Azul – Sonesta, Maho

Chefs Night – dining supremely.

Chefs Night event returns for the 4th time to the all-inclusive, adults-only Sonesta Ocean Point Resort. Hosted by Chef Görgen Tiden and Chef Jimmy Stening these events are delightful, to say the least.

This year the Chefs Night had lots of meaning – it was a celebration of gastronomy from around the globe – it was also a statement that Sonesta Ocean Point Resort is back up and running, better than ever.

The Chefs Night I attended (there were two of them) was all about the inspiration of dishes from each of the participating chef’s cultural heritage (the second event celebrated local flavours of St. Maarten and the Caribbean)
Each course was paired with wine from the resort’s extensive wine list.

Without a doubt the Chefs Night at Azul is a not to be missed affair. Having been fortunate enough to attend a few of these evenings in the past I looked forward to the April, 2019 dinner.

We arrived a bit early (something I like to attempt but don’t always manage.) Arriving early allowed me to get a few photos taken of the excellent view one gets from the hotel restaurant way out on the point at Maho.

We then went topsides to enjoy a cocktail and the sunset. Boy oh, boy is it gorgeous up there. We saw Lamabada go by on their sunset cruise and watched a couple planes come in to land – small ones at that time of the evening.

We were served a delightfully refreshing mango mojito which we sipped on as we started to chill out after a busy day. This is the life, we agreed, even though we are not on holiday we sure felt like it.

The entrance to Azul was staged with a great display of fresh fruit, glasses and glasses of welcoming champagne.

Picture taken before the champagne was poured. (Yes, we were a tad early)

The tables were set with a glass for each course as well as the eating utensils we would need. A special touch was the warm cloth with which to refresh ourselves.

The gorgeous Lauren, with her sweet and gentle voice, entertained us with song that was wonderfully appropriate to the entire evening. There was wonderful guitarist who took center stage after Lauren.

As each course arrived Shep read out the info on the upcoming dish with the specially chosen wine pairing.

Amuse Bouche

Our amuse bouche arrived. I wish I could say just what was in this dish that made it extremely tasty, something elusive and green but for sure there was fresh sashimi and wonderful caviar. We conferred we could have had a big bowl of that and been happy. However the rest of the evening’s dishes more than came up to that standard.

Bao Bun

Chef Ken Lin, who originally comes from Taiwan and has the popular Alina’s restaurant, now in Maho, prepared Bao Buns with “Five Spice Crispy Duck, Spring Onion, Pickled Cabbage, Mushrooms and Citrus Duck Sauce.” This was paired with a sweet, tart Riesling Columbia Valley 2017, Washington Hills.

The Bao bun was simply delicious. The wine had a tinge of orange skin, dried apricot and a red roses on the nose. Hints of pineapple and a fresh mint like flavour, smooth and easy to drink.

Scallop

Chef Jimmy Stening hails from Sweden. Chef Jimmy presented “Nordic Scallops from Mykenfyr served with Browned Butter, Herbs and Caviar from Älvdalen.” This was paired with a Chardonnay Estate 2016, Hook & Ladder Winery. This Chef is a barbecue pit master who participated in the 2016 Grillmästarna, the Swedish equivalent of Master Chef; the 2017 grilling competition between Sweden and Denmark; and lent his talents to the 2018 Chefs Night in Sweden.

Honestly, one perfectly cooked scallop surrounded by peppery greens, caviar and a kick from a red pepper was a revelation as to how scallops should truly be prepared. The buttery yet fruit forward Chardonnay is made from grapes that are crushed, de-stemmed and pressed immediately. Fermented in French oak barrels, the wine is hand stirred in the barrel once a month, and topped twice a month for eight months allowing the wine to develop complexity of flavours and aromas. A very nice wine, but I can’t drink Chardonnay.

