Where When How May/June 2017 : Page 112
RESTAURANT REVIEW CHOPSTICKS SWEET AND SOUR PRAWNS WITH LUCKY BUDDHA BEER 112 • • • • • MAY/JUNE 2017 “Where When How -Turks & Caicos Islands”
BRINGING THE FLAVOURS OF CHINA TO THE TROPICS
THE TURKS & CAICOS ISLANDS MAY BE YOUR VACATION DESTINATION… but now that you’re here, prepare to take your palate to places you never imagined. Here, a gastronomic melting pot of international cuisine coexists with our own wonderful, local Caribbean flavours, making this a singular and unique culinary destination in its own right.
First, to Chopsticks for a cross-country Asian adventure… and later, to experience the intoxicating and exotic cuisine of India at Garam Masala (page 124).
At Chopsticks, the Asian-inspired décor is stunning and dramatic with a striking colour palette of ebony black, vibrant red and brilliant white. Stylish recessed lighting and bamboo sticks create a bold and hip edge in the air-conditioned dining room. Evenings take on a faraway aura in the tropical gardens of the courtyard, or enjoy the street front terrace and its casual vibe all beneath a ‘sky’ of dazzling white paper lanterns.
A fusion of several authentic Asian cuisines are prepared by Chef Pharsuram and Chef Jhaman. Both chefs honed their skills working at The Golden Dragon at the Taj Mahal Hotel in New Delhi, and have trained under various Chinese Master Chefs.
General Manager, Ajay Vyas, meticulously and thoughtfully plotted our courses and libations for this evening’s far-flung culinary adventure. He always takes pleasure in the chance to share his vast knowledge of the cuisine, its history and culture. “It’s what I really love, it’s a passion,” he confesses. Having worked for a fivestar Indian hotel chain, Taj Hotels, Palace & Resorts for 14 years in nine exotic Asian destinations certainly provided for an extensive edification. He originally came to the TCI for two years… that was six years ago, and counting!
As General Manager of four restaurants, he’s incredibly busy, yet extremely hands-on and acknowledges the importance of a great team, including Restaurant Manager, Mahesh.
As Ajay primed us for our first courses, we enthusiastically devoured a bowl of very crispy and seriously addictive prawn crackers served with three sauces; Spicy Sriracha, Jalapeño & Vinegar, and Dark Soya. He proposed a very crisp Voga Prosecco, a perfect aperitif for the kind of flavours we were about to experience.
Those flavours began to arrive, like Crispy Tofu Szechwan. While many think of tofu as a modern food, Ajay explained the first recorded history of tofu was 2000 years ago, in the Han Dynasty. Rich in protein and low in fat, we agreed that this was the most fabulous tofu we’d ever had, with my fellow diner decidedly declaring, “I would eat tofu every day.” The aromatic sauce had a nice bite to it, but it was not overpowering. Full of flavour, and a perfect complement to the crunchy fried rice noodles.
The Salt & Pepper Garlic Shrimp was a delicious delicacy representative of Southern-style cooking. Ajay explained the origins came from a seafood rich area close to the Yangtze River, where fragrant spices are more popular than heat.
With deft determination, my chopsticks were first to plunge into the Northern-style BBQ Ribs. Smoked for five hours and smothered in a delectably sticky honey chilli sauce, I was smitten. “Wait ‘til you taste the ribs… so tender,” I sighed. “Oh my!” “That’s delicious!” “WOW.” Get the picture? Up to this precise moment, my fellow diner, a hardcore Hong Kong Beef guy suddenly piped up, jumped ship and exclaimed, “Do you do this as an entrée?” “We can, yes,” Ajay nodded with a knowing smile.
Next, a Lemon Coriander Soup with Chicken was paired with a Washington State Riesling, called Kung Fu Girl (2015). A young Kung Fu girl we all jested. Slightly sweet, a Riesling is a good pairing with Asian food. The coriander was perceptible, but not overwhelming. We all remarked on the soups lovely consistency -not a broth and not a cream- something in between with plenty of fresh, crunchy vegetables.
