It is an art to keep your diners engrossed in the food and ambience. Italian restaurant Va Bene at Hotel Clarion Collection, which recently hosted a Mexican food festival, knows it perfectly well
By: Soumya Jain
Posted on: May 10, 2010
The only thing that stopped me from riding on a horse and screaming “Hola” inside Va Bene were the refined people having their lunch calmly. The servers dressed in cowboy-styled hats and sarape (large blanket cape), the lively Mariachi Mexican tune playing inside and the warm sunlight filtering from large window-doors instantly transport you to a joyful Mexican festival.
Mexican food combines the culinary traditions and native foods of the ancient Aztec culture with the ingredients and cooking methods that the Spaniards introduced 400 years ago. A common ingredient used in Mexican food is corn. Corn flour is sometimes used to prepare tortillas and tacos. Another typical Mexican ingredient is the chili. Perhaps, the most interesting part of Mexican cuisine is the desserts. The Mexican fare at Va Bene promised all these alluring ingredients and tastes.
We chose Nachos from the apperitivos (appetizers) section. Probably, the most famous dish from Mexican cuisine, nachos are baked corn tortillas. We were served Nachos with a topping of mashed beans, avocado, cheese and salsa which lent a tangy taste to our palate. They crunched and the cheese dissolved quickly into our mouth. Other apperitivos included Mexican Vegetable Soup, Chicken Avocado Soup, and Papaya, Avocado and Red Pepper Salad.
From the plato principales (main course), we ordered Quesedilla and Pubela Chicken Tacos. Quesedilla included flour tortillas (larger than the size of nachos) pan-grilled and stuffed with cheese, avocado, beans, jalapeno and salsa. The stuffed tortilla wasn’t spicy in itself, but the salsa dip which accompanied it, was slightly hot and added considerable flavour to the tortillas. My companion’s Pubela Chicken Tacos included chicken cooked in the Mexican style, stuffed in tacos with guacamole and cheese and served with a similar salsa dip.
So, thus set, we dug our hands into our plates (literally, since Mexican food is difficult to have with a fork and knife). The ambience, being a little lively, is great to have some animated conversation. The beverage menu gave a wide variety of tequila drinks to choose from, like Cactus Bite (tequila, angostura bitter, limejuice with sugar), Cosmoquila (tequila with Cointreau, lemon juice and cranberry juice) and Burnt Mexican (tequila and tabasco).
Other main course dishes include Burrito con frijoles y carne - minced tenderloin, cheese, and refried beans wrapped in a flour tortilla, and served with Mexican rice; Enchiladas de Verdure - brocolli, cheese, pinto bean, salsa wrapped in corn tortilla with chipotle sauce and baked, and served with Mexican rice; Chile Verde Tacos with pinto beans - pinto beans on greens with cheese and chipotle sauce stuffed in tacos; and Buritto con frijoles y verdure - spinach, cheese, pinto beans, salsa wrapped in a flour tortilla served with Mexican rice and sour cream.
Va Bene offers some Parilladas (grilled) dishes also. Fish Yucatecan is sole marinated in annatto seed, cumin, oregano and cinnamon, wrapped in banana leaf, baked, and served with mashed potato and salad. Chicken Vera Cruz is grilled chicken breast with tomato, oregano, jalapeno sauce, and served with vegetables and Mexican rice. Another ‘juicy’ dish is Chuletas de cordero, which is lamb chops specially marinated with garlic, grilled, and served with red wine sauce and vegetables.
Choosing a dessert wasn’t difficult. Chocolate being a common favourite between my companion and me, we ordered Mexican Pudding. The description made it sound like any regular chocolate dish. In truth, the dish, however, was far from regular. The baked chocolate pudding was slightly spicy in taste – not enough to bring fire to your mouth though. And when coupled with the chilled sweet vanilla ice cream, the combination of hot and cold, and spice and sweet, produced some unique sensations in the mouth. It actually played with the tongue! It would be interesting to know that it was Mexico which introduced chocolate to the world. Another dessert option was Flan Con Mango, a caramel flan with a slice of mango and Cointreau.
Va Bene, is an Italian phrase meaning ‘it goes well’. And the restaurant does go well in the gorgeous green surroundings of Hotel Clarion Collection, New Delhi. It is relaxed, has attentive servers, delectable food, and cosy environs.
Coordinates: Hotel Clarion Collection, Shaheed Jeet Singh Marg, Qutub Institutional Area, New Delhi