For “Best of the Maldives”, I try to focus on unique offerings and features. The easiest way to be the best is to be the only. If I haven’t seen it after visiting 60+ resorts and 20 years of research, then chances are it is pretty unique.
It is harder to (and I am more hesitant to) do “Best” pieces for more commonplace things. It might stand out in my eyes, but not having methodically sampled every version in the Maldives, who am I to say it’s the “Best”. Partly, that’s why I chose a blog format for this material. It allows readers to Comment do if I have missed out something, they can set me straight.
Also there are areas where I have quite a bit of experience (eg. house reef snorkelling, pina colada tasting) and others where my expertise is more limited (eg. wines, décor). Today’s post is both a nod to Lobster Day and an intersection of the (a) popular, with (b) expertise – lobster bisque.
Lobster is the stereotypical luxury seafood. And its prevalence in the Laccadive Sea makes it a popular dish at the exquisite Maldives restaurants. One of its most classic preparations is Lobster Bisque. Now this is a specialty of mine. I will *always* order the lobster bisque if it is available. I will seek it out and make a special trip to restaurants who offer well reviewed versions of it. I’ve sampled bisque all over the world and across most of London’s finest establishments. And I’m not the biggest chef, but one dish I have taught myself to prepare is a proper lobster bisque.
So despite this dish being quite prevalent in the Maldives resorts, I felt quite comfortable calling out One & Only Reethi Rah’s version. Reethi’s is so close to bisque perfection that while there might be others out there in the Maldives just as good (I haven’t had them yet), at best they could be is as good as Reethi.
The best bisque I’ve had since Wolesley Hotel in London (who sadly has since removed it from their menu). I should also clarify that I am a devotee of the coulis school of bisque. Thin and hot enough with just the right touch of cognac to ignite the stewed flavors of subtle herbs and lobster broth. The creamy (Normandy) style is fine, but simply not as elegant or flavourful as the traditional style.
Any writer appreciates a good theme. And I’ve been a bit more focused on “themes” recently with the new WordPress blog platform (both for Maldives Complete and one of my other blogs, “Dynamic Work”). The “themes” specify the look and feel of the layout with a dazzling array of choices from technical experts who concoct an expansive buffet to pick from.
Dusit Thani has also assembled a collection of dinners with some of the most luxuriously delectable “themes” – Asparagas, Foie Gras, Lobster, Truffle. One of Lori’s and my most memorable meals was a lobster themed menu at The House of Elliot in Ghent, Belgium. It’s a great way to combine variety with consistency. I have to say that I would have been even more delighted to see “Lobster Ice Cream” as Dusit’s lobster dessert instead though.
The menus also have the option for specifically suggested wines to accompany each which is a typical option for menus degustations. But the twist I love by Dusit turns the “accompaniment” notion on its head. They have a “Champagne” menu where you have a different champagne with each course and the dish is specially selected to go with the champagne! That’s getting priorities right.
- Asparagus, courgette and tarragon terrine with seared scallop
- Poached asparagus and slow cooked egg with bernaise sauce
- Slow roasted beef eye fillet with a warm salad of asparagus, celeriac and parsnip
- Toasted Brioche with aged goats cheese and asparagus espooma
- White asparagus and raspberry, rhubarb with chocolate soil
- Foie gras with sauterne jelly and sour dough
- Game and foie gras terrine with pickled vegetables
- Tartlet of seared foie gras and chocolate soil with truffle vinaigrette
- Slow cooked fillet of beef with foie gras
- Foie gras ice cream with poached prunes and short bread crumbs
- Lobster bisque flavoured with cognac and truffle cream
- Cold lobster jelly with lobster and citrus salad beer tuile
- Warm lobster tart with creamed leeks and fennel and dill salad
- Lobster parfait with poached lobster tail with baby carrots braised fennel
- White bean and truffle cappuccino
- Ballotine of quail stuffed with truffle mousse with salsify and truffle dressing
- Spaghetti linguine tossed with fresh truffle, parmesan and olive oil
- Slow cooked fillet of beef with foie gras pithivier jus borderlaise
- Truffle cream brulee with raspberry sorbet
Something that you won’t find on any all-inclusive package, in fact you won’t find hardly any where else that I know of in the Maldives, is a Lobster Burger.
How my New England raised palette loves a good lobster culinary concoction. Apparently so does global celebrity Shilpa Shetty. Who engaged in a bit of lifestyle food blogging of her own during her visit to Taj Exotica…
“We tried the biggest lobster burger available in Maldives and licked it clean,”
Lobster Day! A Father’s Day treat (in fact, my son Chase is preparing my favourite, Lobster Bisque, for me).
Maybe not the greatest day for lobsters. But at least at Nika they can luxuriate in an Olympic sized (about 10 metres by 5 metres) outdoor lobster pool instead of the conventional aquarium holding bin.
