It’s not everyday that you have the chance to try Michelin-starred food in Muscat. For a short time only, you can taste Chef Alfredo Russo’s unique creations, writes Y’s Noor Hyder
You know you are in the presence of culinary greatness when the mere mention of their name has you salivating with sudden hunger.
Alfredo Russo is not the sort of chef who screams and shouts in his kitchen. There’s no hint of a fiery temper from the softly spoken Italian. He’s exceedingly courteous but the passion for cooking that ignites him clearly shines through.
His exquisite cuisine has diners in ecstasy. Which makes his presence in Oman, where gourmands can now sample the magic for themselves, even more exciting. Chef Alfredo will be serving his Michelin fare at Shangri-La’s Barr Al Jissah Resort & Spa until May 3.
This is his first time in Muscat, and when I ask him about his first impression of the city, he exclaims that it was “ ‘ot!” in his thick Italian accent.
“It’s nice for me because I am from Torino (Turin), which is close to the Alps, and yesterday when I left home it was very cold and rainy. I sent a message to home today telling them about how it was 35 degrees at night when I got here.”
Cooking came naturally for Alfredo, who started experimenting with food from the age of 13.
“My family is not a restaurant family, but I have an uncle who was a chef and I would see him work and that is where my passion started,” he tells me.
“This is a hard job, because the working day is very long.
“At the age of 13, my parents said that I should go work in a restaurant. The goal was actually to stop this idea of mine.”
He laughs and goes on to say, “But it didn’t happen. I kept going and studied at hotel school.”
When called a famous chef, Alfredo Russo laughs and shrugs his shoulders in a laid-back Italian manner. “I am not a chef. I am a cook!”
His modesty is endearing, especially when you consider that the L’Espresso Guide named him Best Young Chef in 2004.
Joining Chef Alfredo and his team for an exceptional culinary journey of taste, means getting to sample the delights of his subtle signature dishes, including pink wild salmon marinated with celery leaves, and apple tart with soft cream and Granny Smith apple juice.
“My food is a little different than what people expect of Italian food,” says Chef.
“For me it’s very important that I try to extract from the ingredients I use, to try and get the maximum flavour. I want people to recognise what they are eating.”
His other trademark method is to use a maximum of three ingredients, sometimes just two, for one dish.
In the late nineties, Chef Alfredo opened his own restaurant, Dolce Stil Novo, in his home city.
I imagine every meal in the Russo household must be a seven-course lavish affair. Chef Alfredo bursts out laughing.
“It’s exactly the opposite! My wife works in a restaurant too, so when we are at home, we like to relax. The food is very simple, very comfortable. We have maybe one salad, one steak and some pasta.”
* In order to celebrate this first-class Michelin dining experience, Shangri-La’s Barr Al Jissah resort and Spa is offering a combination special with a stay at the opulent Al Husn Hotel in a deluxe room for two and a chance to enjoy Chef Alfredo’s signature dishes for dinner.
Chef Alfredo’s Cime di Rapa, Italian sausage and Mozzarella cheese
This delicious dish features Cime di Rapa, which is broccoli rabe (pronounced robb). You can alternatively use spring greens or Swiss chard.