Monday, 19 October 2009

Restaurant Review - Tuscany

If you would ask us about the biggest bottleneck for restaurants in Muscat, we would answer: Consistency. There is a select group of potentially very good restaurants, but we've had disappointing experiences in each and every one of them.

Tuscany, the uber-kitsch Italian restaurant of the Grand Hyatt Hotel, is perhaps the place where we've seen the largest fluctuations in the quality of food. After a very lackluster dinner some time ago we decided to avoid the restaurant for a while. But recently we heard reports that the kitchen crew is back in form. Time to check.

One of the funniest things about eating in Tuscany is sitting in the slightly higher area, under the 'authentic Italian' dome. The construction of the dome has the strange acoustic effect that sounds at the exact opposite of the dome are amplified to such an extend that you end up eavesdropping on other tables, whether you want it or not. If you ever plan to discuss some private matters over the course of an intimate dinner, we recommend sitting somewhere else.

But what matters is the food, of course. We began with two impressive starters. Marinated scallops with speck, green asparagus and capsicum cream was very satisfying and delicate. This dish always has a risk of the speck overpowering the scallops, but the balance was perfect here. The dish that really stole our hearts was homemade prosciutto of duck breast, with fava bean mousse and balsamic-marinated radicchio. The duck was lovely on its own, but paired with the bitter-acidic radicchio and soft-creamy fava beans it was lifted to great heights. A wonderful explosion of tastes. This was followed by an equally impressive pasta dish: spaghetti with vongole. When prepared to perfection, simplicity becomes art. It's been a long time since we ate such a simple dish that was so full of flavour. Gorgeous.

None of the main courses could live up entirely to the expectations set by what we had so far. Lamb loin with fennel and rocket lettuce was pleasant, but a bit high in acidity. A nice, creamy scoop of mashed potatoes would have been most welcome. Beef tenderloin, served with a fontina / eggplant pie, was a beautiful piece of meat. Very tender, and full of taste. We loved the fact that the chef was confident enough to let the meat speak for itself, and not spoil it with an overdose of salt. The fontina / eggplant pie, on the other hand, was rather tasteless.

Desserts were disappointing. A limoncello semifreddo was boring, and whatever taste it had was completely overpowered by the strawberries that were served alongside. A dish of chocolate mousse, chocolate cake and strawberries (again) was better, but not very daring.

Tuscany's wine list offers a good selection, although it would be good to see vintages listed on the menu. This is a problem of almost every restaurant's wine list though.

We were happy to see the chef has indeed regained his form. Keep it up and we'll be back. But we may just skip dessert.


  1. I just wanted to say that this is a great blog and just what the `Oman blogosphere needs. Would love to see more posts about how/where to find decent products.
    Completely agree about the consistency issue in Muscat and I am always reticent about returning to a restaurant in case the memory of a good meal is ruined. Tuscany can be up and down and I generally find they add too much salt to the food.
    Have you tried Bait al Bahr at the Shangri La - best food and location in Muscat I think! Would be intereste dto read your review.

  2. Thank you for the kind words! We have been to Bait al Bahr, and a review will certainly come one day, so stay tuned.

  3. En wij maar aan de zuurkool...

  4. Hmmm, we had dinner in Tuscany yesterday. It was ok, nothing exciting. We wondered what's so special about the place. It certainly is not the menu, which was quite standard.

    This restaurant made us worried about what happened to Italian cuisine...Where did the taste go?

    I though the use of some herbs, olive oil, and especially garlic was an accepted part of Italian cooking. Our meal was rather tasteless.

  5. We understood that there has been a change in chefs since our visit. We haven't been since, so can't comment on the current standards. But as we pointed out in our review, it has been pretty much hit-or-miss in the last couple of years. Sorry to hear you had a substandard experience. Unfortunately, it happens all too often that you eat a mediocre dinner for a premium price in the restaurants of Muscat.