The Courtyard by Marriott Chennai seems to be undergoing a lot of changes this season. New menus, new appointments and new events across the board have set the city’s foodies buzzing.

Recently, the hotel launched a new menu at their all-day diner Paprika. The authentic Italian restaurant, Rhapsody, turns out to be next in line. One of the most popular Italian restaurants in town, famous for its delicious Tiramisu, Rhapsody’s culinary makeover was tempting enough for us to want to try out, even before it was launched for the public.

The staff at Rhapsody have taken the ‘menu revamp’ quite literally and thrown the old, elaborate menu out the door. The new menu is a digital one, handed to me at the table as I sit down and order a drink. Featuring their new in-house app, the tablet shows me the Appetisers, Mains, Desserts and more, that are part of the new menu. A nice touch to the tablet experience is the “Know Your Chef” category. As you scroll through the starters, soups and main courses, crusty focaccia and white bread with lashings of pesto are discreetly placed on the table. The menu is extensive, with some old favourites retained. As always, the wine and beverage list carries a good selection too, to accompany the dishes. Whites, reds, cocktails or special requests, they are all brought swiftly to the table.

Settling in

The meal begins with an antipasti platter. Four sampling dishes make me think I might not have enough room for the rest of the meal, but each individual component is delightfully light. Crunchy pear, peppery arugula and earthy pine nuts come together with a tangy dressing, while marinated mushrooms spilled playfully over buttery, grilled bread. Sweet, sautéed cherry tomatoes with fresh buffalo mozzarella and balsamic dressing were a lovely addition but the bruschetta with scamorza cheese could have been given a miss. If you love seafood, try the scallops with tomato and caper salsa. For true-blue Italian, try the mozzarella wrapped with parma ham.

Next, a smooth, fragrant broccoli soup with roasted garlic is served in cute cappuccino cups. Not the regular serving dish, I am told, but they should think about retaining the concept as it looked quite pretty and contained just the right quantity of soup. The aroma of roasted garlic wafts up immediately and the soup is delightfully creamy. A seafood and fennel soup, and chicken and porcini soup are some alternates to scoop up.

Going forward

If a five-course dinner is what you are looking for, Rhapsody has enough and more to choose from. The usual selection of pizzas – Quattro formaggi, funghi, margarita al pesto and parma ham with spinach – is on the menu. But their pastas and risottos are a must try. The lobster raviolini with dill butter was subtle in flavour. The taste of warm butter came through more than the dill, but the freshness of the lobster meat was not lost. The cannelloni bean ravioli with mint and asparagus was fresh, mostly due to the mint. The crunchy asparagus contrasted nicely with the smooth cannelloni bean filling. Risottos of all kinds – prawn and saffron, truffle-scented mushroom, chicken and basil – are spotted on the menu. Keeping the ingredients to a minimum, they dishes turned out to be true to the Italian style of cooking.

For the main course, pan-fried, breadcrumb crusted lamb with saffron flavoured risotto and red wine jus is served. While the lamb is juicy and well-done, the dish seems to lean more towards Indian tastes than the others served so far. The risotto is perfectly cooked and well-flavoured, but there’s just something that makes me think this recipe has been tweaked for the Indian palate. If you prefer other meats, there is rib-eye steak, cinnamon and honey basted duck breast, salmon, scampi, pork chops and more. You name it, they have it. Also present are polenta, potato gnocchi and aubergine parmigiana - all Italian staples. The portions in this section are fairly large as well.

Dessert, if you have room for it (I barely did), came in the form of a pretty-looking cassata. Forget the scanty slices you were allowed to eat as a child. This dessert, originally from Sicily, was regal and well-layered, topped with nuts. The bottom layer was soaked in orange juice, giving a large hit of tangy orange flavour to the dish. Not being one of my favourite flavours in desserts, especially when paired with chocolate, I would have preferred the famous Rhapsody Tiramisu. Unfortunately, they were sold out for the day!

The new menu at Rhapsody has taken all that is well-known in Italian cuisine and fit it into multiple sections. The dishes are flavourful and well-presented but the ambience was a bit of a muddle due to the loud music playing from the lounge section. But if you crave light salads and rich mains, Rhapsody is definitely worth a try.

What: Introduction of a new menu

Where: Rhapsody, Courtyard by Marriott, Chennai

How much: Rs 2,000 approximately for a meal for two, excluding alcohol

archana.achal@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on August 7, 2012)
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