The ecological impacts of what you eat affects both the surf and turf of your dinner plate. Beef cattle methane flatulence is a major contributor of global carbon which contributes to ocean warming which kills coral. Concern over beef consumption has led to many initiatives to take the beef out of the most classic beef dish of all – the burger. Even mainstream chains like Burger King have introduced vegan versions like its “Impossible Whopper”. In the Maldives, LUX South Ari Atoll has introduced its own vegan “beef” burger
- “Embraced by leading brands, tech companies and major news media, the plant-based protein, formally known as ‘Beyond Burger™’ is now available at three of the resort’s eight restaurants to provide additional vegan and kosher options.”
Inspired by LUX’s culinary carbon-reducing crusade, I found myself trying my first vegan burger yesterday in London. It was a Avocado Chipotle Burger by the UK chain, Leon’s. Admittedly, my expectations were pretty low, but I must say that they were handily exceeded. Eating it, you realise that the taste of a “burger” is a real collection of tastes – bun, condiments, lettuce, charcoal grilling. So getting a patty of something that is remotely evocative of a burger in texture and even some flavour make the whole sandwich a pretty close facsimile to the original. But with much less impact on the coral reefs you are enjoying during your stay.
For the squinting crowd whose arms are not long enough to hold a menu far away enough to see it, the romance of under-the-stars candlelight might add to the romance, but it also means you can’t figure out what you can order for dinner. Resorts have come up with a various solutions to this problem including the fiddly clip-on mini light or the serve holding a torch. But Faarufushi has introduced electronic menu tablets with soft back lighting to provide optimal visibility.
Sometimes you are the one polluted by toxins Joali features its own ingestible cure with a wide range of breakfast elixirs served in the breakfast buffet. The Ayurvedic tonics treat a variety of conditions including:
- Aches & Pain
- Purification Blood
- Liver Tonic
No matter how many toppings or how exotic the flavours, I have not come across any item on the menu as exotic as You & Me’s underwater restaurant H2O – plankton! More for a whale shark’s palette than appetite as it was presented in an eye-dropper bottle as part of the seafood platter. You sprinkle the “plankton” on the delicacies for that extra bit of taste of the sea. It didn’t really taste of anything other than just some seawater, but I guess that for mantas and other filter feeders, to them its all just sea water to them too. Something small (actually microscopic) before the big feast of Thanksgiving tomorrow.
Forget Book of the Month Club or Employee of the Month plaques, I want the Ice Cream of the Month subscription thank you. Just another ice cream extravagance at Soneva (both Soneva Fushi and Soneva Jani) as Maldives Insider reported at its launch last year:
- “Soneva is developing 10 new and unique flavours at Soneva Fushi, Soneva Jani and Soneva Kiri, for a total of 30 flavours. These flavours are only available for the next 12 months, after which time they will change. This is in addition to the regular rotating roster of flavours at each resort. Guests at Soneva Fushi’s So Cool will get to sample new flavours such as: Soneva Bread Fruit and Maldivian Pine Nuts, Strawberry, Aged Balsamic and Green Olives, and Curry Leaves and Sweet Mango. While at Soneva Jani’s So Cool, Yuka with Garden Basil, Seaweed, and Caramelised Young Coconut join the classic ice creams and sorbets. Soneva will also be introducing one new flavour each month inspired by that month’s Festival of Colour theme.”
Buffets are part of the fabric of Maldives resorts, but I’ve never come across an ice cream buffet like LUX North Male Atoll sundae counter at its ICI ice cream parlour. It took me back to perhaps my earliest memory of personalised, decadent taste treats – Putnam Pantry. Back in the 70s, we would make the half hour drive to “make your own sundae” and their ice cream smorgasbord which was the ultimate treat or birthday party. But, not surprisingly, LUX surpassed even the American penchant for excess with 18 flavours of ice cream, 6 sauces, 8 toppings and a range of other accessory treats.
Guess Who’s Cooking for Dinner. Sometimes you never know who will turn up. Soneva Jani is taking the “Chef’s Surprise” to a new level where the chef themselves are part of the surprise:
- The new dining experience has a secret menu concept, where the diners won’t know which chef is cooking or what cuisine they will be preparing until just before the meal. The kitchen is housed within the walls of a Bedouin tent…the lineup of Soneva chefs will include: Chef Kat (Thai cuisine), Chef Sun (Asian cuisine) and Chef Ansari (Indian thali) from Soneva Jani; Chef Sobah (Maldivian cuisine) from Soneva Fushi; and Chef Benz (Thai cuisine) from Soneva Kiri.”
The price per person varies based on the particular menu of the day, starting at $175 for Soneva’s chefs and $350 for a degustation menu by a visiting international chef. “Guess Who’s Cooking” is only available two to three nights a week, seating just 16 diners. Dinner is served from 7:30-10:30pm, while a sunset cocktail experience is offered from 6:30-7:30pm. There will also be the occasional lunch pop-up from 12:30-3pm.
International main of mystery.
For the biggest banquet under one roof (and even out from the roof) Olhuveli’s main restaurant seats a glutinous 600 guests. The island only has 164 rooms (so approximately 350 guests at any time), but some staff eat there and the extra capacity gives diners more choices about where they want to eat. For example, they might want to enjoy the extensive outdoor deck seating on a lovely evening or afternoon. But if the squalls are passing through, they might prefer the cover of inside area. Plenty of choice on seating and an equally expansive range of buffet options and stations.
A fusion closer to the Maldivian home is Soneva Fushi’s “Tastemaker” who combines Laccadive flavours with a range of Asian flavours drawn from his travels in the region:
- “Maldivian born and bred, Chef Sobah is considered one of the pioneers of his islands’ rich culinary heritage. As a child, his family’s main source of income was from fishing, and he would help his parents sun-dry and smoke the daily catch. Today, Chef Sobah draws upon the traditional techniques of Maldivian cooking in his Soneva Fushi restaurant, Sobah’s, the first restaurant in the Maldives to offer authentic Maldivian fare with a contemporary twist.”
I’ve added a tag for “Fusion” with this post as so many of the top properties are distinguishing their fare with the flai of inventive combination.
Fusion is a fun way to blend diverse flavours and culinary traditions for exciting new tastes, but LUX North Male Atoll’s INTI restaurant is probably the most diverse combo we have come across – Japanese and Peruvian.
Before you think someone just threw a couple of darts at a map, it turns out that Japan and Peru have a longstanding cultural connection. Peru was the first Latin American country to have diplomatic relations with Japan in 1873. At the end of Peru’s War of the Pacific in 1884, the Chinese worker population had been greatly reduced and there was big demand for farming labour. Then when the First Sino-Japanese War ended in 1895, the Japanese economy was crippled and young farmers started looking overseas for opportunities. Rumours of gold, mild climate, rich soil and similar seafood cuisine added to the allure and influx.
LUX describes the establishment: “Savour octopus with black olive mayo, Tiradito breads and smoky guacamole – or take in a five-course fresh fish Cerviche tasting. Sip on an iced Peruvian beer, warm sake or Pisco sour as the smells and sounds of Peru and Japan stir the sensory feast.” We enjoyed a sumptuous meal which did meld the delicate traditions of Japanese sushi with bolder flavoured ingredients like the purple maki (see above).
The name “INTI” is the name of the Inca sun god. The décor of the dining area is a collection of suns – fusing the icon of sun god, “Land of the Rising Sun” and, of course, the Maldives’ own sun-infused splendour (where modern day sun worshippers flock).