My other pet gourmet craving is gazpacho and Finolhu’s “Crab Shack” produced one of the best I have sampled (London, Maldives or anywhere in the world). It is contender for longest dish name “Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho with Herbed Poached Egg and Baby Cress with Alaskan King Crab”. $28
Watermelon Day! (honest)
One of our favourite fruits in the Maldives. The stuff you get in England is just so flavourless compared to what they serve at the resorts. It is one of those items that we probably eat close to every day during our visits (along with pina coladas). We have it in nicely cut chunks, we have it as a juice. But Shangri-La Villingili was the first time we had it as a soup (presented above by Food and Beverage Director Mohammed Asiz). Great combo – one of our favourite fruits with one of our favourite dishes, gazpacho.
Thi “Javvu Summer Gazpacho” is made with Roma tomato, watermelon, pickled jalapenos and green grapes. They also feature a delectable “Chilled Honey Melon Gazpacho” at their Fashala restaurant (organic honey melon, garden mint granite, parma ham, garlic with very subtle almost silky texture).
QI question of the day: Q: What is the base ingredient of gazpacho at Velaa? A: Tomato? Q: Buzzz…wrong. It’s cabbage.
Velaa not only served two of my favourite soups – gazpacho and bisque – but they did so with an entirely refreshing slant. In many respects, they were nothing like gazpacho and bisque and everything like them at the same time.
For starters (pun intended) the gazpacho had no tomato (pretty much the defining ingredient to gazpacho – “Spanish Cookery. 1. a soup made of chopped tomatoes…”). Instead, it uses red cabbage as the base. It also blend in green apple and passion fruit which is a bit more exotic than the classic cucumbers and onions.
Their “Laccadivian Essence” (named after the Maldives sea) was really a bisque of lobster, coconut, fennel, and seaweed. Both were Michelin star quality. They were sort of non-bisque bisque and non-gazpacho gazpacho.
The inventive twists reminded me of the food-play by Heston Blumenthal at his world-famous restaurant the “Fat Duck”. Just down the road from us in the UK, we used to go when Heston first started playing with his culinary chemistry set. We were sometimes the only people dining there and he would step out of the kitchen to have us try some wonderfully weird new concoction.
One of Heston’s signature dishes was the Orange and Beetroot Jelly. As ‘Boots in the Oven’ describes…
“The mousse was trailed by two small trays bearing two squares each; one a garnet red and one a deep yellow. The waiter explained that we would be eating orange and beet root jellies. This opening dish is the perfect example of the Fat Duck dining philosophy. Heston and his team don’t just want you to have an awesome eating experience; they want to f*ck with your head.” [HINT – Not is all as it appears]
In fact, Velaa’s gazpacho might just have been inspired by Heston as Red Cabbage Gazpacho also featured is on his menu years ago.
Another one of my favourite treats is soup in general, and gazpacho specifically (I also love a good bisque). A well crafted soup is like a savoury cocktail where masterfully blended aromas, flavours and textures inspire the taste buds. One of the defining characteristics of a fine gazpacho is its cold temperature. Especially appreciated under the tropical sun. No resort gets it as ice cold as Park Hyatt Hadahaa.
Their signature bowl includes a dollop of ‘gazpacho sorbet’ scooped into the centre of the bowl to help keep the soup chilly while you eat it. I enjoyed a bowl when I visited and it remains one of my most memorable dishes of my Maldives travels.
The dish was originally created for their olive oil dinner by Monte Vibiano and now is part of its regular menu. Its olives are grown in carbon neutral groves and pressed into some of the finest extra virgin in the world.
So much is my appreciation for gazpacho, and so apropos a dish for the equatorial paradise of the Maldives, I have now added a special “gazpacho” category to the blog to tag all of the distinctive examples sampled here. Today’s chilled cheer goes out to Soneva Fushi’s “Mango Gazpacho” (see above). The mango is a perfect tropical flavour to the characteristic smooth and silky gazpacho style. If you want a taste of paradise at home, here is a recipe for it (including a nod to Soneva in the comments).
Bonjourno! Italy Day today is the occasion to celebrate all things italiano. And the best place to start is the cuisine. Many people think of Italian meal as heavy with the pastas and pizzas (and if you have ever sat through a Sunday family meal in Italy, then you indeed will know the true meaning of “stuffed”). In a hot tropical destination, one might not think of Italian. Usually, it seems that the Italian resort offerings are for the (a) unadventuresome, or (b) the kids (see #a). But Dusit Thani’s Sea Grill restaurant brings an inventive gourmet touch to some true Italian mainstays…
- Seafood Lasagna (see photo above) – Why don’t more resort restaurants do more seafood pastas (instead of the ubiquitous bolognaise)?? It’s a winge of mine that crops up regularly in my “Haven’t Seen Yet” series (eg. Lobster Mac and Cheese).
- Light Gazpacho (see photo below)– A twist on Gazpacho made from blanched tomato and garlic and force through cloth for a pure, clear essence of tomato served over tomato and soy garnish.
