Stelle at Gansevoort Turks + Caicos Grace Bay, Providenciales (Provo)Reviewed January / February 2014
Tropical garden terrace dining at Stelle at Gansevoort Turks + Caicos
A cosmopolitan sophistication usually found in trendy, upscale restaurants in large urban cities blends seamlessly and naturally at this exotic yet relaxed Caribbean outpost. Here, polished style meets tropical elegance at Stelle at Gansevoort Turks + Caicos, a Wymara Resort.
The décor is decidedly stylish with furnishings of rich, dark mahogany, teak wood and espresso rattan. Inside dining is an atmosphere of sheer unmitigated elegance. The backdrop to the bar is a stunning wall that features a façade of rough-cut limestone next to a striking handcrafted wine cabinet that displays an impressive compilation of fine wines.
Enjoy Peppered Beef Carpaccio with Parmesan at Stelle
Outside, al fresco has never looked this chic. Dine on the garden terrace where comfortable and inviting sofa ‘clusters’ are perfect for cocktails, conversations or celebrations be it a group of friends or a romantic tête-à-tête surrounded by towering palm trees sheathed in hundreds of dazzling lights. You can even dine on a private, floating ‘island’ in the beautiful 7000 square foot infinity-edge pool, or right on the beach.* Hip and trendy vibes compliment this avant garde setting as you prepare to indulge all of your senses in this intimate and unforgettable gourmet dining experience. It’s what Stelle calls ‘Modern Mediterranean cuisine, showcasing the very best local ingredients, featuring fresh fish and seafood’ and I discovered, some unexpected culinary surprises courtesy of Tunisian-born Executive Chef Mahdi Eghnam.
As we listened to the chef recite his culinary CV that has encompassed some of the most exotic and fascinating locales in the world including Laos, Bermuda, the Maldives and many countries in the Middle East, our expectations were rife with anticipation for how incredibly inspired and creative this cuisine would be, prompting Chef Mahdi to acknowledge, “Every place you learn something new. Of course, there is infusion from where I come from.”
Chef Mahdi infuses his South Caicos Conch Salad with a twist of Tangerine
Dining on the cusp of a menu change, Chef Mahdi was excited to entertain our palates with some of his new menu creations and some Chef specialties while solicitously and cleverly planting the seeds of anticipation for a few culinary surprises that loomed on the not-too distant horizon.
A sampling of Stelle’s Signature Cocktails was the perfect precursor and accompaniment to plotting this evening’s culinary course. The wine list is thoughtfully categorised and will appeal to the most cultivated and the most casual of palates. Diehard partisans of Pinot Noir, we have become somewhat predictable, but we simply cannot help but applaud this food-friendly and palate-pleasing wine.
Stelle's Pan Seared Mediterranean Dorado Fish with Parsley Butter Risotto
As our plates evolved over the course of the evening, so too did the wine. First, a lush and well-balanced 2011 Belle Glos Meiomi Pinot Noir put forward rich berry and oak nuances with a lovely finish. Next, we took great visual pleasure in the spectacular deep crimson hues of a 2010 Flowers Pinot Noir. Good looks aside, this wine had plenty of substance too, with a profusion of berry, tea, herbs and flowers; a superbly graceful, yet intrepid wine.
The Peppered Beef Carpaccio was divine. The gossamer thin slices of beef simply dissolved on your tongue, the peppery arugula a perfect complement to the beef together with slices of marinated artichoke that added a great texture and delicious taste. A subtle truffle essence was the brilliance of this dish – delectably evident, but not excessive.
As the server carefully decanted the final drops of the Lobster Bisque into my favourite dining companion’s bowl and the enticing aromas began to pervade the air she unreservedly blurted out, “I want to lick the pot!” This bisque was marvelous with rich lobster, vanilla and sherry aromas that engulfed her senses and everyone else’s in her immediate vicinity. An abundance of lobster ‘salad’ surreptitiously lay beneath a crispy garlic foccacia crouton that was topped with delicate alfalfa sprouts.
