Dining at this impeccable restaurant overlooking the Gulf made me very nostalgic for Italy. As soon as you set foot into Cucina, you are greeted by the hostess with a warm smile and a welcoming “buona sera,” which subtly sets the mood for all that is to follow.
The ambience is soothing at Cucina, with the entire restaurant draped in hues of gold and royal blue, with interjections of bright floral prints in various sections. Colored floor-length threads drape the windows across the length of the restaurant, allowing diners a veiled, albeit breathtaking, view of the Arabian Gulf. A variation of the draping threads also envelop the chandeliers, one of four various types of light fixtures that are spread across the restaurant. With different chairs in various allocations throughout Cucina, the sofas are the most eye-catching, draped in vibrant tapestries in abstract floral patterns in the colors of spring, such as fuchsia and green. Beautifully decorated, every small detail in this restaurant lends itself to the whole, including the Italian cutlery and the Missoni Home tableware, flaunting flowers in shades of gold and bronze. The lighting, the soft candles and the background music all come together effortlessly, yet cohesively, allowing diners the opportunity to indulge in the experience of Cucina.
After being given the menu to select dishes, diners are served a complimentary semi-dried tomato and chili paste, extra virgin olive oil and a black olive tapenade, alongside a selection of bread, which includes savory pizzetas, polenta bread, as well as other magnificent creations.
With a wide variety of starters to select from, Cucina Chef de Cusine, Claudio Barzano, suggested two dishes, the Seppie Piccanti alla Griglia, which is char-grilled cuttlefish that comes with a delicately spicy salad of baby rocket leaves, enclosed by a circle of capsicum. The cuttlefish is tender, and is grilled to perfection. A second starter recommended is the Carpaccio di Cernia con Insalata di Finocchi e Melograno, and this is one that will appeal to all with its fresh flavor and refreshingly crisp texture. A presentation of paper-thin slivers of fresh local hammour comes with a bed of shaved fennel strips, delicately crisp in flavor. Decorated with sweet pomegranate and hints of fresh dill that accentuate both the hammour and the fennel, the Carpaccio is indeed a starter to be reckoned with. If diners prefer a starter that is not seafood, Barzano recommends the Bresaola di Manzo con Rucola e Funghi sott’olio. Thin slices of in-house cured Angus beef bresaola, created by Barzano and his team in a multi-step process, are presented on a handful of rocket leaves and decorated with wild mushroom, slivers of parmesan cheese and flavored with extra virgin olive oil.
The meal, so far, is as authentically Italian as you can imagine, reminiscent of lovely times spent dining in various Italian cities with the flavors triggering memories of Venice, Rome, Florence and Milan with every bite.
No Italian meal is complete without a selection of Primi Piatti, or pasta dishes, and Barzano recommends two of his most popular dishes. The Tonnarelli con Gamberi e Pomodorini, a homemade tonnarelli with prawn and cherry tomato sauce, is succulent and indulgent. Square-shaped strings of egg-free pasta are lightly bathed in a sweet cherry tomato sauce, infused with hints of fresh parsley and olive oil. Bite-sized pieces of shrimp are hidden treasures throughout the dish, adding to the rich flavor. Another pasta selection that is unique to Cucina is the Gnocchi di Patate ai Quattro Formaggi; a dish of homemade potato dumplings, made from purple potatoes, beautifully sitting atop a just-perfect sauce made of four cheeses, which are: parmigiano, taleggio, fontina and pecorino. The gnocchi is soft and simply delightful.
Offering a various selection of entrees, two dishes were highlighted by Barzano. One is the Branzino in Crosta di Pomodoro con Purea di Patate al Basilico, which is a fillet of Sea Bass, gently enveloped in a simple sundried tomato crust, sitting upon a generous helping of basil-infused mashed potatoes. This selection came very well recommended, and every bite of the sea bass and the mashed potatoes, which has strong overtones of the freshest pesto you have ever tasted, will keep diners satisfied and win them over time and again. The second entrée recommended by the Chef is Tagliata di Manzo con Rucola, Parmigiano e Olio Extra Vergine di Oliva; thin slices of Super Prime US Beef, grilled to perfection and seasoned with parmesan and extra virgin olive oil, accompanied by a salad of rocket leaves. Barzano explained that this selection is typical of the type of food often served in Florence, Italy.
Overall, the recommendations made were superb and every bite was an experience within its own. Flavors are understated, yet confident, and the professionalism of Chef Barzano and his staff do not go by unnoticed. Apart from the meals offered at Cucina and the unrivaled location and view of Hotel Missoni, the service here is unparalleled. Servers and hosts are attentive, yet respect the privacy of their diners, offering their guidance and service when required, but also allowing room to indulge without imposing.
Do not overlook the wonderful desserts on offer at Cucina. Even if you are fully satisfied with your meal and feel that there is no room for anything else, simply ask for the Tiramisu, described on their menu as a “pick me up. ” This dessert, with its basic components, will excite, transform and delight, as well as serve as the perfect ending to a perfect meal.
The overall experience offered at Cucina is magnificent, and it not only sets the bar for Italian cuisine in Kuwait, it would even compete on a regional or international level. The dining experience here, cohesively, is unparalleled anywhere else and is reminiscent of fine dining in Italy – where food is a facet of the life and the core of living, and meals are served to bring families and loved ones together, and this passion is transformed from the kitchen to the table. This is, indeed, the essence of Cucina at Hotel Missoni.
Cucina is located on the first floor of Hotel Missoni on Gulf Road in Salmiya. For reservations, please call 2577 0006 or visit www.hotelmissoni.com.