A restaurant perched on a cliff top, 293m above sea level, each dish served like an artwork and accompanied by ‘Let me explain to you what is this dish Sir/Madam’ – this is Sense on the Edge, which has bagged the Middle East Hotel Awards 2012 for the Best Restaurant. An al-fresco dining on the terrace overlooking the Bay of Oman with the lights from the resort and the adjacent Zighy Village glittering like fireflies from below, this is surely the Omani Amalfi Coast! Sadly, the distance and the location doesn’t allow a sudden dropping in for a random meal, though I’ll be tempted to do so, every month on a full moon night, when the Bay waters shine like silver and the mountains are awashed in the moonlight. It was unarguably an evening to remember.
Taking a cue from my last post… We have been trying to travel responsibly over the years and visiting Six Senses Zighy Bay which has bagged the 2012 Middle East Hotel Awards for the Best Sustainable Initiative, just added to the gradually growing list of the Eco Resorts that we’ve visited so far. The resort’s green policy – adhering to the Slow Life… Meat Free Tuesdays… no wild Salmons flown over the Atlantic etc, is not very easy to follow when the mindset of a regular guest is that he/she has a right to demand everything, specially when in a resort as exclusive as this. This is where the Guests have to be in unison with the Six Senses’ vision and philosophy. The last post was about the resort’s green policy – a few highlights from their little green book, visiting the Reverse Osmosis plant and enjoying their almost sustainable Organic garden. This post talks about the romanticism of Sense on the Edge, the fresh food that were offered throughout our stay, prepared with vegetables growing in the resort’s own organic garden. And of-course, our family cooking class with Chef Hassan in Spice Market, the resort’s Arabic restaurant and a super easy Arabic recipe.
I was hoping that our Arabic cooking class would take place in the organic garden just like FooDiva’s, but technical glitches (composts attracting too many flies!) shifted the lessons to the restaurant, Spice Market. The first tip remaining unchecked, I had to make sure that the second tip – dinner at Sense on the Edge, was atleast checked. With a reservation for an early dinner (6:35pm), we set out for the top of the mountain. A Toyota Landcruiser from the resort drove us up in complete darkness, along the same meandering, snaky, rocky slip road that we had taken while coming down to the resort, earlier on our arrival day. Imagine the thrill of dining in another restaurant of a resort that you are staying in, which is detached from the main resort by a 15 minutes drive! This is also the high point from where one can opt for a Paragliding arrival while checking into the resort.
Blame it on the candles – all my photographs are in night-mode or candle-light mode. And not many photographs of the actual food because of the dim lighting. Using a flash in this utterly romantic place would have been quite sacrilegious. The evening started with a Passion-fruit Martini (below) and upgraded gradually to a 2010 Danzante Merlot, the grapes coming from the Tuscan vineyards. Personally speaking, I’d prefer the Date Martinis over the Passion-fruit versions anyday. I must have had the Date Martinis even during teatime! The Sense on the Edge Menu is crafted by Chef James Knight-Pacheco and I was certain looking at the craftily done cover of the Menu (above) – with Cinnamon sticks, Star Anise, Cloves etc – that this was going to be one helluva dinner affair for us. We chose the three-course degustation menu over the seven courses which comes with the Chef’s tasting menu, for the two of us. The Z-Sistershad a lot of choices in their Kid’s Menu. In most places, the standard Kid’s Menu consists of some frozen Nuggets, Burgers and a Tomato Pasta (basically a Tomato-ketchup Pasta) to choose from. Exceptions to this had been our experience in Anantara’s Desert Island Resorts, in Sir Ban Yas Island, which had a full-fledged Menu with multiple options (tagging along some hidden vegetables as well!). Also in BoHouse Café, a Cafe cum Restaurant on The Walk in JBR, where we were very surprised to find fresh Nuggets, home-made Pasta in the Kid’s Menu.
The Starters: Big Z had a Chicken and baby gem Salad, which arrived topped with poached Egg, Bacon dripping in Maple Syrup and sprinkled with crispy Parmesan. For Lil Z, it was a Prawn cocktail, mixed with Rosemary sauce, chopped Tomatoes, Avocado and sprinkled with Dill croutons. She loves Prawns – but the amount of food she leaves on the plate is no indication of the taste or the quality of the food really. Both S and I, ordered Chicken Mosaic (a very dim picture below!) – Chicken Croquets and when cut, a thick delicious Caramel sauce oozed out from inside like a molten lava and poured itself out onto the roasted Pistachios and Mushroom served alongside. I was told that this was organic corn-fed Chicken that had been cooked for 24 hours. The other options for the Starters that seemed interesting were the port marinated Foie Gras (at the cost of being probably chucked out of the Great Foodies’ List, I’ll admit that I never can understand the hoo-haa associated with Fois Gras. This one looked great because of the Port and also a fluid Pineapple gel that was served along with it!), the pan roasted Scallops and a slowly cooked Onion Ravioli with Granny Smith Apple puree, poached baby Onions and almonds, served with Vanilla and a Grape juice. I wish I was not feeling so carnivorous that evening – I had seen the Onion Ravioli being served to another diner and something tells me that I should have ordered that instead of Chicken Mosaic.
