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
Best of the Maldives: Restaurant-to-Guest Ratio – Kandolhu
Two of my favourite things in the Maldives are the gourmet food (yes, I am a bit of a foodie) and the diminutive charm of the tiniest islands. Unfortunately, it is difficult to have this particular cake and eat it too as the small islands are limited in space and capacity to serve up as much variety.
But Kandolhu provides the best of both world – culinary and cosy delights – with the highest Restaurant to Guest Ratio in the Maldives – 4 restaurants for a mere 30 villas. In rowing (a sport I coach), we call this the “power to weight ratio” and it is the holy grail for high performance.
Each establishment is, like the island, intimate. Like the 6 person Japanese bar, Bonzai. Or you can choose Olive, Sea Grill, or The Market. All of the restaurants are situated on the same side of the island, but segregated in their own spaces and décor. For even more dining options, you can also do villa dining, private dining or grad a bite at the Vilu Bar.
Below I am enjoying the elevated vistas over the ocean of the Olive restaurant while savouring the “Crested Consomme of Oxtail” by Chef Mickaël Farina (hailing from Marseilles in France, he has his own pedigree in fluffy pastry that I just need to find a way through to get to my soup!).
Best of the Maldives: Fruity Gazpacho – Shangri-La Villingili
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).
Best of the Maldives: Lobster Bisque – One & Only Reethi Rah
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.
Best of the Maldives: Soups – Dusit Thani
Soup always my first dish at a gourmet restaurant.
I shy away from the basic grilled, broiled and fried because I can do that at home. When I go out, I want some that takes more prep than I typically have time to invest. I favour the interesting casseroles and sauces, but the quintessence are the soups. Furthermore, their delectable broths are live savoury wines with heat instead of alcohol bringing a complex bouquet of flavours alive.
The tropical Maldives is really the setting for the piping hot stodgy side of the soup spectrum, but there are still plenty of possibilities especially among the chilled varieties. Lobster bisque and gazpacho are fairly common classics found in most of the 5-star resorts. But Dusit Thani not only had the most extensive array of soups on their menu, but they were all Michelin-star gourmet quality…
- Iced Tomato Consommé
- Veloute of White Bean
- Seafood Bisque
- Chilled Avocado Soup
- Peking Duck Consommé.
In honour of Homemade Soup Day today, I am adding a “Soup” tag to the blog.
Best of the Maldives: Unconventional Soup – Velaa
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.
Best of the Maldives: Coldest Gazpacho – Park Hyatt Hadahaa
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.
Best of the Maldives: Mango Gazpacho – Soneva Fushi
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).
Best of the Maldives: Light Italian – Dusit Thani
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.
Best of the Maldives: Gazpacho – Sheraton Full Moon
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