MANAMA: Chef Susy Massetti is a long-established star of the region’s culinary scene — from five-star hotel kitchens in the UAE and Bahrain to her unique concept at Bahrain’s multi-award-winning Masso by Chef Susy Massetti.
Having left Masso just over two years ago, many Gulf foodies were left wondering where she had gone. The answer is Fishbone, a gorgeous spot tucked away in the Novotel Al-Dana Resort, close to town but with a seaside feel, where she has had a hand in everything from the interior setup — even down to the fabric design — to, of course, the kitchen and menu (which, by the way, is not all seafood).
I was lucky enough to try out a selection of chef’s recommendations on a cool evening recently — and no, this is not the customary British obsession with the weather, but an excuse to mention the gorgeous, and uber-romantic, outdoor terrace with its liberal sprinkling of fairy lights. I chose to sit inside because of the chill, but it will surely be warmer soon.
I was by the ceviche, knowing it to be one of Chef Susy’s signature dishes. But, instead, I went with the recommendation of Fishbone’s Poke Bowl — sushi-grade tuna with avocado, red onions, sesame seeds, coriander and black rice, with Asian dressing.
Firstly, it looks beautiful, with the black rice adding a visual twist. And that same black rice also contributes to the texture mix, slightly rougher and nuttier than its white counterpart. The abundant raw tuna is a fish lover’s dream, fresh and succulent. The flavor additions are a perfect mix, giving just the right piquancy without overpowering the tuna. If you’re not a fan of coriander, don’t feel shy about asking for it to be omitted, the kitchen is very happy to oblige — though you’ll be missing out slightly.
For my main course, I was delighted to discover a whole section of the menu devoted to truffles. In an ‘Every day’s a school day’ moment, Chef Susy informed me that, as well as working with top-quality imports, she’s also a big fan of local truffles. I never even knew such a thing existed. Apparently, in season, the desert sands of Saudi Arabia are abundant with both white and black truffles and they’re particularly plentiful after rainfall.
I chose white truffle risotto. In my view, it’s the ultimate comfort food, and I wasn’t disappointed. The Arborio rice was perfectly cooked — tender and creamy without a hint of stickiness. The generous portion of wafer-thin truffle slices, pungent, and with that unmistakable delicate taste, was the cherry on the cake, so to speak.
Purely in the interests of research, you understand, I went for a second main of Branzino Al Limone — seabass fillet with a classic lemon-and-caper sauce. Delicious! The flesh was that perfect consistency of fall-off-the-fork tender but still firm enough to retain its robust meaty texture and the accompanying sauce demonstrates the skill of the kitchen — the simplest dishes are often the hardest to get right.
At this point, I have to confess that I should have taken the advice on the menu: “Life is short, leave space for the cake.” With choices including chocolate toffee pudding with mascarpone cream, strawberries with jaggery and balsamic syrup, and baked yoghurt with fresh berries, I would have been very much in my element. Sadly, I simply could not fit any more in — the price for having two main courses. However, I shall treat my omission as an excuse to return, not that one is needed.
And if you’re in Saudi Arabia, you don’t need to wait for your next trip across the causeway to sample Chef Susy’s culinary creations, as you’ll also find her at the recently launched Eat’sy on the corniche in Alkhobar. I feel a road trip coming on.