The Mains: My duo of Blackmore Beef came with a pan roasted Loin, a braised flank which had been cooked for 12 hours and served with some pureed Zighy Date and vegetables from the resort’s organic garden. S had ordered Roasted Lamb Leg, which had been poached previously for 24 hours and infused with Tomatoes and Basil. A Confit shoulder along with Sweetbreads, Apricots, sun-dried Tomatoes and Olives – he definitely seemed a very happy man. Big Z had ordered a Chicken and Mushroom Tagliatelle. It came with homemade Tagliatelle, Chicken breast, garden vegetables with thick creamy Butter Sauce poured all over it. We had to pre-order the kid’s meal – it was an oven roasted Burger, cupped by toasted Buns for Lil-Z, but she was already quite full. Curse the fine-dining etiquette that reprimands grabbing the kid’s plate to polish off the remaining food or lick the fork (though I sneakily managed to do both!).
The Desserts: It’s a shame really that the photographs haven’t appeared the way each dish actually tasted (blame it on the romantic ambiance and the candles again!). After having each meal paired with the perfect wine, we still longed for some Desserts not because there was extra space in our tummy, but because we really wanted to see what sweet surprise would spring at us. Our family doesn’t believe in sharing Desserts – hence we all ended up ordering our own respective desserts. The Z-Sisters tasted a Banana split – toasted Banana, smoked Caramel Popcorn, Raspberry Caramel and scoops of Vanilla Ice cream; and Chocolate Slice – interesting slices of Dark and White chocolate slice with Chocolate sauce and White Chocolate crispies. S ordered a Coconut and Mango Mille Feuille (traditionally, a Mille-Feuille is made up of three layers of puff pastry, and two layers of crème pâtissière. The top layer is coated with a sprinkling of powdered sugar. More on Mille Feuille). It was made with Lime powder, Coconut and Malibu jelly, Mango gel, Coconut and Vanilla. I ordered Chocolate. That was the name of the Dessert as well – no fancy French name, only pure Chocolate! This was a lethal Chocolate combo of chocolate liquid, Chocolate Earth (what on Earth is Chocolate Earth? It is Chocolate powder sprinkled all over!), White Chocolate and puffed Rice with malted Milk Ice cream and Raspberries. Phew! Rocket Science is easier than describing the Chocolate!
The Verdict: Most of the degustation menus leave me hungry with their delicately crafted, exotic looking but devastatingly small portion sizes. But, this was one Menu where the portion size as well as the taste left me satisfied. The Kid’s Menu, as I’ve mentioned before, was sumptuous – lot of options respecting the young diner. There were mix and match of various flavours and ingredients and a whole lot of surprise elements. For example, the complimentary Amuse Bouches from the Chef – home made assortment of a Bread Basket with Caramel Butter and Garlic Butter. Or, the Magic Pops (crackling or popping candy granules) that were sprinkled on the Desserts – yes, even for the adults. As the evening passed, the terrace became pretty chilly. But we wouldn’t go inside, lest we missed out our conversation with the stars! The Z-Sisters were wrapped up in warm jackets brought by the caring Restaurant host. Dining in Sense on the Edge was an incredible experience for us. But if this doesn’t sound incredible enough for you, ‘there’s an extra-special and private dining experience; the Starlight Table. Nightly a couple can reserve this intimate table, completely removed from the rest of the restaurant and overlooking all that Zighy Bay has to offer’. Alas, not for us – with two kids in tow!
