A taste of the Tuscan Sun
Chef Mario Cittadini’s Tuscan upbringing is in his blood and in his food. It only takes a few bites of his cooking to get a sense of the backbone of his food, shaped by the longstanding traditions of Tuscan cuisine, devoid of overly complex seasonings. Guests and gourmands who stepped into the Mandarin Grill at the Mandarin Oriental, Kuala Lumpur in early January were taken on a culinary journey by Chef Cittadini, during which they sampled Italian dishes with his own signature twist.
A choice of three-, four-, and five-course menus for lunch and five- and seven-course menus for dinner gave Chef Cittadini ample opportunity to demonstrate his belief that ingredients and diners always come before the chef and culinary techniques. A sumptuous seven-course tasting menu, for instance, toyed with the contrast between rich and light flavours. The strong, salty taste of cured mackerel was lifted by salsa rubra and sweet eggplant, while Boston lobster poached delicately in its own juices stood out better with a dash of fermented plum vinegar.
Similarly, an unctuous terrine of foie gras and beef tongue paired well with the sharpness of beetroot slivers and a drop of cherry jus, just as a creamy risotto packed with langoustines came infused with the brightness of fresh lemon. Then came plump pillows of tortelli pasta, fit to burst with a Parmesan emulsion and black truffle caviar, and a slow-braised Australian beef cheek with mushrooms and black truffle.
It was only during dessert that Chef Cittadini allowed himself to play a little harder, giving an insight into his culinary pedigree as the former Chef de Cuisine and co-owner of the Michelin-starred Ristorante Il Postale in Perugia. A brilliant ‘Caviarsu’ – his take on tiramisu, served in a caviar tin with minuscule spheres of coffee jelly on top – made for a decadent eating experience and an utterly unforgettable pre-dessert, rounded off with a warm dark chocolate tart.