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Flying Fish

December 20, 2016

After this whirlwind trip through Tokyo, Singapore and Sydney, we wanted to end our trip with a bit of relaxation.  My husband came up with the idea to travel to Fiji.  Only a couple of hours plane ride from Sydney, it was easy to get to, and probably the only time we’d have the opportunity to visit this tropical island nation.  How could a girl say no to ending this incredible trip at a beach resort on a small island?  We had one night booked for our 24 hour stay in Fiji at the Westin Denarau.  Denarau is a small private island occupied mainly by a private golf club and a couple of private beach resort hotels and spas.  One of the other hotels on the island, a sister property to the Westin Denarau is the Sheraton Fiji, where we chose to have dinner on our only night on the island.

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The Flying Fish Fiji is a restaurant by renowned Sydney chef Peter Kuruvita.  Chef Kuruvita is a well-known and award-winning Australian chef who has appeared on numerous television shows, is an author in his own right, and rose through the ranks of the kitchen by being the head chef and owner at the iconic Flying Fish Restaurant & Bar in Sydney, which he opened in 2004.  In 2008 he partnered with the Starwood Hotel Group to open the Fijian version of his highly acclaimed restaurant on the island of Denarau.  Specializing in Pacific cuisine, most especially seafood, the Flying Fish blends flavors found throughout the world with the fresh seafood that Fiji is known for into world class cuisine.

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The restaurant takes full advantage of its location on a private island to have a beach front setting.  The pacific Ocean laps at one side of this open air restaurant while a lagoon pool from the hotel meanders its way through the heart of the restaurant.  The restaurant features a completely glass enclosed kitchen on all four sides so that guests can watch the chefs in action preparing their amazing food.  Most of the seating in this open air restaurant features tables set right into the sand, with the carpet of sand as the flooring for the restaurant.  It’s a mix of fine dining in a very low key and casual setting.  My husband and I immediately loved it.

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For drinks, my husband and I basically ordered two different versions of the same drink.  My husband got what was called a Denarau sunset made with mango juice, coconut syrup, fresh pawpaw, banana and cream.  Personally, I had no idea what a pawpaw was, and I came to learn that although many people use pawpaw interchangeably with papaya, as they are similar, they are in fact, two entirely different fruits.  A pawpaw tends to be a smaller fruit and is more mellow in taste, similar to that of a banana.  This drink, essentially was a tropical fruit smoothie.  The cream added richness and the banana added thickness, where the coconut syrup and mango juice added the sweetness.  Combined together, all these tropical fruits made for a smooth, creamy and fruity drink that was quite refreshing to enjoy while sitting at a table in the sound listening to the waves crash upon the sand.

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My drink was called a Midnight Oil and made with passion fruit, orange juice, coke, banana and cream.  I was interested to see how this would turn out having both coke and cream.  I don’t normally associate a highly carbonated drink such as coke going well with a thick cream and banana mixture, after all, it’s not like the Coca-Cola company has ever developed a banana coke product before.  It appeared that the coke was poured into the glass first and then topped with the passion fruit, orange juice, banana and cream mixture that had been blended into a smoothie.  The combination actually worked.  Once I swirled everything together, the coke added the sweetness to the drink and the bubbly carbonation, which I enjoyed.  The orange juice added the tang in combination with the passion fruit which was both tangy and sweet.  The banana and cream added thickness and a creamy  texture to the drink which made it rich and filling.  Although the drink sounded a bit weird and looked a bit interesting, it actually worked for me and I enjoyed it.

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The chef sent out a complimentary amuse bouche to the table which consisted of a one bite wonder of fish marinated in coconut cream, lime, vinegar, spring onions and tomatoes.  The spoonful is meant to be enjoyed in one fell swoop so that all of the flavors can explode in your mouth.  And wow, this spoonful packed a punch that my husband and I both enjoyed.  The coconut cream made the spoonful of fish taste luxurious and rich.  The lime and vinegar together packed a zing that was refreshing to awake the taste buds.  The marinated fish was tender and flavorful and the spring onions and tomato added acidity in their own right to balance out the strong sting of the vinegar.  My husband and I were only sorry that this was a one-bite wonder and not an appetizer dish that we could have more of.

