The Christmas-New Year period is the ultimate calendar week for lingering languor. Lori and I couldn’t make it to the Maldives, but we are still enjoying lounging by the seaside at our family’s place in North Carolina. Our feet are up and we are grazing on American junk food. But it still doesn’t compare with the dormant decadence of Hideaway Beach’s beach bed complete with candlelight and delicacies.
I always delight in finding things at resorts that I haven’t come across before in other resorts. I especially delight in finding things I had never come across ever in my life. So it was with Olhuveli’s “Pakora”, a kind of ghee-fried fritter. London and the UK is not short of Indian cuisine, but I have never had a pakora in decades of living here. Not to mention visiting the Indian Ocean neighbour for nearly as long. And not only did the resort offer the treat, but they had a special “Pakora Station” which made several variations on the culinary theme fresh to order.
I’ve also decide to add a “Station” tag to the blog to highlight the distinctive “fresh, made to order” preparations available at buffets around the Maldives.
Sometimes all you want is a snack. You don’t want to be beholden to restaurant schedules and so grabbing a lite-bite is a great way to handle the hunger pangs. All the more tasty when served over an azure lagoon like Cinnamon Hakuraa Huraa. The resort offers a range of sacks throughout the day. They also put on snack stations at certain times like a mid-afternoon creperie.
Lots of resorts offer treats throughout the day, but what swung it for Hakuraa Huraa for me was their seaplane transfer snack-pack (see photo above). When you are flying back, they prepare a box with an assortment of sandwiches, fruit, cakes, etc. The seaplanes usually don’t even serve water (the domestic flights often have water and sometimes a little packet of nuts or biscuit). Lori and I had been a bit busy the morning before our departure getting last minutes things attended to and we didn’t really have time to go to lunch with our early afternoon flight time. So the snack was an especially welcome sustenance for journey to Male.
Pizza is a pretty popular food around the world and no less so in the Maldives. We’ve had a wide variety in our world travels, our regular trips to Italy and our Maldives tours (so much so that with this post, I’m adding a special “pizza” tag). While many menus offer classic or special combinations, pizza is a pretty popular make-your-own affair. I’ve don’t recall having quite so much variety of ingredient as Amilla Fushi’s “Joe’s Pizza” at its Baazaar (allusion to the “Baa” atoll there) restaurant. Items I’ve never made a pizza with like lamb meatballs, harissa yoghurt, capsicum, spiced pumpkin and silver beet. They even have a sweet pizza with Nutella and Banana (why is this not more common?). And if you want more cheese, never mind the “Quattro Formaggio”, Joe’s offers 8 (!) cheeses (“Otto Formaggio” anyone?) – mozzarella, pecorino, ricotta, brie, gorgonzola, provolone, feta, bocconcini. Small pizza is $20 and a large is $24.
And Finolhu has a bagel station for people who prefer their round dough morning thing savoury not sweet. Four different varieties of bagels and more toppings than I have seen this side of New York’s West Side. Of course, smoked salmon, but the smoked shrimps were a revelation. They also had smoked tuna and smoked king fish. As well as an assortment of cold cuts and other cheeses.
Donut Bar! Those words alone are enough to send goosebumps across the waistline of any true American junk food addict <hand up>. I eat more breakfasts when I am in the Maldives than any other time of the year (breakfast buffets are sort of a big thing there as in most resorts). They feature delicacies from all over the world, but somehow one of the great American AM staples has been out of reach for these culinary maestros – donuts (Latin name: Doughnut).
I’ve had decent donuts twice in the Maldives. Both are no longer served (Kurumba no longer serves theirs at least they didn’t on my last visit, and GoNuts, which isn’t even at a resort, is no longer open). About the only impressive donut you can find at the resorts these days is the blow-up kind. If someone does serve donuts, their glazing is usually some hard caked-on chocolate instead of the de rigeur creamy icing.
But Dhigufaru is blazing new donut trails not just for the Maldives, but quite possibly the world! They have set up a make-your-own-donut bar at the breakfast buffet. A pile of plain donuts set out quirkily stacked on poles. But then a collection of toppings that you can add to concoct you perfect donut – maple syrup, chocolate sauce, powdered sugar, cinnamon sugar, strawberry sauce and peanut butter. America has make-your-own salads, sandwiches and sundaes, but I’ve never come across a DIY donut.
I had to Google it (maybe a million dollar business idea) and it turns out there is one in existence – Top this Donut Bar in Cincinnati, USA. But that was about it. World-class top of the morning to you!
I’m pretty flexible on the quality of my villa (I’ve always said that you could sleep in a cardboard box in the Maldives and it would be a 5-star experience) and don’t need many amenities or recreational distractions laid on (happy to put on my snorkel in fins any time I’m a bit bored), but I do enjoy my food. Mind you, it doesn’t take much to lay out a decent spread in the Maldives – freshly caught reef fish, tropical fruits, a simple pasta station (or egg station for breakfast). But I do appreciate it when the resorts treat me to something a bit tasty.