Okay, so did we manage to grab any romantic two-some moments in a sensational ambiance like this? Eventually, by the time the Desserts arrived, we ended up in the same table with another couple who had come from Mongolia. They too had two girls and as their girls ran off indoors with the Z-Sisters to have their own chit-chat, we – the awesome foursome, had our brilliant Desserts together. Who cares about romantic dinners? We now have someone to say Hello when we knock on Mongolia! Did someone say something about a secluded and exclusive Starlight Table? Ahhh, never mind…
Our family cooking class was set up beautifully at the one of the resort’s Arabic restaurants – the Spice Market. Interestingly, all the furniture in the Spice Market has been created from sustainable wood and boasts of a traditional mud kitchen. A semi circular wooden ring formed our dining table while Chef Hassan demonstrated the Arabic dishes – Fattoush for Salad, Falafel as a Starter, Samkeh Harra/Spicy Fish as a Main Course and our all-time family favourite Arabic Dessert – Um Ali. Um Ali, here was cooked in a slightly different way than the one we had learnt previously at at our cooking class by the beach at Ananatara’s Desert Islands Resorts in Sir Ban Yas Island. The recipe of Samkeh Harra is quite similar to the Prawn Harra that we learnt at Desert Islands, so you could check on that recipe here – Desert Islands Resorts by Anantara | Cooking Spicy Prawn Harra By The Beach. Here, I am sharing the recipe for Fattoush, perhaps, the most popular Lebanese Salad. Sweet, salty and citrusy – it is perfect to combat the hot Middle Eastern Summers. The recipe has been tried and tested at home and I’ve slightly modified it to suit our palate. The Um Ali, however, deserves a separate post altogether. Egyptian in origin, I could wait for my trip to Egypt to write about Um Ali – if only the turmoil in the region would stop. Ingredients Dressing Garnishing Method of Preparation
Lettuce – 1 big, chopped into 1 inch strips
Tomatoes – 2 medium, chopped into cubes or 4 Cherry Tomatoes
Cucumbers – 2 big, chopped into cubes
Onions – 1 big, cut into slices
Garlic – 2 pods, chopped
Lemon – 1 medium, squeezed
Pomegranate seeds – 1 cup Pomegranate concentrate – 1/4 cup [According to Chef Hassan, he boils almost a 1lt of Pomegranate Juice for 4 hours in low seam to get the thick Pomegranate syrup. This can be refrigerated upto months. However, Pomegranate molasses are available in the Arabic section in any supermarket and can be used as a substitute.)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil – 1/4 cup
Salt – As per taste
Sumac – 2 tbsp (The fruits of the flowering plant Rhus are ground into purple powder used as a spice in Middle Eastern cuisine to add a lemony taste to salads or meat. Read more on Sumac)
Arabic Pita Bread – 2, toasted or grilled until golden brown and broken into squares of 1 inch
Mix Sumac with Lemon Juice, Pomegranate concentrate or 2 tbsp Pomegranate molass, Garlic and dried Mint. Add Olive Oil, Salt. You may add more Lemon Juice or Pomegranate Concentrate according to your desired level of sweetness-sourness.
Parsley Leaves – 1 cup, chopped
Mint leaves – 1 cup, chopped
Rosemary – 1 sprig
• Coat the Pita Bread pieces with Olive Oil and set them aside
• Mix Lettuce, Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Onions in a mixing bowl
• Add the Pomegranate seeds, Olive Oil, Pomegranate concentrate, Salt and the toasted Pita Bread pieces
• Add the Dressing and mix well
• Sprinkle a bit of Sumac
• Add the Garnishing
Our family cooking class was set up beautifully at the one of the resort’s Arabic restaurants – the Spice Market. Interestingly, all the furniture in the Spice Market has been created from sustainable wood and boasts of a traditional mud kitchen. A semi circular wooden ring formed our dining table while Chef Hassan demonstrated the Arabic dishes – Fattoush for Salad, Falafel as a Starter, Samkeh Harra/Spicy Fish as a Main Course and our all-time family favourite Arabic Dessert – Um Ali. Um Ali, here was cooked in a slightly different way than the one we had learnt previously at at our cooking class by the beach at Ananatara’s Desert Islands Resorts in Sir Ban Yas Island. The recipe of Samkeh Harra is quite similar to the Prawn Harra that we learnt at Desert Islands, so you could check on that recipe here – Desert Islands Resorts by Anantara | Cooking Spicy Prawn Harra By The Beach. Here, I am sharing the recipe for Fattoush, perhaps, the most popular Lebanese Salad. Sweet, salty and citrusy – it is perfect to combat the hot Middle Eastern Summers. The recipe has been tried and tested at home and I’ve slightly modified it to suit our palate. The Um Ali, however, deserves a separate post altogether. Egyptian in origin, I could wait for my trip to Egypt to write about Um Ali – if only the turmoil in the region would stop.