For our meal, my husband and I decided to take two different approaches to what we wanted to dine on.  My husband chose to partake in the chef’s special 6 course tasting menu.  For me, I decided I wanted less courses and more freedom in wanting to choose my own dishes.

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As part of my husband’s tasting menu, his first course, the entree, was the vodka – beetroot cured NZ king salmon with citrus segments, pomegranate and dill mayo.  One bite of the salmon and the first words out of my husband’s mouth was, “wow!”  The vodka and beetroot cured salmon was so tender and the flavors of the citrus, the pomegranate and the dill mayo combined with the amazing salmon blew my husband away that he said he just didn’t have words to describe how delicious the dish was.  The salmon absolutely melted in your mouth like a stick of butter.  The creaminess of the dill may really worked with the tang of the citrus segments and the pomegranate and the thin-sliced radish add its own punch and a tender crunch texture to the salmon.  My husband’s biggest regret with this dish was that there were only two pieces of salmon, he could have eaten this up as his main course and wished that there was more of it.

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I wanted a starter myself, so I decided to order the grilled chermoula prawns served with a green tea chimichurri sauce.  First off, the prawns were huge and absolutely amazing.  I wasn’t expecting prawns this big and they were so perfectly grilled with the shell on.  The prawns were slightly sweet, juicy and absolutely full of flavor, a little char from the grill and the natural sweetness of the crustacean and it was perfect.  The green tea chimichurri sauce was a beautiful contrast to the grilled prawns and added another layer of flavor to the dish.  Using green tea to make the chimichurri was definitely a different and creative twist.  Surprisingly, I could actually taste a hint of green tea flavor in the chimichurri which was different, yet delicious.

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My husband’s second course, the starter, was the seared yellow fin tuna, ruby grapefruit, with pork crackle & black pepper sauce.  This dish had some bold flavors that combined well with the tender tuna.  Without knowing this was raw fish, my husband said that with so many flavors and textures going on, you couldn’t tell at all that it was raw fish.  The black pepper sauce was both sweet to start off with, but it had a finishing bite to it that screamed black pepper.  For my husband, that was a great thing, two different flavors from one ingredient.  The pork crackle added a crunchy textural element to the fish and the ruby grapefruit added an acidic element with a slight tang to the dish as well that helped to balance out the bold flavors of the black pepper sauce. The tuna itself was tender and flavorful and was a great vessel for highlighting the bold flavor of the black pepper sauce.

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The good food just kept coming to the table.  The third course of my husband’s tasting menu was a seared scallop served with cauliflower puree, chorizo, burnt leek and truffle oil.  Again, as before, this dish was well prepared and well presented.  Each dish that we were presented with was not only delicious but was so artfully presented to the plate to build appeal visually before you even took a bite of food.  The scallops were perfectly cooked so as to be crispy on the outside but nice and tender and juicy on the inside.  The cauliflower puree was different, and other than the fact that the flavor was a bit muted, my husband would never have guessed that it was cauliflower.  The chorizo and the chorizo oil was a great bold flavor contrast to the sweet scallops and the leeks were a nice touch to added a bit of subtle flavor to balance out the chorizo.  My husband loved the contrast of textures on the dish and the flavors really worked well with one another.  Again, another well prepared and delicious dish.

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It was finally time for the main courses to come out.  For me, I chose the Fiji fresh fish selection in a classic presentation.  The fresh fish of the day is dusted in hazelnuts and served with crushed potatoes, summer greens and served with a caper butter sauce.  I also ordered a side Nadi salad to go with my fish main dish.  For me, my fish was definitely a meaty and hearty filet.  The hazelnut crust was delicious and stuck well to the dish, which was fantastic.  The subtle nutty flavor and texture of the hazelnuts paired well with the flaky white fish which had subtle flavors to it as well.  Nothing was too bold, it was just a very simple, classic preparation of a very fresh, and delicious fish.  The potatoes were chunky which added to the heartiness of the dish, and the wilted and sautéed spinach really was a nice touch to tie everything together.  This Nadi side salad was simple with sliced radish, mixed greens, cucumber slices, shredded carrots and picked red onions with a light olive oil or vinaigrette  salad.  However, the fish was so hearty and filling that ultimately, the side salad wasn’t necessary at all.