Black Angus Beef Tenderloin with Oxtail Stuffer Ravioli and Baked Polenta
Chef Mahdi infuses a tangerine twist to his South Caicos Conch Salad with extremely tender morsels of conch together with red onion, bell pepper, coriander leaves and cumin; this ceviche had a palatable, peppery heat that “starts to sneak up on you”.
Eager to experience this multifaceted chef’s talent with pasta, I considered it an out-and-out culinary coup d'état to have tasted the Pappardelle All’Uovo before its forthcoming exodus from the menu. Meandering ribbons of perfectly al dente pappardelle pasta were gently smothered in a sauce of white wine and decadently rich and velvety mascarpone cheese together with absolutely melt-in-your-mouth rosemary braised beef. Not often at a loss for words – the profound and lingering flavours left me speechless then … and even now.
This evening’s Chef’s Special of Pan-Seared Mediterranean Dorado Filet was beyond special … it was extraordinary. This Mediterranean fish evoked memories of snapper, for its mild and delicate taste. The Parsley Butter Risotto was the foundation for this plate, raved over for its richness and the dominance of the fresh, clean parsley flavour, while a Hazelnut Herb Salad was the crowning glory to this magnificent mélange.
My husband was quite simply besotted with his Crispy Skinned Mediterranean Branzino Fillet. All the bones had been skillfully removed for a completely enjoyable and utterly carefree whole-fish experience. Moist and tender, every bite had huge flavour. In the company of orange braised fennel, calamari salad and a citrus fregola – this dish was outstanding.
Gansevoort Executive Chef Mahdi Eghnam - photo by MyParadisePhoto.com
Across the table, a half rack of Colorado Lamb put forward palpable and pleasurable mustard flavours together with an appealing and balancing mint pesto. Mint and lamb are without a doubt, a classic coupling and the complementary sides of Sicilian Crushed Potato and Crispy Artichokes were “marvelous”.
Swirls of natural jus and a colourful and refreshing puree of green peas painted the first layer of the culinary canvas for my Black Angus Beef Tenderloin. A delectable oxtail-stuffed ravioli hidden beneath a sprinkling of sprouts topped this perfectly grilled filet, while artichoke and delightful mini-rounds of baked polenta completed this tremendous dish.
Remember those unexpected culinary surprises I alluded to earlier? This traditional dish from Chef Mahdi’s roots, Tunisian Lamb Shoulder a la Gargoulette is fascinating in its preparation and presentation, and takes a total of forty-eight hours from its savoury start to its succulent finish. Prepared for two, the meat is first marinated for twenty-four hours, then placed in a terra cotta jar (gargoulette) and covered with a flour and water ‘dough’ seal that Chef Mahdi explained, “keeps all the aromatic heat and steam inside the jar to give more flavour and tenderness to the meat.” The jar is then placed in a very, very low temperature oven and cooked for twenty-four hours.
Dark and White Chocolate Mousse, Raspberry Tart, Vanilla Ice Cream and Chocolate Soil, decadent Dessert - Stelle at Gansevoort
Traditionally, the jar is buried in hot sand with wood or charcoal embers for 8 to 10 hours, and then the jar is ceremoniously broken by a sword-wielding chef. While the traditional presentation certainly would make for very exciting and dramatic culinary entertainment, for obvious reasons, just the dough will be sliced open … sans sword.
Dessert was whimsical and wonderful with ‘balls’ of Dark and White Chocolate Mousse, a fabulous and fragrant Raspberry Tart, Vanilla Ice Cream and Chocolate Soil. Yes, chocolate soil.
It was Friday night and as the vibes began to take on an upbeat twist and a new after-dinner crowd began to settle in for the hugely popular Club Stelle, we mused over our fabulous evening one last time, eager to return to revel again in the extraordinary cuisine and unparalleled style at Stelle.
*Pool and beach dining subject to additional set-up fees.
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