is fluid, creamy but not sticky. Importantly, it is cooked al dente! The latter is such an obvious aspect of a risotto or pasta and yet so many get it wrong.
I talk about balance quite often, and if there is a dish where it is essential, it is this - the red mullet and clams furnish it accordingly with that balance, for the red mullet is very natural in flavour, up against the seafood-saltiness of the risotto. The red mullet gratin is imbued with beautiful texture, and its crunch together with the sauciness of the risotto make for a terrific combination. I feel I need to mention the clams again because apart from balance, they take me back to the beach in a visual, tangible way as I look at the opened shell on my plate. Kudos to Chef.
The switch to the red brings the 2014 Masseria Altemura Sasseo Salento Primitivo. This dark ruby red wine is a beauty. It is medium to full and goes down real smooth.
While we wait for the fourth course, I walk over to the kitchen and watch the chefs in action. My attention focuses on Chefs Danny and Matteo. There is a synergy as I watch them from a plate the dishes. There are no egos here. It is all about the food.