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As part of my husband’s degustation menu, he had the choice between a fish dish or a lamb dish, he chose the fish dish.  The dish was confit salmon served over a nicoise salad with lemon vinaigrette.  As a dish on its own, the salmon was good, but my husband was ultimately slightly disappointed by it.  It was the second salmon dish of the evening and as much as the first salmon dish blew my husband away, this one was slightly disappointing by how simple it was.  The deconstructed nicoise salad was a nice touch, but again, a bit unnecessary and ultimately, untouched by my husband.  The overall feel of this main dish just seemed to lack some of the creativity and imagination of the other previous dishes that my husband had been presented with, and this dish seemed aimed more towards being a filling dish rather than focusing on the flavors and the creativity.

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Before dinner came out, we were again presented with a little sweet treat surprise and palette cleanser in the form of a spoonful of mango sorbet.  This sorbet actually was a terrific palette cleanser because while it was presented as mango sorbet, this was actually much creamier than I expected out of a sorbet, almost like a gelato rather than a sorbet.  It was also quite rich and minty rather than sweet.  The mint really helped to clean the palette and awaken the senses.

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Dessert for my husband was a two-part sweet treat.  The first part of dessert was an all spice panna cotta served with caramel ice cream, caramelized white chocolate and a popcorn praline.  This dessert was full of various flavors and textures.  the all spice flavoring in the panna cotta was different, and meant that the panna cotta wouldn’t be overly sweet, which made my husband happy.  The caramel ice cream created a bit of a contrast in textures but added the sweetness that the dish needed.  The caramel combined with the all spice created a warm and comforting treat.  The white chocolate bark created yet more hints of sweetness, but also again added a different texture to the dessert.  But the most surprising part of the entire dessert was the popcorn praline. The popcorn added chewiness and texture, but also crunch to the desert.  For my husband, the popcorn was the key ingredient in the dessert and it’s really want made the dessert as good as it was.  My husband said he’d never considered putting popcorn in a dessert with ice cream before and never thought it would work, but in this case, the flavors and the combination of the textures really worked and he really enjoyed the dessert.

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As soon as I saw the desert menu, I knew exactly what I wanted.  I ordered what was called the “chocolate delice” which was made with chocolate mousse, chocolate soil, caramelized banana, tempered chocolate, and banana ice cream.  Ok, all the desert needs to say is that it has bananas in it and I’m all over it.  In this case, this was cute, creative and delicious.  The caramelized banana with the banana ice cream completely stole the show.  I loved the use of chocolate soil made from crumbled chocolate cookies, it added some crunch and texture to the dessert.  And of course, chocolate and bananas go together so perfectly.  The tempered chocolate candy sitting on top was another level of flavor and texture to the dessert.  This dessert was beautiful and rich, but not too sweet, which is just the right combination of chocolatey and fruity, a great ending note for a terrific meal.

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But for my husband, his meal wasn’t quite done yet.  The last part of his tasting menu included s’mores, or at least the Fijian version of s’mores to finish it all off.  Out to the table came a homemade marshmallow skewered on a metal fork.  A small bowl was filled with some alcohol and lit and the idea was for my husband to torch the marshmallow over the open flame.  When the marshmallow was nice and melty, it was transferred over to a plate where the waiter then poured hot chocolate sauce all over the toasted, melted marshmallow.  And there you have it, toasted marshmallow with sweet chocolate sauce, the Fijian version of homemade s’mores.  My husband loved the interactiveness of creating his own dessert and loved roasting the marshmallow over the open flame.  The marshmallow was quite large and the chocolate sauce was sweet and perfect.  This was a fun, and delicious sweet treat at the end of a filling and tasty tasting menu.

What a trip we had, starting with a whirlwind stop in Tokyo, a quick stopover in Singapore, a fun and enjoyable time in Sydney and now a one night jaunt in Fiji.  A little bit of culture, a little bit of fun and a lot of adventure.  Four countries in just over a week.  What fun my husband and I had together exploring, learning and just having fun.  And what better way to end our incredible trip than a meal out on the beach with our toes in the sand, listening to the waves lap against the shore and being served one dish after of another of delicious, fresh, inventive seafood dishes from a well known, award-winning chef.  The Flying Fish was a perfect way to end an amazing trip, I couldn’t have asked for a better meal, a better setting, or better company.

 

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