Literally translating into “crazy water” in Italian, the AcquaPazza restaurant at the Four Season Resort in Mauritius serves up Italian food par excellence. A culinary gem in the middle of the Indian ocean can be termed Mauritius’s best kept secret. The winding roads inside the Four Seasons Resort lead us to an alleyway lined with palm trees, keeping up the suspense of what was to be expected inside. A smiling maitre d’ welcomed us into a culinary treasure trove. Standing on wooden stilts in the middle of the fathomless ocean, covered with white canopies in contrast to the dark night skies, dim lighting to create the mood and the sound of waves crashing to add to the music, AcquaPazza personifies romance.
Much to our anticipation, we got the table at the edge of the wooden deck and right next to the ocean. It was a picture perfect scene straight out of a still life portrait, dark canvas dotted with sparkling orange lights at a distance and slight waves dancing to the tune of the wind. A cool January breeze swept past the restaurant, making it the perfect outdoor dinner. Most restaurants at five star resorts are associated with great ambiance but average food and arrogant staff. AcquaPazza is an exception to that norm, so much so that out of our 7 nights in Mauritius, we dined there 4 times.
Dinner always commenced with complimentary bread accompanied by a black olive tapenade, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. A small plate comprising of sesame seeds encrusted bread sticks, warm bread and baked tomato and herb bread was placed in front of us to feast on. It was a welcoming omen to the quality of food we were going to be served up next. Any restaurant that places equal emphasis on their complimentary bread basket will always be a winner with regards to their quality of food.
Creative starters with unique flavors and concoctions filled the menu. Each entry seemed like such a mouthwatering prospect that it was a difficult task to choose. My first option was a seafood carpaccio, a must for any ardent seafood fan. 4 different types of raw seafood with 4 different flavors. Tuna, Red Snapper, Salmon and Octopus, lightly dressed, accompanied by fragrant herbs and spices and “uncooked” to perfection. Having never tried raw octopus before, I instinctly assumed the round mound was the octopus, but I was instantly corrected by the polite waiter who pointed out that the octopus carpaccio was the one sliced into small discs. With a tangy orange vinaigrette and sprinkled with fennel seeds, each bite of the octopus carpaccio was heavenly. The best part; there was no fishy taste. The mound was actually the red snapper carpaccio on a bed of paper thin cucumbers drizzled with passion fruit puree. The tuna carpaccio had a more oriental flavor with sesame oil and strands of ginger whereas the raw salmon was drizzled with lemon, dill, olive oil and tomatoes. All in all a well balanced starter for any seafood novice to further their knowledge about the different species of the sea.
My palate developed such a fondness for the octopus carpaccio that the next time I ordered a larger portion for myself as a starter.
Not once but twice, my husband ordered the grilled calamari with olives, sundried tomatoes and a mint puree. Perfection on a plate. Lightly grilled to let the smoky taste linger on in your mouth and blended well with olives and sundried tomatoes. Each ingredient complemented the flavors of the rest. Accompanied by a simple garden salad, whose flavors were enhanced by the use of good quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
The starters set the course of our meal. We knew we were on the path of culinary redemption. The main courses too broke the benchmark for quality and exceeded our expectations. From the full-bodied flavors of the Linguine sauteed with Mussels,Garlic and Fresh Chilli to the crunchy thin crust Margherita Napoletana Pizza and Angus Beef Carpaccio with Button Mushrooms and Grana Padano Shavings, almost everything on the menu achieved culinary excellence. Cooking meat impeccably is a task for most restaurants, but AcquaPazza passed this test with ease. Their Black Olive Crusted Lamb Chops, Eggplant and Mozzarella Millefoglie, Crispy Herb Gnocchi still has me longing for more. Each component of that dish stood out on its own as well when eaten together.
The succulent Beef Tagliata was sublime. Cooked flawlessly the meat would melt with each bite and the sauce was an ideal accompaniment. I could tell the meat itself was simply marinated with salt, pepper and olive oil, but it was eating the dish in its entirety that created a burst of flavors in my mouth. With each passing night, we began to understand the superiority of each dish on the menu.
With no space left but the penchant for completing a fabulous quality meal egging us on, we moved on to dessert. Literally it was the icing on the cake, the flawless end without which this experience would have been incomplete. The picture does not do justice to this dessert. Warm chocolate oozed out as we sliced into the rich cake. Accompanied by cold ice cream it took us on an epic journey of a chocolate fantasy. Even though the menu had a good selection of desserts, all four nights at least one of us had to order this sublime chocolate dessert.
Another blend of hot and cold on one plate. The warm tangy strawberries with the cold vanilla custard and the crunchy mille-feuille was light on the stomach yet heavy on flavors. The balsamic helped to reduce the sweetness of the dessert, thereby the plate would be wiped clean without even realizing where the dessert went.
Too tangy for my liking but the concept behind this dessert was ingenious. Traditionaly ‘baba’ is a small rum sponge cake, but this dessert had its own twist. A small tube of limoncello (lemon liqueur) accompanied the dessert, all I had to do was literally inject the tube into the cake and squeeze the liqueur. The sponge soaked in the liqueur and it was ready to be eaten. The sponge cake was moist, however the fruit minestrone along with the limoncello made the whole dessert quite sour. The balance between sweet and sour could not be achieved however full marks for creativity.
The greatness of the restaurant could be assessed from the fact that every night after dinner would be over, the head chef Alessandro would go to every table to inquire after their experience. A chef of his calibre exuded nothing short of humbleness. Hailing from Italy and worked in the Maldives prior to Mauritius, his craftsmanship is a work of art. Inspired by his food night after night, I asked him if he could give me a few tips (much to my husband’s embarrassment). Surprised by his offer, I nearly jumped off my seat, a private cooking lesson at 1pm the next afternoon in the AcquaPazza kitchen. It was a dream come true and of course will be the subject of another blog post.
Boasting a large selection of wine, a fine array if Italian dishes, an ideal setting and a creative master at its helm; AcquaPazza restaurant on the resort’s private island is a must when in Mauritius. Italian cuisine will have a whole new meaning once you dine at this open air restaurant overlooking the lagoon.
Word of advice, AcquaPazza is only open for dinner.