Pavilion at The Somerset Providenciales (Provo), Turks & Caicos IslandsReviewed Summer 2015
Executive Chef Justine Currie presides over the exhibition kitchen at Pavilion
Experience a unique brand of culinary invention and creativity from an entirely new perspective at Pavilion. It’s a close encounter of the epicurean kind, where Executive Chef Justin Currie and Sous Chef Trevor Penney take centre stage at the exhibition kitchen bar.
The chance to observe chefs at play is always a rare and exciting opportunity I can’t resist; these seasoned culinary performers went straight into character, relishing the chance to play to their audience while we indulged in pre-dinner cocktails. Conversant and convivial, they emanated a palpable passion for their craft, so much so that this didn’t seem like work to them at all.
Let Pavilion prepare an assortment of fresh seafood ceviche
As this evening did have a ‘work’ angle for me, I reluctantly vacated my front row seat in favour of traditional table dining, but made a deliberate effort to position myself close to the bar. I knew I would be compelled to crane my neck repeatedly throughout the course of the evening to steal momentary glimpses of these entertaining and engaging culinary performers.
In the restaurant proper, it’s a Tuscan-style vibe of rustic elegance, where wrought iron chandeliers effortlessly complement and harmonise, with contemporary and stylish white-on-white furnishings. Or, dine al fresco in an aura of old-world ‘civilised’ elegance overlooking the croquet lawn, where you just may experience an inexplicable urge to order a gin and tonic.
The kitchen features a wood stone oven, where all main courses are grilled, roasted or seared. A Raw Bar serves the freshest seafood, from ceviches to Asian-inspired tuna tataki.
A basket of fresh, warm and crispy focaccia arrived, scenting the air and appeasing our palates, followed by a lovely Amuse-bouche of jerk chicken, island slaw, and a delectable, ‘oh, may I please have another,’ plantain chip.
After watching several Heirloom Tomato Salads literally fly out of the kitchen over cocktails, my dining companion was compelled to see what all the fuss was about. While tomatoes may be the feature of this fresh and colourful salad, it was the Burrata cheese that stole the show. This semi-firm Mozzarella reveals a luscious, creamy filling, which is actually shreds of Mozzarella in cream. A handful of aromatic Nicoise olives, fresh basil, and a concentrated Balsamic Reduction prompted my fellow diner to croon, “That was fantastic, and I’m not a big salad eater.”
Beef Tenderloin Carpaccio is served with thin focaccia toasts
Nothing can compare to the absolute and unadulterated freshness of a ceviche. Choose one, or let the chef prepare an assortment like Tuna, Snapper, Conch or Mahi Mahi. This evening, tuna would take the stage solo, deliciously supported by miso, soy, mustard greens, “huge wasabi,” and more of those delectable plantain chips. They may have been on my fellow diner’s plate, but possession is only nine-tenths of the law.
My dish was a sensational Beef Tenderloin Carpaccio featuring Omaha Beef. Create your ultimate taste combinations on paper-thin focaccia toasts. DIY and mix it up with pickled cauliflower and onion together, with a bright and zesty olive tapenade and a spicy espelette aioli. But the real game-changer of this dish was the extraordinarily rich, salty, smoky, and creamy grated topping. We just couldn’t seem to identify it. Was it a super-fine grated cheese? No, not even close. It was what Justin playfully called, “A little basic science.” We sat spellbound as Justin described the fascinating and original process of making preserved egg yolks. Forty egg yolks are placed on a bed of brown sugar and salt, cured for one week. Then they are smoked on a rack with coconut shells for four hours, and then the rack is placed in direct sunlight at 2:00 in the afternoon for four hours two days in a row. It takes two full weeks to complete the process, and the taste and texture is unparalleled.
A beautiful Heirloom Tomato salad with Burrata cheese and Nicoise olives.