Medhufushi features quite possibly the best value buffet in the Maldives. The resort positions itself as 4-star, but the food punches way above its weight class and is absolutely 5-star cuisine. Reminded me of Mirihi back when it was a 4.5 star, but served up gourmet food. But Mirihi is now 3 times the price of Medhuifushi! And there are a couple of 5-star properties (including some where people raved about the food in the reviews) that were nowhere near as good as Medhufushi.
Here are just a few notes of the fine dining we enjoyed during our brief stay…
- Chicken Laksa – Possibly my favourite soup of the trip. Rich and flavourful. Made to order with vegetables and eggs in the bowl that the broth is served over.
- Tom Yam Seafood Broth – More delectable soup.
- Tuna Sashimi – Not the sushi which you can find at 4-star buffets but it mostly rice in seaweed wrap. But rather prime slices of fresh tuna.
- Tenderloin – Perfectly cooked medium-rare at the roast station.
- Tandouri Chicken – With Nan bread cooked fresh in front of you.
- Curry Variety – Another “Best of the Maldives” post coming on this. My favourite was “Beetroot Curry”.
- Rice Pudding – With Sultanas almost like my mom makes (she uses raisins). Second best rice pudding I have had in the Maldives
- Ice Cream – Variety to rival super-luxury property Soneva. Here are a few of the flavours set out during our short stay – Earl Grey Tea, Passion Fruit & Yogurt, Peanut Butter, Carmelised Banana, Raspberry and Lime Sorbet, Lime Sorbet, Kiwi Sorbet, Apple Sorbet (Lori got just a bit addicted to their ice cream bar).
- Coconut Cake – Why isn’t this served more extensively??
- Mango Yogurt – And this too…why isn’t this more prevalent on the buffets?
- Mas Huni – Hard to say whether it is the “best” in the Maldives, but it is the only resort that serves *two* types of Mas Huni.
Feel free to bring a big appetite to Medhufushi even if your wallet is a bit small.
The *other* luxury seafood – Crab. Lobster is the stereotypical luxury seafood (and one I explore extensively in the Maldives). But if there is one alternative that gives lobster a bit of contention for that title, it’s Crab. Proper crab…like Alaskan King Crab or Rock Crab. Just the other day, I was musing why – with all of its opulent ingredients and gourmet eateries – one didn’t see more of the luxury King Crab in the Maldives which rivals Maine Lobster for sweetness and tenderness.
Finally, a resort has given crab the luxury treatment and spotlight it deserves in the Maldives – Finolhu. Specifically, the Crab and Fish Shack, but actually they serve an assortment of gourmet crab dishes at all of its restaurants. Crab Gazpacho (warrants its own post) at the Shack. Crab Curry at the BaaHaa Grill – a first in the Maldives, but astonished that it is. King Crab Fried Rice their Asian Kanusan restaurant.
But the star attraction is the Shack’s Soft Shelled Crab Taco (photo below). This dish is what I refer to as the “Babe Ruth Called Shot” (remember – resorts often make a lot of grandiose claims and after 20 years going to the Maldives, I’ve seen a lot). From nearly the moment we arrived, everyone around the resorts said that we had to try the Soft Shelled Crab Taco. Now, we used to live in Northern Virginia smoothly polished stone’s throw away from the Chesapeake Bay where soft-shelled crab is a regional specialty. Being a seafood and particularly a shellfish lover, I’ve tried it on many occasions, but it never really did it for me. So I was a bit sceptical about these recommendations. But hey, I thought I should try it. Wow Simply divine. This tasty dish will haunt me for a long time. Part of the problem with soft shelled crab is that you are eating the whole body – legs, head, etc. It just seems a bit weird. But encasing it in a soft taco shell masks this aspect to seem just like some tasty seafood meat.
Along with the truffle fries (truffle oil not too overbearing and the fries a perfect crispy outside and mushy soft on the inside) and the crab gazpacho (subject of another post), I think this might just be the best lunch I have ever had in the Maldives (Mind you, it is hard for a chef to stand out at lunch. The food is naturally lighter and more limited. There is less opportunity for grand recipes as no one wants to eat Lobster Thermidor or Chateau Briand in the middle of the day).
Finolhu’s Crab and Fish Shack takes you even further away from it all. You come to the Maldives resorts to escape civilisation…and then you can go to the Crab Shack to escape the resort which is situated at the end of a distinctive kilometre long sand spit jutting out into the ocean. Finolhu doesn’t just have a great crab menu, but it has an equally stunning crab venue.
International Picnic Day today. And the Maldives resort go a bit beyond the blanket and basket. There are dinners “on” the beach, but in the Maldives you can dine “in” the beach. In luxurious style. Here are the Maldives Complete Top Ten “IN” beach dinners for your end your picnic day in paradise…
1. Dusit Thani [ABOVE]
6. Amilla Fushi
10. Anantara Veli