Top of the Food Chaîne!

Thursday, November 22, 2018

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If you're not one for a gushing recap, we suggest turning to the next Thursday Food story. Chaîne des Rôtisseurs Jamaïque (the Jamaican chapter of the world's oldest and largest gastronomic association) pulled out all the stops at its gala dinner, “Out of Many - One Cuisine”, held at Moon Palace Jamaica on Saturday, November 10. The evening was, in a word: marvellous! Each detail was thoroughly inspected and practised and this made for a dining experience normally reserved for royals. A team of 45 waiters, 40 chefs, two sommeliers, six wine stewards and half-a-dozen senior staff worked to pull off the event. Bravo!

Let's start with the service. Moon Palace opted to do sweep service. What's that, you ask? It's a theatrical ballet in which a team of waiters (in this case, 45) enters the room at once and places plates on the tables at once. Synchronicity! That's not all. When they are finished, the servers from each table move clockwise to join a partner and exit the banquet hall in two perfect rows. Moon Palace servers definitely got in formation! Banquet Manager Lavaun Todd told Thursday Food that it took three weeks of practice for the team to get the timing and movements down pat. Three weeks of effort that was worth it. Many attendees clapped after their courses were delivered with grace and pomp. Rightly so!

Now onto the food; the visually stunning and formidable fare . The Out of Many — One Cuisine theme showcased the numerous cultures that have influenced Jamaican cuisine. The first course paid homage to the Tainos with a succulent Caribbean lobster with tangy fresh orange and passion fruit sorbet. According to the Chaîne menu, “The Tainos are said to have feasted on over 40 varieties of fish and shellfish” and this inspired the chefs to create this dish. It was interesting to have lobster prepared as a ceviche, the granita and Champagne accentuating the saltwater freshness of the shellfish.

The second course was a Tandoori mango with avocado and herbaceous perfumed honey. This course represented the Indian influence on local cuisine, and the tart mango with slight char was balanced by the smooth and indulgent avocado mousse. The dish could have benefited from a touch more honey, but the balanced acidity and appealing freshness of the Sine Cortese Piemonte rounded out the flavours well. Spain, England and Jamaica teamed up, figuratively speaking, for the third course — a trio of cod fritter, deep-fried Johnny cake stuffed with callaloo, and ackee and a spicy curry chicken pasty. This dish was brimming with flavour: the land of wood and water on a plate! The floral notes of the Lunato Orvieto Classico Superiore made the third course sing.

The hearty Ghanaian goat soup served in sweet potato cup that followed was excellent and the fresh saline minerality of the Chateau de Cleray Muscadet-Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie made for a heavenly pairing. There was an intermezzo of a 24-karat gold sphere filled with Middle Eastern aromatics. The memo not to bite into it, but rather pop the whole thing into the mouth came too late and the centre exploded onto many a table. For the sixth course, the chefs paid homage to Chinese influence with a five-spice jerk duck magret. Unfortunately, the duck was cooked beyond medium and the jerk flavours eradicated that of the five-spice. Thank goodness the body of the Pasquier Desvignes Côtes du Rhône and its notes of berries, tobacco and leather stood up against the power of the jerk seasoning.

The seventh course took diners back to The Rock with a slow braised oxtail with roasted bone marrow. This is the sort of dish worthy of a Michelin star. Its unctuousness, umami and sheer brilliance made it hands-down one of the favourites of the evening. One Chaîne member commented, “I could have eaten more”, and this is after consuming seven dishes! Whoever chose the Marques de Murrieta Rioja knew that the notes of cherries and spices, when paired with the oxtail and bone marrow, would drop the mic on the whole affair.

The eighth and ninth courses were sweet offerings. The dessert was a deconstructed pumpkin pie that had a number of textures and forward pumpkin spice flavours. The ripe fruit with nutmeg notes of the Teufelströpfchen Goldmuskateller really elevated the dessert. This course showed just how important wine pairing is and how it can affect (and improve) a dish. The bonus course (number nine, if you lost count) brought the kid out of everyone. A basketball-sized chocolate orb filled with decadent handmade chocolates was brought to each table and had to be smashed open. Who wouldn't love a miniature piñata made of chocolate?

Moon Palace Jamaica lived up to Chaîne des Rôtisseurs expectations and, dare we say, exceeded them. It was due to this partnership, which was built on trust and mutual understanding, that an event was created will be forever etched in the memories of those who attended.

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