Blurb: The best Italian restaurant in the NCR, to date.
Atmospherics: Shangri-La can be said to be a slow starter here in Delhi, but it’s fast gaining ground. Sorrento has a patio that feels like Italy, indoor seating that has nooks and corners, a wine cellar, and an open kitchen. Few restaurants outside Italy can afford not to serve pizzas, and Sorrento has several styles, each belonging to a different part of Campania, the home of the pizza. Sorrento comes across as an informal, casual space, but it has an Italian chef, Luigi Ferraro, from Calabria, the southern tip of Italy. It is backed a very strong team in the kitchen, headed by Chef Neeraj Tyagi, one of the most talented men-in-white in our city. And the salume slicer, the pizza oven and the pasta cooking station are state of the art. There even is a deli counter from where you can buy Italian cheese and meats (prosciutto, coppa and salami) by weight. The only thing that’s not available is ‘pasta in pink sauce’!
Table talk: The first dish I ordered was deconstructed Caesar salad (Rs 625) that literally made me swoon with the melange of tastes: buttercrunch lettuce, cut in half, vertically; parmesan ‘rocks’, anchovies, an egg cooked sous vide and bacon crackers. The sheer quality of the individual ingredients plus the way they combine on your palate, is extraordinary and unusual in this city of jugaad. Artisan pastas feature pasta made in-house: they’re the only kind that Sorrento offers. While fagottini (Rs 995) is pleasant enough for vegetarians, agnolotti (Rs 1495) has a depth of flavour that the Japanese would call umami – so rich and savoury is the sauce. My favourite primo piatto (first plate) had to be the risotto of the season (Rs 1195). Fresh porcini, chanterelles and button mushrooms in Acquerello rice (a family-owned artisanal production of the carnaroli variety of risotto rice). It proves, if proof were necessary, that the best dishes on an Italian menu can be completely vegetarian.
Plus and minus: Kudos must go to the owners of the hotel for supporting the food and beverage team in flying in fine ingredients from all over the globe without a murmur. I hope that it is a sign of things to come. But the printing mistakes on the menu are glaring.
Must try: potato gnocchi with tomato sauce; dough-baked chicken; black cod with lardo.
Food: 4.50; Service: 3.50; Décor: 3.50
Ground floor, Shangri-La’s Eros Hotel, 19 Ashoka Road,
Open from 12.30-3 pm and 7.30-midnight
Alcohol served; credit cards accepted
Meal for two: Rs 5,000