I must admit, I hadn’t dined at the Media Rotana Hotel in Tecom before, with the exception of the odd brunch or two at Channels.  So I was delighted to receive an invite recently to dine in the Italian restaurant Prego’s.  Billing itself as a contemporary Italian restaurant offering authentic cuisine my dining companion and I were surprised at just how busy the restaurant was on a Tuesday evening, surely a good sign !

The restaurant is quite large but manages to still feel intimate due to the way in which it is laid out and the subdued lighting which fitted the venue well. Sadly it was too warm to enjoy the outdoor terrace, but the inside was welcoming enough and we were given a choice of tables dine from. Choosing a table towards the centre of the restaurant was a good choice, here I was able to conduct some covert people watching which is always a favourite pastime of mine not only as a general people observer, but it’s also a great vantage point to watch service and see what food is being brought out – “other table food envy” is one of my biggest things to watch out for.

With a certain level of cunning in my plan, the comfortable seating was also chosen for the great light at the table, which always helps when taking food photos for dinner. Whilst it’s not essential, I feel that it’s important to give justice to the food by, wherever possible, trying to get great shots of the food eaten without using a flash and disturbing other diners, for the record I draw the line at doing nothing more covert than using my SLR at the table, as quickly as possible and as unobtrusive as possible, unless it’s a foodie dinner in which case I’ve been known to scale chairs etc in order to get the ever elusive perfect shot and believe me when I say this is tame compared to some of the other foodie diners !

Anyway, table chosen and safely ensconced in a comfortable place,  we were offered some fresh hot bread, garlic bread as well as brushetta to munch on whilst we read the menu, all of which were tasty, crisp with the brushetta being my favourite delivering the right balance of sweet ripe tomatoes on crispy bread, yet with a hint of garlic and olive oil which was pleasing and suitably light.

My dining companion, with Italian heritage was impressed by the menu and took great delight in explaining some of the dishes to me as well as memories of dining al fresco in Italy over the years.  Since we are both watching our carbs at the moment and having indulged in the carby treats above we choose some lighter starters :

  • Insalata dei Tropici con avocado, rucola, indiviia, pomodorini pachino e scaglie die grans padan (Heart of palm, avocado, rucola, endives and cherry tomatoes salad tossed in olive oil and lemon dressing and shaved parmesan cheese) and
  • Tartare di tonno con avocado, mango e riduzione di aceto balsamic invecchiato (Fresh ahi tuna tartare with avocado, mango and aged balsalmic vinegar reduction).

Both were beautifully fresh and delivered in terms of taste and textures.  At the time of order, staff explained that they did not have rucola and this was swopped out for alternative leaves. Whilst my tuna was beautiful I must admit that I had it expected it to be served in slices rather than tartare style – my fault for speed reading the menu and making an association that ahi tuna would be served sliced rather than tartare, that aside the starters were light and tasty and portion size was generous but not over whelming.

 

The choice of main courses was extensive and although my companion was tempted by the pasta and pizza options, we both decided to choose seafood part of the menu.

  • Grigliata mista di pesce con aragosta, branzino, gamberoni, calamari, capesante, tonno scottato conditi con olio de olive e limone serviti conv verdure miste all griglia (Grilled lobster, sea bass, jumbo prawns, calamari, sea scallops and searted tuna in an olive oil and lemon dressing with seasonal grilled vegetables)
  • Dover Sole with asparagus and a white wine and cream sauce

Both dishes were tasty and fresh, the sole was well cooked and the sauce rich but without being too heavy.  The mixed seafood grill was stunning, there was plenty of selection and everything was cooked perfectly to my companions request which was well done, sacrilege to some of us perhaps, but it was cooked as requested and since the plate returned to the kitchen empty from all but shells, was the sign of a plate of food which was truly enjoyed.

Service throughout the evening was attentive and the staff were knowledgeable about the menu.  It was great to see the Chef wandering around the restaurant chatting to diners in a very casual and relaxed manner and even when an issue arose on a neighbouring table, the complaint was dealt with swiftly, efficiently and to the diners satisfaction.

I should mention that the wine list is quite extensive, and we enjoyed some beautiful Chardonnay which matched the meal well.

 

Dessert ! This is where I fell in love ! In love with a beautiful dessert a rich decadent and indulgent white chocolate mousse with a centre of smooth and rich super moreish nutella, a tulle biscuit and a few chocolate swirls completed the dish, which I can only describe, legally, as being absolutely decadent and hitting my taste buds and senses in one mmmmmmmm of a mouthful, it was truly a dessert that I will always order on every trip, and I would gladly visit again for the dessert alone ! I blame my mum for my love of white chocolate ever since the Milky Bar kid became a household name in the UK back in the …. well, a long time ago – a lady never reveals her age !  Putting my dessert love aside for one moment, my dining companion declared their tiramisu as being very good too, but I can’t describe that for you as they didn’t let me sample even a tiny spoonful ! Sharing is caring surely …

 

Fancy some Italian cooking at home ? Here’s Chef’s Signature Dish :

Filetto di manzo e funghi porcini alla griglia con salsa al vino rosso, patate al forno e pancetta croccante

(Grilled beef tenderloin and porcini mushrooms with red wine and juniper berries reduction, roasted potatoes and crispy pancetta)

Ingredients:

  • Beef tenderloin of 200 gr.
  • Fresh porcini mushrooms 150 gr.
  • Red wine 200 ml.
  • Demi glace sauce
  • Asparagus baby 60 gr.
  • One cherry tomato
  • Sakura mix
  • Potato medium 300 gr.
  • Sugar 40 gr.
  • Beef bacon 80 gr.
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Parsley
  • Mix herbs
  • Garlic
  • Juniper berries

 Method

  • Marinate the tenderloin with chopped herbs, salt and pepper.
  • Clean the porcini mushrooms from the soil and marinate with extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and a bit of chopped garlic.
  • Caramelize the sugar; add to it the red wine, the juniper berries and few leaves of rosemary.
  • Let it reduce making sure that doesn’t boil. At the end add a bit of demi glace and finish reducing.
  • Peal the potatoes, cut in long and thick stick, marinate with herbs, garlic, salt and pepper and roast in the oven at 180 C. for 20 minutes.
  • Put the beef bacon in a tray and cook slowly under the salamander till becomes nice and crispy.
  • Grill now the tenderloin the way you like to have it, cut the porcini mushrooms in half and grill them too. Once ready add some finely chopped parsley.
  • Blanch the asparagus for just a minute and marinate them with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.
  • Now place the roasted potatoes on the bottom and the tenderloin on top.
  • Add the porcini mushrooms and the crispy beef pancetta.
  • Serve it with the red wine reduction sauce.
  • Garnish with the asparagus, the cherry tomato and the sakura mix.
  •  

Disclaimer : I was a guest of Prego’s however all opinions are my own.

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