There is an amazing assortment of mushrooms and delicacies like aged balsamic vinegar and truffle oil on display that Executive Chef Bela Rieck (here with me) and his team have pulled together.
While growing up in the 70s and 80s in southern California, imported international vegetables weren’t as popular with working moms like my fabulous Mommy as canned vegetables. They were also less expensive so button mushrooms were about the most exotic toadstools to pass across our dinner table – and to be quite honest, as a kid I wasn’t a fan. But my Mom would slice them into spaghetti sauce and other dishes so there really was no escaping them and gradually I grew to like them. Then in the 90s the Portobello was all the rage in L.A. and other trendy cities and ignorant little me thought, “wow, cool…there’s more than one kind of mushroom!” Well, I had also heard about Magic Mushrooms but Mom didn’t serve those and to this day I’ve still never tried one!
So imagine my surprise when I moved to Barcelona and hit the local fruit and veg shop for the first time and saw with my own eyes that were so many varieties of mushrooms and fungi that my head started to spin. I ignorantly had no idea that so many unique mushrooms existed and still to this day I have not tried them all. Some are picked and then dehydrated and sold from glass jars, while most are sold freshly picked and still have that lovely and unmistakably fragrant bit of earth still attached to them. At times it seems like mushrooms make just about anything taste better.
In Bangalore I’ve seen a few types of mushrooms here and there but never out in mass. Well, it turns out that the team at Bene, the gorgeous restaurant sat high upon the rooftop of the Sheraton, is coo coo for shrooms and they have created a special menu just for them until August 24th that includes six varieties of mushrooms and something a bit special to go along with it.
Executive Chef Bela Rieck is German and has now been with the Sheraton here in Bangalore for four months. He and his team have pulled together a menu that – hand on my heart – seemed designed out of a dream. Not only have they selected the best base of gourmet ingredients and products like gorgonzola, foie gras, scallops, lobster, truffle oil, duck, lamb, aged balsamico, imported beef and more … but they have decided to let us – the guest – play chef with our meal.
Bela sat down at our table for a minute and it was a pleasure to meet him. According to Bela, “This mushroom feast is something new and for us it is important to entertain the guest as well as delight them with the food. Each guest is a part of the conversation. They are able to first see and smell each mushroom and then select their favourite for their dishes. In this way, the guest is amused and there is synergy and collaboration with the kitchen.”
The menu for this special “Fiesta” is burnt onto a wooden board, with all of the various starters, pastas and mains elaborately described but missing one essential element. The TYPE of mushroom has been omitted! There are six types of mushrooms to choose from and it was amazing fun to hand select the mushrooms that I wanted from their fresh tray and then send Bela and his team off to whip up my masterpiece! Yeah yeah, okay, it wasn’t really my masterpiece but I did have a great time being a part of my meal in this way – like an interactive video game where everyone comes out a winner!
I was starving because I hadn’t eaten lunch, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise because two of my favourite things in the world to eat are scallops and foie gras so I actually ordered two starters like a little piggy. The pan-seared scallops were prepared with Chanterelles and both were tender and wonderful, enhancing the flavour of the scallop and not appearing to masque it in any way with a sauce.
Then came the foie gras served with a red wine apple mash! I have to say that the foie was the best I’ve eaten since arriving in Bangalore! The consistency was as it should be, silky and buttery smooth and decadent in every way. We paired it with Morels in a balsamic infused demi-glace and it was simply decadent.
For my main I ordered the beef tenderloin partly because it’s difficult to eat beef in India given that most restaurants won’t serve it or pork (so it is a rare treat) but mostly because after a long day and no lunch honestly I just felt like having a big juicy steak! It was amazing. The beef was cooked to perfection, tender and absolutely delicious in flavour. It was accompanied with seared foie and showcased with an assortment of every single mushroom on the menu for an explosion of flavours.
My friend who I was dining with had ordered the lobster ravioli and I tried a bite of that and it was incredible! The way they serve it is quite special, in what they call open ravioli, which I had never actually seen before but it is a super idea. Instead of cooking the ingredients and encasing them inside the traditionally sealed ravioli for another round of cooking, they prepare the ingredients for the filling, then simultaneously cook long rectangle shaped pasta and when the guest is ready they merge the two in a loosely wrapped ravioli and thus ensure that the delicate lobster is never overcooked. It was served with a light cream sauce and Bela confessed that this is his favourite dish on the menu.
Bene (which means great or good in Italian) is a stunning restaurant, perfect for a romantic night out or time with friends or family like we were doing.
They offer this menu at both lunch and dinner so if I can get back to Bene at the Sheraton Bangalore at Brigade Gateway again for the foie before the Mushroom Feast ends on the 24th of August I will be a happy camper!!
(reviewer Angela Carson)