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A Golden Sautée Pan and a Symbolic Plate

KPH Group: Benna, A Maltese Icon
April 22, 2020
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Excellent food is not all it takes to give diners their magical restaurant experience. It takes a lot more. Most of us who dine in restaurants set an expectation they hope will be achieved - from the moment they set their reservation to the moment they walk out of the restaurant’s doors - there needs to be a standard. Sitting at a Root81 table, whether with family or friends, is an experience from start to finish. There’s a feeling that you’re being taken care of in the establishment and it’s one instilled by Patron Chef Robert Cassar.

This past season has been a proud and rewarding time for Chef Robert - he walked out of 2019 with a golden sautée pan noting him as the Chef of the Year, as acclaimed by The Definitive(ly) Good Food Guide to Restaurants in Malta and Gozo. The Food Guide celebrated its 20th Anniversary this year and held an evening banquet late in 2019 to award all chefs and restaurants with not only a fully thought out menu but also an award ceremony to recognise this season’s most hard-working chefs and established restaurants.

Robert’s title of Chef of the Year was just the beginning of his, and Root81’s triumphs. Once the coveted Michelin Guide set its eyes on Malta, the Rabat restaurant found itself with a well-deserving Michelin Guide Plate. The Michelin Plate is a recognised symbol that awards restaurateurs, a nod in approval for the ‘very good food’ that the restaurant and its team are serving.



Interview by Kristina Cassar Dowling

 

Restaurants generally enter the Guide with a Plate, move on to a Bib Gourmand and throughout their years of excellence hold the > treasured Michelin Star, with 3 Stars as the pinnacle record of success. Three stars denote ‘exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey’ - and Root81 will get there.

Root81’s journey starts off with a philosophy claiming ‘as nature teaches us, good food starts from its root’, a mantra Chef Robert takes to heart and carries with him in every dish he creates. His use of fresh, seasonal and local ingredients keeps the colour, composition and ultimately taste at an all-time high; but more importantly, Robert’s passion for his art is what makes his food stand tall among the rest.

The Root81 menu is composed of Mediterranean classics, transformed with a modern twist to create innovative and crowd-pleasing dishes to fit any palette. Some of the classics on the new menu include the beef carpaccio with a three-pepper crust, a raisin purée, dried cherry tomatoes and fresh rucola - the contemporary plating and elegant garnish of Parmigiano chips takes it to a whole new level. This robust dish deserves a wine that can keep up with it, the Meridianna Bel Syrah makes for an excellent companion.

While other opening courses set the right tone for the meal to follow, the octopus terrine featuring gherkins, capers, olives and a sweet orange dressing is a starting dish that’s hard to beat. However, Chef Robert has landed on a goldmine with the Grilled Asparagus dish, featuring portobello and oyster mushrooms lightly covered in a bearnaise sauce, doused with pine nuts and crowned with a beautifully poached egg. This combination of texture, freshness, richness and simplicity gives this starter item a leaping head start. These pristine dishes can be ordered off the new menu, one that as Chef Robert describes “delight your appetite”.

“As the season's turn, so does our menu. At Root 81, we believe that our dishes should be made from only the freshest ingredients our local land has to offer, from which we create wholesome, hearty meals to delight your appetite,” Robert explains.

 

The seasonality and strive for fresh, quality ingredients does not stop at the list of exquisite starters. Other delectable options include fresh pasta, local mains and a grill section featuring two cuts of meat in four different varieties, a sirloin served as a steak or tagliata as well as a ribeye cut served as a steak as well as a Tomahawk presentation. Each charcoal grilled to the diner’s liking and served with roasted vegetables, potatoes and an added touch of elegance with every served dish. There’s never enough jazz for Chef Robert.

“I like to think of myself as Chef for the people,” he says. “When I set my mind on something I’m going to make it happen - if I promise something… I’ll deliver. That’s the message I give out to the world and it’s exactly what I get back from my team at Root81. We work together to achieve what we do, and we’ll only get better if we work as one.”

Robert’s ethos for the catering industry is pretty simple when it comes to his kitchen - if you’ve got an idea, let’s hear it, make it better and make it happen. Chef is a clear believer that the success he’s seen in his line of work is due to the dedication and commitment that he pours into his craft. “If you’re doing something good - be proud of it,” he says. Chef Robert is a culinary vision whose concepts are fair, passionate and truly genuine to his ethos. A Chef Patron whose humility and determination takes him out of the kitchen and onto the restaurant floors to mingle with his clientele, recommend wines and take feedback on the meals he carefully prepared for each of them. The culinary world needs more chefs to follow his philosophies.




Click here to see Horeca Issue 3 online