A recent flurry of Best of the Maldives posts seem to be characterised by a common theme – food. So much so that certain common subjects now merit category tags of their own. Lobster (the quintessential luxury seafood), Ice Cream (the hot weather classic), and Cooking (true foodies love to prepare as much as eat).
The current line-up includes…
Happy (or should I say “Yummy”) Lobster Day!
Lobster dinners are becoming as much table stakes for the ever more luxurious Maldives as hot stone massages and artistic water features.
So much so that I have added a “Lobster” tag to the blog. And I have not been shy to sample the many crustacean cuisines as I am a serious aficionado. I grew up in New England with many summer trips to Maine. Maine lobster is still the worldwide gold standard for sweetness and tenderness so I have been spoiled by the best. Lobster bisque is my favourite starter by far and I will always order it out of principle if it is on the menu (I prefer the lighter cognac-cut style to the heavy creamy version).
We will also venture to some of the more renowned lobster establishments when in the vicinity. The high bar there is definitely the House of Elliott in Ghent, Belgium (a stunning creation of lobster cooked 6 ways in an artistically quirky setting by the Lys River). Mirihi provides a lobster experience that rivals it. Also waterside (or ‘water-over’) at its Murka restaurant, coincidentally both Muraka and House of Elliott had two of our most memorable bread accompaniments (House of Elliot cooked their fresh loaves in little flower pots). Muraka’s lobster in champagne and truffle sauce was prepared to near perfection.
The lobster distinction goes deep at Mirihi. From over water restaurant to underwater dive/snorkel sight. Mihiri features its own “Lobster Cave” widely regarded as one of the most striking places to see lobsters around. As Spammie reviews in her TripAdvisor Maldives Forum post…
“Mirihi corner is a named dive spot…yes it is at the far end of the reef , marked by an awesome wall and a lobster cave in just under 30 meters. as a (very) experienced diver, you can dive inside .. in pairs or max 3 people at a time and see lots of lobsters hanging out on shelf formations inside. very very amazing. the tricky part is to make it through a tight little tunnel single file without ruining visibility by finning up sediment.. it takes a little nerve and very calm fins. not for newbies or the faint of heart but worth it.”
Luxury + Seaside = Lobster
Wherever you place luxury next to the seaside, at the top of the restaurant hierarchy will always be lobster. It pretty much defines the pinnacle of seafood cuisine. Today being Lobster Day, perhaps a few of you with be donning the plastic bib and wielding the nutcrackers and silver picks.
So no surprise that lobster dinners are pervasive throughout the Maldives. Especially since they do live in profusion just metres away and just about any diving or snorkelling excursion will stumble upon one or more hiding under a crevice. But if you don’t want to get wet checking out these crustaceans in their native environment, then check out Kandooma’s lobster pen. Set in the resort’s lagoon by their pier, they have set underwater fencing in an area about the size of a pretty ample swimming pool and they keep their lobsters there. No piles of lobsters crammed on top of each other in a restaurant lobby fish tank. Their final days awaiting their dining table fate is spent in a spacious and natural home environment.
It also means that you can get some pretty big boys into the pen. The specimen in the photo above is about as big as my thigh (and my thigh is not small). And the number to choose form is just as large as we counted several dozen when we sat observing them crawling about.
I’ve never found any variety of lobster to be as tender and sweet as the famous Maine Lobster from where I grew up, so I don’t splurge for these delicacies very often in the Maldives. The most tempting preparations are those dishes prepared with a bit of local and gourmet flair that bring something extra to this exquisite ingredient. Kandooma’s luxury restaurant specialises in lobster dishes offering a broad range as well as a very tempting Lobster Gourmand Menu. It also offers a number of lobster dishes as part of its ‘Fishermans Market’ event held every Wednesday.
Free range lobster!
Lobster Season! (Duck Season!…sorry, obscure Bugs Bunny reference)
The Lobster Festival starts today in the epicentre of the lobster world, Maine. Having grown up in New England and spent many summer breaks on the Maine coast, I was raised on the sweetest variety of the most succulent crustacean on the planet. As a result, I am a bit of a lobster aficionado and always like to try local varieties when I travel to compare to the my hometown benchmark standard.
Of course, the very best restaurants keep a lobster tank so that these critters can be prepared completely fresh. And I have seen all manner of lobster tanks in my life, but I have never seen any quite as colourful and alluring as the one at Lily Beach.
The tank is filled not just with an impressive array of lobsters, but also a colourful collection of reef fish (for added colour, not for eating). It is also one of the biggest lobster tanks I’ve ever seen. An Olympic swimming pool of a lobster tank.
A bonus feature of the tank is ‘Sand Lobster’ (see picture below,) aka ‘Sea Seagull’ or ‘Moreton Bay Bug’ (see photo below…it is the two tails on the bottom front of the rock). I’ve sampled lobster all around the world and I have never come across this particular variety. It barely even looks like a lobster save its characteristic tail. In fact, it sort of seems like some sort of culinary mutation bred to be all tail meat.