|Fire and Ice Middleton Row|
While cooking a beautiful dish with goat cheese and zucchini in it, Mario Batali noted that Italian food was not supposed to be perfect or correct or complicated – It was supposed to be a mix of simple flavors, not always in proportion, “…because it’s that whimsical caprice that makes things delicious in the Italian world, because we’re not so obsessed about it being too smooth or too small, but it’s just a little bit more… I guess you can call it rustic. It’s not lazy, though. Cause there’s a big difference between lazy and rustic.”
|The slightly disturbing picture facing me and M. We both found it very disconcerting for some reason.|
Before choosing our destiny, the Chef at Large Blogger’s Table group in Kolkata was pretty much confused about the location. We were originally supposed to go somewhere else, then we changed destination, but then there were further confusion, and in the end, hours before the meet up, we decided on Fire and Ice.
I have reviewed this particular restaurant before, and I daresay, I have a love-hate relationship with it. The last time I came here, it was a rainy afternoon, and my friend and I were busy downing hot coffees and adding some much-needed carbohydrates in our systems. As we were a large group this time, we decided to try a number of courses to see what we liked.
I must be honest here: most of the menu is familiar to me, and there is a reason I rarely venture out of my comfort zone at Fire and Ice – I personally believe that most of the menu has been modified according to the taste buds of the patrons, and authenticity is not the key to eating here. Rather, its more about “what people like after eating here for years”, which is one of the little bones of contention I have.
However, I still maintain the truth that it is one of the better Italian joints of Kolkata.
As I entered the restaurant on a rainy afternoon which happened to be my birthday as well (so naturally I was in a very cheerful mood), I already found K, M and S waiting for the rest to arrive, giggling over the menu card which provided many amusing tongue twisters (say it, “Spiedini Alla Griglia… and fast!”). Naturally, with wide grins, we did select the said dish, and we ordered the Farcita, which is not on the menu, but known to regulars who frequent the place.
Technically, the Vegetarian Farcita (400/-) plays on the concept of hot and cold – Hot, crunchy, slightly dense bread enfolding a cold slice of fresh mozzarella and tomato; and it is imperative you eat this simple dish as soon as it hits the table, preferably after dousing it in a liberal coat of the seasoned olive oil (olive oil with dry red chillies in it) which sits on the center of the table. There is a non-vegetarian version as well, where cold chunks of ham replaces the tomato, but personally I believe that the tomato adds that acidic note that cuts through the creaminess of the mozzarella, and gives this dish a balance. Unfortunately, by the time the bloggers finished clicking photos and attacked the dish, the dish which literally means stuffed in Italian was pretty much cold, and the essential crispness of the bread was lost… ah well, maybe next time I would have better luck with it.
The Spiedinin Alla Griglia (495/-) was two skewers of chicken, cooked over a grill with bits of onions and tomatoes and peppers. The chicken was perfectly grilled – moist, flavored lightly with pepper and something slightly creamy… I guess it might be a light coating of cheese. It was served with a cheesy green dip which attracted the attention of most people on the table who went back for a second taste and then a third.
At this point, our third starter arrived, which was ordered by SG who came in late due to the traffic, Rondelle di Patate Fritte (295/-), hand cut chips of potato, fried till crisp and golden, with a bowl of tangy tomato sauce and a bowl of basil pesto (however, the pine nuts were missing from this particular pesto). Members of the table were disappointed because they felt that paying so much for what was essentially potato chips with dip was perhaps a mistake, however, mouths and hands kept on creeping back to the plate, and soon there were a few stray chips remaining.
|Group Photo while waiting for the main course.|
Clearly, we were hungry and raring to go towards the direction of the main course.
|Another one, because V was not there in the last one.|
The group selected a pizza and two other main courses. The pizza was done half-and-half, as M suggested, and while one half was Pepperoni, as per SG who wanted that (525/-), the other part was Fire and Ice (400/-).
|Half and Half – pepperoni on one half and fire and ice on the other.|
Thin crust wood fire pizza for me has always been all about the crust. I love the slight burn from the charcoal grill, the thin shavings of meat highlighting the crispness of the crust. The pepperoni pizza was exactly what I wanted – thin slices of pepperoni on a thin, but not paper thin crust, with a bite to it which puts the dough in a class of its own. It was perfectly seasoned, and the warm pepperoni was drizzled with a bit of olive oil. The Fire and Ice pizza on the other hand was the table favorite – with its creamy potato-covered goodness making it toothsome and different from the pepperoni half. I would have preferred that topping over something more substantial than a thin crust, as I found that the potatoes sort of took away from the crust of the pizza. I would have liked this over a thicker crust, a normal hand-tossed one, or even as a filling for a Calzone. Hmm, time to recreate this dish in the house, pronto.
|Penne Bolognese on my plate|
Besides the pizza, we chose two other main courses. The Penne Bolognese (435/-) came to the table quite fast, and we shared it quickly, thanks to M’s nimble fingers working at the distribution around the table. The pasta was perfectly cooked, if a little under-salted while cooking, with a meat ragù sauce which needed more tomatoes to balance out the gaminess of the lamb, which some of the table members were not too keen on. I belatedly saw the bowl of parmesan sitting unhappily at one corner, which could have helped balance out the flavors far better for them, masking the smell and taste of the meat with the added hit of salt.
|Lasagna Tradizionale – this was the best I could do, folks.|
As we all had space for dessert, the group selected the Apple Pie, going with S, and the chocolate mousse, after the group did an inspection of the dessert section thoroughly and did not like the way the Tiramisu looked, and ditched the Sacher Torte once they knew it had walnuts in it. The chocolate mousse was dark, rich, and quite nice, but I have to say, they have lowered the bitterness quotient considerably, and it was not as silky as I remembered from the last time. Even a bit of the vanilla ice cream, stolen from the apple pie segment, did not help it.
|Apple Pie with Ice Cream|
Overall, this experience for me was all right – some hits, some misses, and I would now look forward to the next blogger’s table with Chef at Large, when we can explore other places with the group.
Check out other members writing about the event:
Amrita G and Vishal T
Fire and Ice