Method of Preparation
The Organic Garden, local fresh produce, slow life and a sustainable Menu… if you’ve read the previous post, you probably know a bit of what’s to come. The resort’s own organic garden produces most of the herbs and green vegetables that are required – Flat Parsley, Rockets, Lettuce, Tomatoes, Radish, Eggplant, Pumpkin, Bitter gourd, Water spinach, Chico [zapato], Onions, Baby spinach, Beet root, Mint, Sweet basil, Dill etc. Only organic fresh produce is used here – vegetables that do not grow in the resort garden comes from local organic farms from Oman. As I’ve mentioned in my last post, I’m happy to hear that the Six Sense philosophy favours Locavorism over organic produce, a topic that has warranted a lot of discussion currently. So, if a fresh produce cannot be farmed organically but is produced locally, the latter would be given more importance. Dates are abundant and are used for almost everything – we had already sipped into chilled Date Shakes on arrival, they are used for making scrubs for the resort’s Spa treatments; they go into Desserts as Date Cème Brulee; they also go into their brilliant Martinis. And from our dining experience in the Sense on the Edge, it also accompanied our Blackmore Beef as a pureed! All plants and trees found in the resort are also of indigenous origin – Dates (1,066 Female trees within resort and 14 Male trees within resort – I am told!), Figs (430), Lime (90), Sidr (340 in the Zighy Bay area) etc. Different fruits growing in the resort yield organic production throughout the year. Date trees blossom in February and the harvest spreads from May onwards. Organic vegetables grow from November to May, so does the Figs. Limes grow from May to March, while Hennas are there all the year round. Figs, Dates go into the making of home made jams, desserts, reductions, and Spa treatments. The wide array of home-made jams and compotes (below right) are served for daily breakfast – some of the combinations are interesting – Apricot and Basil, Tomato and Vanilla! Fig jam and Honey made from local Dibba Dates are the specialities here. So is the Passion-fruit Martini and the Date Martini (below left). Hammour and lobsters have not been in the Zighy Bay menu ever since they have been become ‘over-fished’. Nor is Salmon, which has to be air-freighted. Instead, the fish menu depends upon the fresh catch from the local fishermen in the Zighy bay, provided they’ve had a surplus. In-fact, the Samkeh Harra that we cooked was with the locally abundant Shaari Eshkelli fish. Tuesdays are dedicated Meat Free days here. The resort also purifies and bottles its own Drinking Water. All in all, this is an example of a Slow life dedicated to a Sustainable Menu.
Six Senses Zighy Bay
5* Luxury Eco Resort; Zighy Bay, Musandam, Oman
Zighy Bay is located 120 km, or 90 minutes drive from Dubai International Airport
Tel: +968 26 735888; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org to check for their Spring Holidays and Easter Programme (22nd March –7th April) and special packages. Or you could visit their Website; Facebook Page; Twitter
Paragliding, Microlites, Kayaking, Snorkeling, Scuba-diving, various Water sports (Water Ski, Wake Board or Tubing), Dhow Cruise, Fishing, Mountain hiking, Mountain Biking, Trekking etc – one can choose from various activities offered by the resort apart from the various specialised Spa treatment from the award-winning Six Senses Spa. A Six Senses Spa is a key component of a Six Senses. The resort features 79 independent pool villas plus the Private Reserve and 2 Retreats in traditional Omani style, with modern amenities and luxury. Six Senses Zighy Bay is one of the exclusive ecologically and socially responsible resorts as chosen by Eco luxury Retreats of the World.
In view of Arab Water Day, the Sustainable water initiatives by the resort becomes more commendable… Arab Water Ministerial Council organises the Arab Water Day on 3rd March every year to urge Arab countries for more work towards achieving water security in the Arab Countries in the way towards sustainable development in the region. I’m taking the onus to highlight Six Sense Zighy Bay’s commitment towards sustainable water. My belief is that – if a luxury resort tucked away in a remote Bay in Oman can achieve this, surely a few rich nations can together achieve a sustainable water target? The resort purifies and bottles its own Drinking Water through Reverse Osmosis (what is Reverse Osmosis?) and re-usable glass bottles have replaced plastic bottles. 50% of Six Senses Drinking Water sales from any of resort’s F & B outlets go to Social and Environment Responsibilities Fund (SERF), a fund for local social projects. Apart from the Drinking Water, the entire water supply of the resort is obtained by desalinating sea-water. Considering that the resort’s water requirement is enormous, with all the villas having their own independent pools, the resort’s sustainable management of freshwater is noteworthy. On International World Water Day, held annually on 22nd March, 100% of the revenue generated from Six Senses water sales is placed into the SERF, in-order to carry out clean water initiatives throughout Oman. Furthermore, waste water is also recycled in the resort’s own waste water treatment plant where it is treated and reused for landscaping irrigation.
From an exotic degustation dining experience in Sense on the Edge to a family cooking class in the Spice Market, from craving for more of those tantalising Date Martinis prepared by the bartenders in Zighy Bar to emphasising my personal belief on the Arab Water Day that a few nations together could embark upon a fabulous sustainable future – the Six Senses Zighy Bay manages to transcend different levels. That probably explains the title to my previous post was Six Senses in Zighy Bay, Oman | Appealing To More Senses Than Six!
Unblogging it all… Ishita