The Ottimo Odyssey (Prologue)

I have been interested in food right from my schooldays. From Sanjeev Kapoor’s iconic Khana Khazana and the 5-minute slots of “Ajker Ranna” on Doordarsdhan Bangla; to YouTube channels like Bong Eats and Bon Appetit and a multitude of amazing Netflix series like Cooked and Salt Fat Acid Heat, I have always gorged on food-related content.

Food however, was never something I wanted to pursue as a profession. I always wanted to keep it as that passion, a flame which, I believed, might get dimmer with time if it became my mainstream profession. Some may disagree, but it worked out for me.

 So here I am, an MBBS passout pursuing my degree in radiology, a discipline which I’ve fallen in love with. And hand in hand with that goes my love for food, that spark which, unthwarted by monetary interest or professional competition, remains as bright as those Doordarshan days.

There was another schoolfriend of mine though, who didn’t share my opinion and wanted to become a chef. What we shared though, was an immense love and passion for food. I remember enthusiastically discussing episodes of Masterchef with him; the undercooked chicken breast, the orgasmic ooze of the chocolate fondant, the unexpected elimination.

After school, he studied Hotel Management at IIHM Taratala and decided to pick his niche of food production as early as a year and a half into his course. He has been my go-to person for food related queries and long, meandering conversations on food. He slogged hard, and over the years I’ve seen him work his way up the rungs. Chef Apar Chatterjee is now the Sous Chef of Ottimo Cucina Italiana, the Italian restaurant of ITC Kohenur in Madhapur, Hyderabad, which was voted the Best European Restaurant in the Times Food and Nightlife Awards, 2019.

I’ve been itching to visit his restaurant ever since it had opened in mid-2018. Finally, after clearing my PG entrance exam and shifting to Rohtak, I decided to drop by, along with Nakshatra, another schoolfriend who shares an equal enthusiasm for food and possesses an exceptional palate.

We visited Hyderabad in November last year, bubbling with enthusiasm. I had heard a lot about all the produce he gets, from Parmigiano Reggiano and fresh buffalo mozzarella to porcini mushrooms and black truffle. So we had requested him for a tasting menu in an attempt to sample a little bit of everything; something which his restaurant doesn’t usually do, but he agreed nonetheless.

What followed was one of the most elaborate meals of my entire life. A huge array of dishes, in small portions, reached our table one after the other.  Ottimo means “ultimate” in Italian, and that meal really did the name justice.

So, I guess it is time to break tradition and post the first restaurant review on The Gourmet Glutton, which will be out in two parts, tomorrow and the day after. If you’re in Hyderabad and in the mood for a bit of indulgence, do not forget to drop by his restaurant. If you need further convincing, do not miss the next few articles. I bet those will change your mind.

Here’s wishing all the readers of The Gourmet Glutton a very happy and prosperous new year.


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