The Hand Rolled Potato Gnocchi may have appeared on the menu in bold italics, but it was the house-made chorizo in small print that caught my husband’s undivided attention and completely captivated his palate. Justin explained that he has been working on this chorizo blend for 4 or 5 years now. One taste had both hubby and me convinced … how could he possibly improve on this pork perfection? “Amazing flavour, with a fantastic kick,” my husband cooed.
If you’re longing for the taste of lobster, but it’s out of season, placate your palate with Giant Madagascar Prawns. My fellow diner was perfectly pacified and raved of the impressive size of the prawns, as well as the loaded twice baked potato, stuffed with aged Canadian cheddar, bacon, sour cream, and scallions. “When lobster goes out of season, we have to bring in something off island. If I have to bring something in, it might as well be fantastic. People really like it – it’s a big seller,” Justin explained.
Cacao Braised Beef Ravioli is the Signature Dish at the moment and this years Chocolate Lover’s Showcase Winner
My fellow diner raved of the crispy skin and savoury Creole-spiced kick of the Pan-Roasted Free Range Hen. We all raved of the crispy kale chips. The table quickly became a sea of green, a veritable kale storm, and she sat powerless, watching the lip-smacking Kale chips fly off her plate. This dish featured a to-die-for house made andouille sausage, orzo, and roast corn.
The Signature Dish of the moment, and winner of the Savoury Category at the annual Chocolate Lover’s Showcase, the Cacao Braised Beef Ravioli’s origins began as a menu feature by Sous Chef Trevor. Justin explained, “We went back and revisited that feature, a braised beef with dutch cocoa powder (which is very strong and bitter). It came up with this incredible richness.” It’s topped off with an uber-rich porcini veal cream sauce, but the piece de resistance is what’s on top of that. I began to salivate, as Justin divulged the divine details. “We took 140 grams of black truffle and shaved it into one pound of 92% bitter chocolate, solidified it, and formed it into a log. Then this was shaved on a microplane over the pasta.” It was over the top.
Recalling that Justin had said that features are always menu candidates, this dish was certainly a contender in my books. An evening pasta special of Green Curry Risotto, sweet and sour Thai BBQ sauce, Mahi Mahi, and raw tomato hot sauce was so amazing on so many levels. Justin grinned and said, “Some love went into that; we had fun making it.” I was happy to report to Justin that just as much love went into eating it.
Pavilion’s Island Cobbler with Rum-Raisin Ice Cream dessert
A 2012 Cuvaison Carneros Pinot Noir from California was an undisputed crowd pleaser with floral, raspberry, black cherry, and spice on the nose; a rich mouth feel with smooth tannins, and a lovely, long finish.
This epicurean extravaganza was far from over. Dessert was now imminent and with it, great expectations. Did I just hear Justin say Cracker Jack Ice Cream? I rarely draw significant attention to ice cream, but here it is absolutely necessary. This corn and caramel swirl prompted an episode of déjà vu and tasted just like the tasty, sweet boxed treat from my childhood. Justin regaled us with yet another dissertation, or should I say dessertation, of this unconventional time and labour intensive process. “You won’t believe this, into 3 litres of this ice cream goes about 40 to 50 litres of popcorn,” he boasted. Also worthy of boasting about, Key Lime Pie, White Chocolate and Mango Cheesecake, an Island Cobbler with a phenomenal house-made rum-raisin ice cream, and a Drop Dead Chocolate Mousse, which happens to be the chef’s favourite and a top seller.
The elegant indoor dining area and exhibition kitchen at Pavilion
Justin’s inspiration for many of these dishes comes from his international exposure living and working in Toronto, Canada. This vibrant and exciting city is a melting pot of cultures, where more than six million people live and/or work. He talked of Little India, Chinatown, and of the hippest places that are serving Korean BBQ, gourmet tacos, or braised pig hocks. As he spoke and reminisced, his expression unexpectedly changed. He took on a faraway and melancholy expression, as he appeared to drift away, his mind, and his palate, back in Toronto. “Now I crave that,” Justin sighed. When he returned to the present moment, he simply smiled and said, “We’re going to push the envelope as far as we can, because we want to expose people to something new.”
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