If you want to treat yourself during the holiday season, Sanya has an endless supply of options for beautiful hotel events, tree lighting ceremonies, brunches, buffets, and dinners. Over the past few years, I have been very lucky to try many of these wonderful options, but I must say, Fresh at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Dadonghai is by far the best. The talented chefs at this Australian style seafood restaurant create beautiful dishes with great skill and attention to detail. Fresh offers a 7 course tasting menu year round, but just for a few days, they change the menu to their beautiful, delectable take on Christmas classics. The restaurant now also offers an opportunity to sit at the chefs table, looking into the kitchen, where you can watch these incredible chefs at work.
And now, onto the food. The meal began with an amuse-bouche of crab, cauliflower and leek cream, and caviar. It was presented so beautifully, I almost didn’t want to eat it! But of course I did.
Our second course was oysters, Christmas style. We were each presented with a tray of oysters, three ways. The first was Christmas spiced granita, the second with star anise, and the third with a squeeze of mandarin orange.
For our third course we were presented with a beautiful cake of salmon, paired with orange-jelly, ginger sour cream, edamame, roe, and capers. Each accompaniment to the salmon had a perfect purpose, and this created a beautifully balanced dish.
The fourth course starred local Hainan prawns, which came with a sauce of burnt vanilla butter, Jerusalem artichoke, lemon jus, and sour dough.
The fifth course was plated as a show. We were each given a dish of scallops, Parmesan gnocchi, thyme oil powder, and jamon. Next, the chefs poured a rich corn veloute table side into each of our dishes. The flavors of this dish were spectacular.
For our final savory course, we were given the option of turkey or suckling pig, but we just couldn’t decide which to get. The head chef recommended the turkey, as it’s Christmas, but he then kindly prepared one additional suckling pig dish for us to try. So first, let me tell you about the turkey dish, absolutely amazing. I have to say, I have never had such moist turkey in my life. The chef then told us how he creates this phenomenal take on turkey. Rather than serving a slice of turkey, they mince the meat, create a netting of fat, and then make a little present of mince wrapped in the fat, resulting in the juiciness that we experienced. Each little side on this dish was spectacular as well. You had each classic side represented: sprouts, chestnuts, cranberry, pistachio, bread sauce, and pumpkin.
And now onto the suckling pig. The pig was perfectly cooked, topped with a cinnamon glaze, and paired with rich sides of sautéed honey apple, potato purée, pea, and spinach.
For our dessert course, we ended the meal with a light and beautiful representation of Hainan’s tropical fruits. We tasted Hainan mango pudding, served with meringue, berries and jellies, amaretto ice cream, and almonds.
We also ended the meal with a last little bit of Christmas in the form of gingerbread macaroons, topped with a beautiful decoration of holly.
This entire experience was one that I will never forget; from sitting at the chef’s table, to trying these creative and festive takes on a classic Christmas meal, to speaking with the chefs and seeing their passion and love put into the food. I highly recommend this restaurant and hotel to anyone living in or visiting Sanya, and Hainan island. I can’t wait to go back now and try the regular tasting menu in the new year!
Merry Christmas everyone!