Now Lori and I go to Italy several times a year and eating are a big part of our visits not to mention that our hometown of London has its own sampling of Italian high cuisine. Gazpacho and Lobster Bisque are my two most favorite soups…and I love soup. I have gazpacho everywhere. And yet, never had never sampled anything quite so delicately exquisite as these two classics with almost ethereal twists.
In honour of Italy’s National ‘Republic Day’ holiday today, I pay tribute to the finest execution of one of my favourite Italian treats – Gazpacho.
Probably because it is a refreshing cold soup, it is served at every resort that I have been to. I happen to be a soup lover and gazpacho is right up their at the top of my list of favourite styles. I shy away from awarding ‘Best Of’ distinctions on food because (a) there is so much fine cuisine in the Maldives now that it seems unfair to do so without sampling everything, and (b) a supremely well done dish is hard to distinguish from another supremely well done dish.
I break the protocol through for Sheraton Full Moon’s ‘Trio of Gazpacho’ at its Sand Coast restaurant. Most of all, it is not just one gazpacho, but three gazpacho treats. The first is a delightful traditional recipe. The second is made from green tomatoes (after years of visiting the American South it is encouraging to learn that there is something you can do with green tomatoes besides fry them…the South’s answer to everything culinary). The third was an almond base with grapes and apples.
It wasn’t just the stand out execution that struck me. The whole ‘gazpacho experience’ was excellent. Sand Coast is set in a grove of coconut trees on the sand by the water. This set up is certainly not unique in the Maldives (we ate almost everyone of our Coco Palm Dhuni Kolu meals in a restaurant they had like this), but we are always surprised how hard it is to get toes-in-the-sand-water’s-edge eating in the Maldives. The restaurant played soothing ambient music with a local twist. And the price was very reasonable and less than what you would pay for a similar dish in a London establishment (it also spoils the appetite a bit looking at stupid prices in menus especially at the higher end resorts).
Kudos to Chef Garth Welsh (see below) who has really set up an operation of lots of gustatory delights at Sheraton Full Moon.
Chef Garth Welsh
Not only did we do our whole trip DIY (buying resort, air travel, connections all separately), but we also opted for the a la carte meal plan (versus full or half board). This decision of which meal plan is one of the most prominent in deciding a Maldives visit.
We are happy with the a la carte for the following reasons. First, Kurumba has lots of restaurants (10) to choose from. Perhaps a smaller island would have less choice and restaurant options and this advantage would be less strong. Secondly, we prized flexibility whether we even ate. We had planned on going to Male for a day where we had lots of options to dine quite inexpensively so not having to pay for this day is an advantage. Also, 3 of our 4 strong party are watching their diet (and the 4th is not a big eater) and so several times we either skipped lunch after a big breakfast or felt like a small snack for dinner after a big lunch.
So far this week, our decision has been by and large a good one. Kurumba offers a $50 (+10% service) half board supplement and a $80 (+10% service) full board supplement. If we had taken either of those, we probably would have saved some money on our total meal bill. But, our meals would have been confined wholly to the Vihamana restaurant with its themed buffet style eating. I checked out the buffet and the food looks diverse and delicious. But you are still stuck with the selection on offer that night rather than the whole range of the other 9 restaurants.
Perhaps more of an issue is the dining location. This issue was particularly acute because all of the restaurants have tiled floors. We much prefer the sand floors so many resorts offer. Though natural floors are not everyone’s cup of tea, most people I speak to about the Maldives do prefer them and in fact find it one of the ‘wow’ factors. Also, all but one of the restaurants are quite removed from the water’s edge (and lovely ocean with its gently lapping water is a defining characteristic of the islands obviously). Going a la carte, we had more options to eat ‘where’ we wanted to. Some of our best meals were in special locations. The first was the beach side eating area by the pool. This spot is the best dining area on the island and yet they close it for dinner. Go figure. Probably my biggest beef with the resort is this issue.
One way we managed a ‘beach dinner’ was to order room service. The room service menu is a rich selection of offerings from the various restaurants which when it arrived we simply took it outside to our beach chairs and tables to eat by the ocean and under the palm trees. It was the kind of exotic setting that we savour in the Maldives. We since found out that the resort rules say “Glass containers or any other breakable substances that shatter, are prohibited on the beach.” We didn’t bring any glass, but I guess the plates would officially be ‘breakable…that shatter’ (though hard to do on soft sand). I guess if you want to follow our lead for romantic beach side room service, you might want to bring some plastic or paper plates to move your meal to in order to abide by the rules strictly.
Also, the food came in very generous portions. Halfway through the week we figured this out and made it a family rule that we could only order one portion (side or main) because that was almost always enough. If we have stuck to that approach, we would have saved more money early on and probably would have gotten our food bill down to the supplement costs for the standard service. Still, we would have preferred our approach because our dining was more distinctive with more special settings. Some honeymoon friends adopted the strategy of sharing portions which also worked well to halve their food bill.
Overall, the food was uniformly without fault and on many occasions truly distinctive. Of particular note were the soups (especially the gazpacho), sushi platter, and Black Bean Beef (Chinese). Food quality is a real plus at Kurumba and I hope they make some changes to make the eating locations just as special.
PS. Love the tables at the Ocean Reef restaurant. We are thinking of making similar ones for our own dining room table we liked them so much.