The glamour of Fiji's restaurant scene is located within its hotels and resorts. Because of the enormous difference between local wages and the prices that these hotels and resorts charge, it's something that most locals would never dream about experiencing. It's not in a bitter way that they do this, but they're so humble and content that it doesn't even fall into their mindset.
That's all I could think about, while we were indulging in Ben O'Donoghue's creations.
The opportunity to dine at a restaurant like this, with the meal being specially prepared by a chef of Ben's calibre; thats something to be grateful about.
I don't know if encouraging food tourism is the solution to boosting Fiji's economy, but I strongly support all the interconnecting elements that this will create. The idea of local chefs learning world class cooking techniques and preparation methods, and being confident enough to showcase their own cuisine is beyond exciting.
So, the set-up of Lomani Wai restaurant is a little OTT. There are tables and chairs set up in one of Radisson Blu's pools. We're sipping on champagne, while dipping our feet in the water, and listening to a live performance by two very talented Fijians. It's an intimate arrangement with only 15 of us there to experience it.
We start with a sashimi of scallops with creme fraiche, herbs including coriander, dill and mint, and a wasabi crunch. The flavours are welcoming, fresh and vibrant.
Main course is BBQ king prawns with chilli jam and a sum-tum-like green papaya salad. The chilli jam has beautiful tamarind notes but the salad feels a little too mild. I love the play of salty, sweet and tangy, and the way it lifts the flavours of the prawns. However, being the carb queen that I am, the dish seems incomplete without something more substantial to mop up the remaining juices.
Dessert is a lime and honey posset topped with freshly diced pawpaw and mint. There's a real depth of flavour in the posset - it is sumptuously creamy yet light, and the subtle flavours of lime and honey have a lingering finish which pair so well with the sweetness of the pawpaw and refreshing cut-through of mint.
There wasn't quite as much food as I had hoped for, but without a doubt, the overall meal was a great showcase of what could be achieved with Fiji's beautiful local ingredients.
This 3 course signature dinner was held on Thursday 15th March 2012 at Lomani Wai, Radisson and cost $275 FJD ($148.50AUD)
Find out more about the South Pacific Food & Wine Festival 2012
JENIUS travelled to Fiji and attended the South Pacific Food & Wine Festival as a guest of Tourism Fiji with special thanks to Mike Parker-Brown