Pizza Hut is forever tops on our kids’ list for well, pizza, but for us it is more of a nostalgic experience, bringing to mind the craze for deep dish pies that swept us up when Pizza Hut initiated the Italian dining experience in India, all those years ago. It is safe to say that we are not wont to get hyper about an evening there anymore, but a Chef’s Table invite to the restaurant with the promise of a culinary jugalbandi between Head Chef Arjyo Banerjee and Luca Ciano, Executive Chef, Barilla Pasta had us traipsing across town.
As expected, the camaraderie between the chefs and the live cooking demos were the highlight of the event. The chefs generously shared tips and techniques on cooking pasta, pairing it with the right sauce, selecting olive oil, use of different herbs, plating, garnishing and more. Chef Luca talked about the different regions of Italy where the dishes and ingredients originate from and gamely added a dash of hot crushed peppers to his dressings and sauces, keeping in mind that he was cooking for Indian clientele.
The chefs cooked with gusto, all the while indulging in animated banter with each other and the audience. As that familiar, striking garlicky aroma wafted across the room, they brought their saucepans around and served everyone at their tables.
Of the drinks served, our picks were the candied lemon and a blushing-pink gingery concoction, both of which were refreshing after a seemingly unending drive to the venue. The Sipping Cheesecake drink that came with a caramel drizzle and whipped cream on the other hand, was way too thick and heavy to start a meal with. We’d recommend that you save this one to accompany your dessert.
There were no real surprises in the starters that made the rounds. The vegetarian platter had the typical Pizza Hut deep-fried trio of onion rings, potato wedges and vegetable croquettes. Everything was crisp, hot and crunchy, and came with a choice of sweet-chili and jalapeno cheese sauce to dip in.
The non-vegetarian starters were a jumble of flavours – Lamb Kibbeh with a tzatziki-style sauce, Jerk Chicken skewers and some crisp tortilla triangles topped with ground chicken and cheese, served with a tomato salsa. Though the servings were generous, none of these had us reaching for seconds. We were missing a pop of flavour, and there was a lack of the freshness that these dishes are usually associated with.
Though the event centered around pasta, the organisers had decided to serve two of Pizza Hut’s signature pies. The vegetarian pizza came with roasted peppers, a mound of fresh arugula, finished with shards of parmesan cheese. A pretty slice, with lots of texture, the sweetness of the peppers working nicely with the sharpness of arugula and parmesan. The chicken pizza was average, with sliced onions and torn basil strewn over it, and if pressed we’d definitely vote for the vegetarian pie.
The pasta demos started with a very Pizza Hut-style fusilli in a tomato-cream sauce, with lots of stir-fried vegetables by Chef Arjyo. This one is usually a crowd-pleaser, the richness of the sauce balanced with a little tang from blanched tomatoes and tomato paste.
Chef Luca’s vegetarian offering was really interesting – he made a rich caponata with eggplant and tossed it with penne cooked al dente. The skin of the eggplant was finely shredded and deep-fried to make a garnish for the dish, while the flesh went into the caponata. Healthy glugs of extra virgin olive oil and wine flavoured the sauce and a sprinkle of toasted pine nuts completed the dish. Delicioso!
The other pasta that was served included a minced chicken lasagna..the filling for this was a little soupy and the lasagna seemed to lack structure. The spaghetti salad on the other hand was outstanding. It had thinly sliced prawns that were marinated in a rich lemon juice-extra virgin olive oil dressing, and then cooked with the heat from the steaming pasta alone. Olives and capers for bite, a pile of crisped-up breadcrumbs on top, oregano, basil, garlic and a whole lot of other delicious ingredients that we’re probably forgetting to list down, but the lip-smacking taste was a revelation. This, clearly was the dish of the day!
We finished the meal with a dessert of soft chocolate cake doused with warm chocolate sauce. On the whole the experience was lively, interesting and beyond our expectations. A special mention for the service, which, as always at Pizza Hut, was fantastic and we really appreciated it. We’d be sure to head to Pizza Hut again for a family meal with our kids. While the food may not be authentic Italian, as Chef Arjyo says, it does cater to Indian tastes, by spicing-up the sauces, cooking the pasta to a softer state and serving the popular favourites.