For some reason we can't explain, a large portion of the better restaurants in the city is Italian styled. In the mid-range category we have Come Prima and Tomato, and there are two good high-end Italian restaurants: Tuscany (of which a review will surely follow one day) and Capri Court. You will not hear us complain. The Italian kitchen is arguably one of the richest in the world, and while often based on relatively simple recipes, well-performed dishes can reach astonishing heights. Freshness, purity and quality of ingredients are crucial. But they can also go dangerously wrong, and this night we experienced both.
Capri Court is situated in Shangri-La's Al Bandar Hotel, and is the hotel's signature restaurant. Chef de Cuisine Mario Prestigiovanni is in charge since 2008 and has surprised us before with some very well-made dishes. It was a relatively cool evening when we visited and some people dared to sit outside, but we chose the cooler, ultra-stylish dining room.
Looking at the menu we felt a sense of disappointment. There were hardly any changes from our last visit, about a year ago. Why is it that restaurants in Muscat have such a hard time in bringing variety to their menus? Laziness? We don't know how else to explain it.
Mr. R opted to start with minestrone, a classic Italian hearty vegetable soup. We once had a superb version in Gordon Ramsay's Verre Restaurant in Dubai, an experience the chefs of Capri Court couldn't top. The soup was ok, but nothing more than that. Mrs. R's tuna carpaccio fared better. The term carpaccio is actually misleading for this dish. You would expect raw tuna, but it was slow roasted instead. More like roast beef. Nevertheless, it was a fine and delicate dish.
Next came a risotto with porcini and truffles. Oh boy, this was good. The risotto perfectly al dente, the truffles aromatic and savoury, and the porcini earthy and flavourful. Stunning.
Our main was a beef tenderloin, again with truffles, as well as with foie gras. A decadent, and rich dish. But one with some serious defects. First, the accompanying sauce was much too salt, nearly ruining the well cooked meat. Second, the truffle, that was so incredibly aromatic in the risotto was hardly noticeable here. And last, the dish lacked a good potato side. It came with a meagre biscuit, where the rich flavours screamed for a lovely, creamy portion of mashed potatoes. All in all rather unsatisfactory.
From the decent, but pricy wine list, we chose a bottle of Le Stanze 2002 from Poliziano. This wine comes from vineyards near the village of Montepulciano in Tuscany. It's a blend of Cabarnet Sauvignon and Merlot. The 2002 vintage was very difficult in most of Europe, and Italy was no exception. The advantage is that wines from this vintage can be enjoyable a few years earlier than wines from better years such as 2001 and 2004. But the tricky part comes when winemakers try to compensate the mediocre quality of their grapes with excessive use of oak. And that is exactly what happened here. The result is a wine that tastes like, you guessed it, oak. It was priced at 64.500 OMR. Far too much, if you ask us.
The list of deserts looked rather obligatory, so we decided to skip those.
In conclusion, an evening of serious ups and downs. We were rather disappointed with the overall experience, as we were much more positive the last time we visited this restaurant. It seems like the kitchen crew needs a fresh dose of inspiration. The potential is there, as the sublime risotto shows. Please give us more like that.