Chef Arnaud Faye Serves Up The French Riviera At The Datai Langkawi’s 2023 Edition Of The Chef Series

As dusk shrugs off the cloak of day, the differences between the French Riviera and Langkawi become more pronounced. Although both horizons are swallowed by darkness, nightfall intensifies the glamour of the Riviera coastline. Cannes and Nice come alive with electrifying energy as locals and tourists make good on reservations at Michelin-starred restaurants, chic bistro bars and world-class casinos.

Arnaud Faye carries the prestigious title of Meilleur Ouvrier de France.

On the other side of the world, Langkawi offers a different interpretation of paradise. As the sun sets, the languid tempo of the day slows further. Island expeditions, sea sports, and rambles in the ancient rainforest give way to lounging, be it sipping cocktails in rustic bars or taking moonlit walks along the quiet beach.

Similar enough to be related, different enough to occupy vastly distant branches on the family tree, the French Rivieria and the Jewel of Kedah were nonetheless brought together by Chef Arnaud Faye. The second guest to headline The Datai Langkawi’s 2023 edition of The Chef Series, Faye is the executive chef of the two-Michelin-starred La Chèvre d’Or, located on the grounds of Château de la Chèvre d’Or in Èze, on the French Riviera.

With the restaurant closed for the season as tourists escape winter for warmer climates, Faye brought his culinary sophistication and masterful techniques to The Datai Langkawi. As per tradition, he browsed through the herbs and trees in the resort’s permaculture garden and explored the bounty of the Andaman Sea to meld familiar flavours from the Riviera with Malaysian ingredients and The Datai’s signature spirit of sustainable refinement.

The result was a six-course menu that crossed land and sea to enchant the senses. Take the delightful trio that put the ‘amuse’ in amuse-bouche: a parmesan cream crumble laced with tart lemon to cut through the richness, sea bass tartare with piquant red pepper jelly, and an airy whipped citrus butter to slather on fragrant focaccia and fluffy country bread.

Palate awakened, dinner proper began. A thick cut of hamachi adorned with white citrus and olive oil was given the tataki treatment to celebrate both seared and raw flavours. Bottarga with crunchy fennel, prepared escabeche style, provided textural contrast and a dash of liveliness, while a fennel sorbet cooled and tempered. Linking the three elements was a light fish soup, made from tomato, honey and herbs gathered from the garden. The entire ensemble was enlivened with Krug Grande Cuvée, the harmony of brine with sparkling fruity, nutty and nougaty gold remaining ever true.

Faye’s distinctive culinary style embraces a classic mode and highlights his hallmark qualities of knowledge, precision, discipline and pursuit of perfection.

The apparent simplicity of the presentation belied the dish’s complexity but also showcased a rather playful touch, which continued in the next dish. A celeriac ‘risotto’ turned out to be a marvellous composition of root vegetables, truffle jelly, luxurious mascarpone and parmesan, cooked risotto style and baptised with parsley oil, black truffle shavings and crispy puffed rice. It was paired with a bright Wittmann Westhofener Riesling that sliced through the potentially cloying full-bodied cream and amplified the indulgent theme of the evening.

Next was octopus, a fat tentacle preserved with spices and olive oil, then charred and tenderised with a four-hour roast in the oven. A beetroot and red wine reduction, scented with rose essence from Grasse, the French capital of perfume, was poured over the octopus and the grilled vegetable accompaniment to bathe both in vivid rose and purple.

As if to dial back the visual drama—that octopus could have been a work of art—an autumnal palette dominated the next dish. Red mullet, its skin crispy and flesh succulent, was served with a medley of carrots, carrot puree and crispy quinoa, laid out like an eclair and just as luscious. Carrot jus flavoured with uni, a similar marriage of root vegetable and underwater treasure, contrasts the otherwise clean notes of the dish with its umami warmth.

The Datai Langkawi celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.

Basil sorbet spooned over a minestrone fruit salad was a celebration of the tropics with diced mango, papaya and dragonfruit. This turned out to be the yang to the yin that was dessert: a dark and decadent disc of chocolate mousse and dark chocolate from Sabah layered with orange zest and cognac jelly.

Faye’s menu was like a midnight swim in the tranquil waters of the Andaman—refreshing, invigorating and unforgettable—with the glitter of the French Riviera thrown in to keep things exciting. As the follow-up act to British chef Tom Aiken, who visited The Datai Langkawi in December 2022, Faye had his work cut out for him but quickly proved his mettle.

The Chef Series 2023 runs until December with Chefs Darren Teoh from Dewakan, Malaysia; Mano Thevar from Thevar, Singapore; Lars van Galen, from ‘t Lansink, The Netherlands; and Michel & Sébastien Bras from Bras and Le Suquet in France on the roster. The dinners will not only fete the guest chefs but also The Datai as a landmark for luxury and the finer things in life as the resort celebrates its 30th anniversary throughout the year.

The Datai Langkawi

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