Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Retail therapy

After a hectic shopping trip, Sneha May Francis suggests you treat your tummy

Exercise and eat well. Experts claim this is the healthy way to live. I, for one, follow the principle very closely. The only difference being that I skip the gym for the shopping malls.
Don’t be baffled: shopping isn’t only about spending money, it’s the new age workout regime. It involves hours of walking around, packing goodies into massive bags and lugging them home. (Dumbbells seem lighter in comparison!) So after such a hectic workout, it’s imperative that one pampers one’s tummy.

There’s a food court in every mall, but they are always far too noisy and the food is almost always insipid. At the Sahara Centre, there’s a quiet corner, precariously located near the jam-packed food court, but seemingly devoid of the loud banter.

Decked with an eclectic mix of blue and wooden furniture, the Il Forno looks very inviting. We pick a table, place our bags to one side and sink into the large blue armchairs. Our waiter arrives, almost immediately, and extends the menu. We quickly select our favourites from a rather plain menu with dishes named in Italian, making it a bit tough to comprehend. It’s Insalata di Mare, a mixed seafood salad, for the starters. The delicately seasoned fresh prawns, squid and mussels, placed on a bed of crispy lettuce, arrives on a large white plate. The intoxicating smell of olive oil and herbs works miracles on our tastebuds. For the main course, we zero in on Fiorentina Al Forno (beef rib eye, pan fried with olive oil) and Quattro Stagioni (fresh tomato sauce, mozzarella, artichoke, beef salami, mushrooms and black olive).

The chunky beef slice, cooked to medium rare and smothered in creamy white sauce, is accompanied by mashed potatoes. Each bite is a revelation. The thin crusted pizza, large enough to feed an army, is a kaleidoscope of colours. It’s perfectly seasoned.

Once the food arrives, we limit our conversations to concentrate on our meal. We wash down the food with refreshing fruit drinks.

After stuffing our faces, we shamelessly ask for the dessert menu. No trip to an Italian joint would be complete without a round of tiramisu. The large slice of layered cream treat is only OK. Being a die-hard fan, I can vouch that I’ve tasted better. We also pick the sinful melted hazelnut chocolate, which turns out to be plain old chocolate mousse.

On the whole, we’d overlook the sweet disasters and give this joint a thumbs-up. So now there’s another incentive to go shopping!

Il Forno
What Italian cuisine
Where Sahara Centre, Sharjah
Why For Italian cuisine
Cost Bill for two Dh175

Published in e+, Gulf News, Dubai

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