Indulging The Senses At The Datai Langkawi
This feature originally appeared in The Peak June 2023
It’s no exaggeration to say that spending a weekend at The Datai Langkawi to experience its Guest Chef Series is to treat your senses to pure luxury. A stay in a plush island resort, set in between a prolific rainforest and the idyllic Andaman Sea, coupled with the opportunity to taste the creations of an ever-shifting cast of global culinary stars, is a must-try experience for any gastronome. It’s the ultimate short weekend getaway for the food inclined – without leaving the country.
In February, the hotel hosted celebrated French chef Arnaud Faye of La Chèvre d’Or in the south of France for its second installation of the year. Set in The Dining Room, located just in front of the tranquil adult-only pool, Arnaud presented a six-course menu that married the flavours of the French Riviera with local Langkawi produce. And so, dinner was served against a 10-million-year-old rainforest backdrop, the gentle sounds of wildlife playing in the background and the beautiful sunset casting its twilight glow.
Mediterranean cuisine typically boasts a mastery of seafood. Arnaud’s choice of proteins for dinner reflected this, commencing the meal with Japanese amberjack (hamachi) prepared in escabeche with crunchy fennel and bottarga, paired with Krug Grand Cuvée 170ème Edition. The fish featured two textures similar to an aburi style, a gently seared texture at the surface and a raw bite in between. The inclusion of fennel and herbal oil added a touch of elegant greenness to the dish for balance and accentuated the champagne’s bright mineral qualities. Bottarga, on the other hand, brought depth and flavour.
Striking while the iron is hot, on came the next entrée – celeriac risotto with parsley and black truffle. “Celeriac risotto is my signature dish. This dish is for a gourmand. You can taste different flavours and textures in each spoonful,” said Arnaud.
The best way to describe Arnaud’s signature dish is that it’s the perfect marriage between in-season produce and cooking techniques designed to bring out the best qualities of said ingredients. The gentle taste of celeriac is unmistakably the star here, its flavour permeating rice and sauce, and supplemented through parsley and black truffle, which introduced additional aromatics and tastes that celebrate the humble celery root. Arnaud was right: the harmony of herbs, spices, vegetables, flavours and textures presented on the plate was undeniably designed for a gourmand to indulge in, but I’d go far as to say that its true beauty lay in the simplicity of the flavours communicated.
The seafood symphony continued with octopus, preserved with olive oil and then cooked in the oven for four hours until crisp outside yet plump inside. Interestingly, Arnaud uses a declination of beetroot scented with Grasse rose to support the flavours of the sea. Such an ingenious combination of beetroot and rose worked so well to complement the octopus, allowing both flavours of land and sea to simultaneously caress to the senses. Taking this yet another step further was the 2018 Domaines Ott Château de Selle rosé chosen to pair with this dish, a pale pink brimming with notes of orchard flowers and citrus fruit that prolonged the elegant floral notes presented.
For the last protein course, Arnaud showcased a red mullet with spicy juice made from carrot reduction and local curry, finished with uni for a hint of elegance. The fillet was cooked in carrot juice to amplify the vegetable’s presence, resulting in a pleasing savoury-sweet dynamic with just a hint of spiciness to round out that intensity. Numerous synergies were discovered with each mouthful, but the most notable were the interactions between the red mullet and carrot, the sea urchin and carrot, the spice and the carrot, as well as the carrot reduction and the supple 2018 Domaine David Duband Les Sentiers red wine.
To finish the meal, there were two desserts – one putting prominence on the basil herb and the other chocolate. The former exuded all the elegance of the freshness of fruit and herb, introducing some much-needed lightness after a string of fantastic dishes. The latter’s chocolate-only appearance cleverly masked a variety of single-origin 70% dark chocolate from Sabah made using an assortment of techniques and styles, such as chocolate and cognac jelly, cream and sorbet, to name a few. Thankfully, guests didn’t have to choose between the lighter and heavier dessert options, again playing up the hedonistic adage of having one’s cake and eating it. Closing out dinner was a lush and balanced 2019 Ansgar Clusserath Neumagener Rosengartchen Riesling.
It should be mentioned that throughout dinner The Datai’s restaurant team really gave it their all, never missing a beat and providing such attentive service befitting the hotel’s status as a five-star resort. I was thoroughly satisfied by the end of dinner. With body, mind, and soul well fed, there was little else to do except take a stroll back to one’s villa, draw a bath, pour a nightcap and soak in the sounds of the rainforest before the sandman called.