Crayfish

Chef Mathias Andersson (also from Sweden) served a crayfish half. The menu said “Morteon Bay Bugs,” these are a slipper-type crayfish loved by everyone in Australia. I believe we had crayfish from the Anguillian sea. (I may be wrong here!) The “side” to this tender and tasty crustacean was much like trailmix. This trailmix is one you have never had the good fortune of eating before. Crunchy, nutty, intriguing with fat sultana like fruit and salty, fresh sea flavours from “sea grass,” a succulent leaf that gave the dish a fabulous zip. A tasty caviar complimented the dish.


It turns out Chef Andersson moved to Brisbane, Australia, with his family (hence the Morteon Bay Bugs) after having worked under the guidance of Chef Görgen Tiden in Sweden. Chef Andersson worked in the Michelin-starred Connaught Restaurant and Ecco Bistro. He now caters to an illustrious clientele including Prime Ministers, entrepreneurs, private jet and yacht charters, an astronaut and for charity events.

Possibly the best preparation of crayfish we have ever had, this dish was paired with a Chenin Blanc 2017 from the Western Cape, South Africa. The brand Indaba tells us that this is a wine that has been crafted through generations.
Chenin Blanc, South Africa’s most widely planted varietal is the Cape’s signature white. Fresh, easy-drinking the wine offers vibrant flavours of honeyed pear, golden delicious apple and luscious tropical fruit. A winner, for sure.

Caviar

The above dishes featured Carelian Caviar. A 100 per cent natural and sustainably produced product from Finland´s beautiful North Carelia water district.

Short Ribs

Chef Luis Fitch comes from Mexico, prepared “Short Rib with Smoked Chiles and a Huitlacoche Tamal.” Chef Fitch owns renowned restaurant Los Xitomates in Queretaro, Mexico, with previous outposts in Puerto Vallarta and Punta de Mita. He has received the Five Star Diamond Award from the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences, Academic from La Academie Culinaire de France, and First Generation of Mexico Master Chefs in 2013.

This was a surprise. We loved the tender off the bone beef in a spicy sauce. The tamal was nothing like we had eaten before. Then again our knowledge of “real” Mexican food is very limited. This dish was paired with a robust Cabernet Sauvignon Columbia Valley 2017, Washington Hills. A very nice red wine that slipped down with surprising ease!

Fallow Deer

Chef Görgen Tidén from Sweden) prepared “Fallow Deer served with Lingonberry, Game Sausages and a Cream of Roasted Jerusalem Artichoke flavoured with Truffle and a Jus.”

Game, prepared in all forms, is one of the delights in gastronomy. We count our blessings we can enjoy game here on island on ocassion. The on the mark, pink in the middle perfection of melt-in-the-mouth, venision served with sweet ligonberries made us think of a colder climes and chilly evenings surrounded by friends and family. (Admittedly I did not find any sausageThe pairing of Merlot Insignia 2016, Luigi Bosca was on point.

Dessert

Chef Frida Bäcke is also from Sweden. Chef Frida, the pastry chef at acclaimed Svenska Kocklandslaget is the former pastry chef at Michelin-starred Restaurant Kontrast Oslo. She also won the Gold Medal in the World Cup with Sweden’s national team. Chef Frida prepared a “Cloudberry, Brown Butter and Almond dessert.”


Light and pleasant with interesting flavours the dessert was a very fitting end to a culinary evening that won’t be quickly forgotten.
Paired with a balanced fruity Moscato d’Asti “Bosc d’ La Rei” 2017, Batasiolo.

A whiskey was offered at the end of this gourmet meal. A nice gesture was the whiskey offered at the end of the meal; (although a port may have gone down easier to this non-hard spirit drinker.)

The end of the evening drew near. Faultless service that, once the ball started rolling, saw each course served seemlessly. The tables were cleared of all used flatware, glasses and plates in an unobtrusive way. The service at Sonesta sets a high standard on St. Maarten/St. Martin.

Visiting Chefs

During the evening we heard small planes coming into land. We also had a delightful glimpse of a ship leaving Great Bay harbour. Seen between the windbreak curtain and railing around the restaurant,

Pictorial

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