From being a place with great interiors and not so great food, Cibo has suddenly become a place with great food. They’ve just hired fresh blood in the kitchen, and the youthful chef, an Indian with international experience, is clearly set to break boundaries. In the last couple of weeks, Cibo has metamorphosed from an overtly Italian place to one that serves trendy modern European. As yet, the menu is undergoing change, so there’s the old menu, a new menu that keeps changing periodically, Cibo Specials by the chef and a new lunch menu.
Lunch and dinner have their own menus. However, evenings are when Cibo really come to life, whether you sit out in the (hideously uncomfortable) chairs in the courtyard or inside the restaurant. The dinner menu is the showcase of the chef’s talents.
Nothing symbolizes the chef’s philosophy better than Beetroot and Goat Cheese Salad with Arugula, Asparagus and Balsamic Dressing (Rs 300). One day the dish was served the way it was described on the menu. On my next visit, gone was the asparagus. Instead, there were fresh figs which enlivened the stylish salad. Cibo is the closest you’ll get to a chef-driven restaurant in Tuscany, where the day’s markets determine the menu. No cookie-cutter sameness here. However, each element in the salad goes wonderfully well with the others: the sweetness of the beetroot offsets the sharpness of the goat cheese; the creaminess of the fresh figs contrasts with the astringency of the rucola leaves (that seems to be the chef’s favourite ingredient, so omnipresent is it in the menu).
Twice Baked Cheese Souffle with Sambuca Marinated Melon (Rs 300) is one of the most tasty things on the menu: the soufflé itself is mild but the cheese sauce that surrounds it is sharper with Parmesan. The musk melon wedges has just a faint hint of Sambuca: in the hands of a lesser mortal, the liqueur would have overpowered the entire dish. My companion ordered the same dish, but her accompaniment turned out to be prunes poached in red wine and star anise, just because the chef couldn’t bear two identical plates going out on the same table!
His boundless enthusiasm is infectious. At the next table, a bunch of conservative diners were first shocked then delighted with melon infused with mirin and wasabi. My own Duck Leg Confit (Rs 750) was served not with Fennel Grapefruit Salad, Red Wine and Cherry Sauce as indicated on the menu, but with Maraschino Cherries and Avocado, an inspired combination.
Cibo does indeed have to buck up in a number of areas: in the day-time, the outdoor furniture looks tacky. The pizza kitchen in the verandah is in need of a makeover. Indeed, the pizzas have a long way to go to reach the heights of excellence that Cilantro at The Trident, Gurgaon has managed. And the desserts are not of the quality of the main menu: there’s some catching up to do here as well.
However, the idea of a casual lunch menu is a good one. The Non-Vegetarian Burger (Rs 325) consists of a lamb patty with foie gras, a fried egg, Gruyere cheese and salad vegetables in a whole wheat bun. It’s a complete meal, and like everything else at Cibo, it’s not even expensive.
Ratings: Food: 3.50, Service: 3.25, Décor: 3.75
Hotel Janpath, Janpath
Tel: 43029291, 23340070
Open from 12 noon to12 midnight
Meal for two: Rs 3,000
Credit cards accepted, alcohol served