Nashik is the sought-after destination for wines in India, with barely any emphasis on its food, unfortunately. So, when I heard about The Tuscan Room, a new Italian-themed restaurant at the Radisson Blu Hotel and Spa, Nashik (one of my favourite getaways around Mumbai) I got as excited as the locals did. Now folks in and around the wine capital of India don't need to fly to Italy to sample classic Italian delicacies as chefs at the newly opened restaurant have promised to treat the palates of their guests with an unconventional culinary experience in the city that’s known as a spiritual hub otherwise.
Before I started tasting small portions from their carefully crafted menu, I had the chance to chat with executive chef Ashley Nunes at the restaurant. The chef explained the concepts of the menu and the need to come up with a restaurant nobody thought they needed. Nunes explains, “Trends in food eating habits are evolving rapidly. People are well travelled and have global exposure. They are seeking locally sourced ingredients, fusion of flavours and farm-to-fork concepts. Adaptation of new flavours and tastes have motivated us to introduce our culinary experiences at Radisson Blu Hotel and Spa Nashik. Be it the Asian woks, robatayaki grills, beech oven pizzas or an exotic dessert bar, our offerings are designed as an amalgamation of local flavours and global recipes.”
The Tuscan Royale is an opulent and tastefully decorated restaurant that features wine cellars stacked with wines from Tuscany in Italy such as Antinori, Masseto and Tenuta San Guido.
The menu is inspired by Italy’s age-old traditions and culinary culture offering an experiential Italian cantina with modern Italian delicacies crafted with the finest produce sourced from Tuscany and involves dishes cooked in beech oven which are like the process of dum cooked recipes of India. “Not many people know about this but in the Tuscan region they usually have those tomato based gravies and it's like a parda kind of a thing that's put on the dish and cooked in the oven. So in dum cooked recipes you put coal, but in a beech oven you put in the entire dish inside, cook it and take it out. That's how we relate it to the dum cooked process, also it suits the Indian palate the best. That's why a pink or a red pasta sauce in India do well compared to a white or a mac n cheese. It's just more about what makes the palate more flavourful and what Indians prefer and looking at that we got a beech oven," explains the chef.
What to eat, what to skip
To start with, I sampled their Topinambur soup made with Jerusalem artichoke puree and truffle oil which was rustic and comforting. Chef Nunes explains, “We make use of Jerusalem artichokes, also called as sunchoke, grown in selected areas in India.” Next up was their Burattina salad made with locally sourced ingredients and passion fruit glaze. For starters, there was the beautiful looking fritto misto de mare sale pepe—an assortment of deep-fried calamari, prawns and fish in semolina flour served with tartare, garlic oil and parsley.
The chef claims that their hand rolled pizzas are a hit among the guests, so I decided to sample a slice of their pizza that comes with toppings such as roasted chicken, mushrooms, sundried tomato and thyme oil—it tasted decent. When we ask the chef about what makes their pizzas different from the rest, Chef Nunes says, “The pizza dough is made with a culture of sourdough. The dough is fed over a period of time with flour, sugar and honey that helps make the pizzas soft and maintain its elasticity.”
You can skip their fusilli alla carbonara made with pancetta, egg yolk and pecorino cheese. Risotto gambari e asparagi with prawns, asparagus, pecorino, onion, white wine, panatura and olive oil also sort of missed the mark. However, the ravioli cacio e pepe, which was basically a homemade ravioli with black pepper sauce was acceptable.
Their slow-cooked Agnello brasato braised lamb shank in creamy polenta and gremolata gets a nod though. The quality of the lamb makes quite a difference and they had it on point. It was tender and succulent and perfectly cooked, and the creamy polenta was close to comforting. Now what you definitely can’t miss out on is their salted caramel and roasted almond gelatos which were a delightful whack of flavour. The perfect sweet endings to your meal.
Address: Radisson Blu Hotel & Spa, Nashik, CTS No 289, 2, Vikrikar Bhavan Rd, Pathardi Phata, Nashik, Maharashtra
Time: 12:30-3:30 PM and 7:30-10:30 PM
Meal for two: Rs 5,000 (including alcohol) plus taxes