Green-fin­gered gourmets

We visit the Asian fu­sion restau­rant that’s grow­ing its own greens

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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…

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