As a veritable parade of main dishes and their fabulous aromas arrived, “We need a bigger table!” we all laughed. Ajay smiled and said, “Sharing is caring. We always encourage sharing, and it allows you to try so many flavours that you would otherwise miss.” And we wouldn’t have wanted to miss ANY of these.
First, a Sliced Tenderloin in Black Pepper Sauce. Lightly seared and tossed in a “phenomenal” sauce, the beef was extremely tender. My fellow diner requested, “Is this available during the day?” We knew he was already planning tomorrow’s lunch.
The Sweet & Sour Prawns were marvelous. The sauce beautifully drenched the plump and juicy prawns with a lovely balance of sweet and tangy flavours, not the cloying, sweet ‘candy’ style. A complexity in flavours and a variety of textures, this next scallop dish was fabulous. From the tender scallops to the crunchy asparagus and snow peas to the rich, savoury and robust flavours of the Oyster Sauce.
A Sweet Bean Sauce transformed the Grilled Eggplant dish to another level. We were all surprised to learn it was actually grilled eggplant beneath the deliciously sweet and savoury sauce. Another surprise was the Chinese Greens in Mustard Chilli Sauce, a sharp and zesty sauce of mustard and Sriracha tossed with blanched vegetables. “That is awesome.”
These next two side dishes prompted complements and accolades on a par with the feature dishes. Stir Fried Rice with Crunchy Garlic – plenty of morsels of sweet, chewy, tender roasted garlic. I could not eat enough of this amazing dish. And, Wok Tossed Glass Noodles with Bamboo Shoots and Mushrooms. This Singapore-style yellow curry sauce was really tasty, with lasting flavours.
I discovered a long time ago to simply sit back, relax and trust Ajay’s judgment. He really knows his stuff. So it came as no surprise when he offered up bottles of Lucky Buddha beer with the main dishes and explained why. “No way can you pair so many flavours to one particular wine. You could probably come close if you were having a nice, young Pinot Noir, because the spices are there, but nothing like a Lucky Buddha.” It was perfect with the meal. Half rice and half barley makes this brew light and flavourful, with nice body. “Generally, non-beer drinkers love it.” Ajay admitted. Case in point, as my devout wine enthusiasts across the table eagerly agreed to another round.
The plates were bare, apart from a few skillfully and artistically cut vegetable garnishes. While recollecting and summarising this evening’s delicious odyssey, Ajay talked a bit of Thai. “A very distinct flavour, different from what we were experiencing this night. We do really good Thai food. The Green Curry is phenomenal. Minced chicken with beans, very, very good.”
Also recommended, Thai-style lobster with sweet basil, or the celebrated Peking Duck. This very popular dish takes a total of 20 hours preparation, with seven hours in the smoker. Share in Dim Sum, bite-size Cantonese treats served the traditional way in a steamer basket or Momos, a tasty, stuffed dumpling that's a popular native fast food in Nepal.
Dessert was lusciously sweet and decadent, with Lychees served over ice cream and a Date & Coconut Cigar Roll. The ‘Cigar Rolls’ were undeniably addictive. Think a dessert spring roll stuffed with smoldering sweetness and drizzled with a delightfully sweet and sticky rose sauce.
With four restaurants now in their culinary repertoire, there is no doubt that owners Chris and Sarah Haggie have contributed significantly to not only developing the restaurant scene on Providenciales, but also to developing its culinary diversity. If variety is the spice of life, it certainly is our good fortune to enjoy Garam Masala, Chopsticks, The Vix and most recently, Solana! This new and exciting dining experience features two Japanese Teppanyaki Grills and a Sushi Bar.
With the Turks and Caicos Islands as your destination and dining as your destiny, you're in for an abundance of luck!
Read the full article at http://onlineissues.wherewhenhow.com/article/Chopsticks/2782810/407630/article.html.
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