We visit the Asian fusion restaurant that’s growing its own greens
While the gardens of Asia might be bursting with the fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables that infuse the continent’s food with its famously vibrant flavours, here in the Middle East, a taste of Thailand often comes with a hefty environmental cost. After all, those ingredients won’t fly here themselves.
But at one little oasis right here in Dubai, a host of green technologies are being applied to ensure that diners can get a taste of Asian flavours with local produce front and centre. JA’s Jebel Ali Golf Resort has had a bio-garden on site for a while now, but with its recent expansion, the resort’s award-winning Asian eatery White Orchid has become self-sufficient with regards to a host of herbs and veggies – and the effort is all too clear on the plate.
The restaurant dishes up a buffet of starters every evening that makes maximum use of the day’s garden harvest – think Thai beef and chicken salads packed with handpicked veggies in addition to sushi, sashimi and tempura prawns, all sourced from sustainable fish and seafood suppliers.
But it’s on the main menu that the bio-garden really proves its worth. A chef’s special starter of scallops is served with juicy chargrilled pineapple and teeny cherry tomatoes fresh from the plant, as well as a tom yam sauce stuffed with garden herbs, while the Thai basil that crops up throughout the main course selection couldn’t be fresher, and the dishes sing as a result. A signature lobster curry came, not just with deliciously fresh seafood but with a medley of crisp, fresh vegetables, from baby corn and snow peas to green beans and baby aubergines. A dish of stir-fried Asian greens was similarly fresh, while perfectly cooked rice and noodles, studded with ginger, chilli and fresh-from-the-garden chives providing the perfect accompaniment.
We’d love to pretend we took the time to dissect our desserts to establish what ingredients were grown on site, but with dishes such as warm Japanese carrot cake and lime tart with strawberry and wasabi ice cream on offer, we frankly didn’t pause long enough to inhale. What we can say is that, had we taken the time to ask, we have every faith that the unendingly friendly staff would have known the answer. It’s not a given in Dubai that the service will match the food, but the enthusiasm on show at White Orchid was infectious. Staff who know AND grow their (frankly delicious) food? We’ll be back…