During Good Food Month, Hats Off Dinners give chefs the opportunity to set aside their regular menu and offer a different style of cuisine to their own.
For one night, Aki’s Indian in Woolloomooloo turned Italian when owner and renowned cookbook author chef Kumar Mahadevan and chef Danny Russo took to the kitchen together for A Night in Campania.
Chef Kumar Mahadevan started his culinary career in India at age 17 before moving to Australia in 1985 heading up the kitchen at Mayur restaurant, where he cooked for the likes of Prince Phillip and Mick Jagger. In 1990, he opened his first restaurant, Abhi’s in North Strathfield, and later in 2003, he opened Aki’s in Woolloomooloo, both named after his sons.
Chef Danny Russo
Chef Danny Russo’s modern Italian cuisine is inspired by his Italian heritage and the southern regions of Italy. He was awarded a Chef’s Hat for three consecutive years at L’Unico Restaurant (Balmain) and more recently a Chef’s Hat at Lo Studio. His projects include The White Hart and The Oaks Hotel in Neutral Bay.
Aki’s Mango Bellini
A Night in Campania offered a set menu and a flavour journey through the region. Wines to match were chosen by Aki’s sommelier, Harshal Shah, starting with a fresh and fruity Aki’s Mango Bellini.
Cheese and Truffle Toastie
Starting with stuzzichini, the strip of Cheese and Truffle Toastie was voted the best toastie ever. Earthy, flavoursome and addictive, it set the benchmark for any other toasted sandwich.
Fried Zucchini Flowers
The Fried Zucchini Flowers were filled with a mixture of ricotta, lemon and basil. Crisp on the outside with a delicious soft filling, they oozed with melted cheese and a hint of citrus.
For antipasti, Scampi “Puttanesca” was a well-presented dish reflecting a deconstructed puttanesca sauce. The scampi was poached which gave it a very soft texture and delicate flavours against the punchy white anchovies, capers, confit of garlic and tomatoes. A slightly oaked Soave Classico DOC, Nardello ‘Merides’ 2009 from the Veneto paired nicely with the dish.
Paccheri with braised pork, broad beans, tomato and chestnuts
Moving on to primi, flattened tubes of Paccheri were stuffed with braised pork and topped with a medley of broad beans, diced tomato and chestnuts in a light tomato sauce. The dish was paired with a fruity Friuli Isonzo Rive Alte DOC Vie Di Romans ‘Flor di Uis’ 2010.
Big Red Eye Perch “Acqua Pazza”
Next came the favourite dish, namely Big Red Eye Perch “Acqua Pazza”. The term “acqua pazza” means “crazy water” and refers to a traditional method of poaching white fish in sea water with tomatoes and olive oil. The fish retains its texture and absorbs the flavours of the salty broth – a simple method but a dish that is big on flavour.
Burrata, fennel and blood orange
A salad of burrata, fennel and blood orange accompanied the main course which paired well with Alto Adige DOC, J Hofstatter Mezcan Pinot Nero 2010, a red wine that is low in tannins.
Melanzane al Cioccolato
Dessert was a specialty of the region, an ancient dish originally prepared by monks. Melanzane al cioccolato is made with eggplant and chocolate, served with a side of sweet and grainy ricotta cheese with a chocolate brownie. The flavours and textures were a juxtaposition of sweet and savoury which made it an acquired taste.
Rum Baba with Limoncello
To finish, a melt-in-mouth mini Rum Baba soaked in rum was served with a shot of Limoncello.
Aki’s Hats Off Dinner was a popular and fun event that saw the chefs enjoying it as much as the diners. Good Italian food matched with good wines in relaxed surrounds made for A Night in Campania at a hatted Indian restaurant along Sydney’s waterside – a night of celebrating Sydney’s diverse food culture.
Aki’s Indian Restaurant
1/6 Cowper Wharf Road
Woolloomooloo NSW 2011
Aki’s Hats Off Dinner was held on Tuesday 1st October 2013.
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