How tempting is Tasmania?
Possibly the world's freshest salmon is on offer at the Pullman King Power this week
You can't fault Australian Marshall Orton for having only just visited Tasmania for the first time last month. The executive chef at the Pullman King Power comes from Perth, on the western shore, and the island-state of Tasmania lies off the country's southeast coast. They're thousands of kilometres apart.
Orton is "making up" for his tardiness in visiting, though, with a week of Tasmania-theme dinners at the hotel's restaurant Cuisine Unplugged.
He finally made it to the island a month ago, on a business trip, and was knocked out by the cleanliness and freshness of the local ingredients.
Tomorrow through Saturday Orton is serving 30 new dishes he's created with those ingredients.
"About 90 per cent of Tasmanian food is seafood," he says. "There is a big farm of salmon grown in pristine waters, perfect for top quality and rich in essential vitamins and minerals. Although Tasmania's Atlantic salmon industry is quite small in terms of world salmon production, the fish has a firm texture and no oily taste.
"And the mussels and oysters, to me, are better than New Zealand's - firm and plump and no aluminium aftertaste. They're raised in water so fresh that you never get that muddy texture.
"The beef is also second to none. It's raised on chemical-free pastures and grass-fed as opposed to grain-fed. If you want beef with more flavour, opt for grass-fed. With the grain you get more fat."
Each evening's buffet has its own sub-theme. On Monday the focus is on Vietnam with seared salmon seasoned with Old Agony fiery spice, chilli mussels with lemongrass, and rice-paper rolls stuffed with poached salmon and vegetables and served with shallot vinegar dip.
At a preview tasting I found the rice paper too thick and stiff compared to the nearly transparent wrapper we're used to.
Tuesday is Chinese, with tea-cured salmon in a sweet-mustard dressing and seared Sichuan-spiced beef. If Japanese food is your favourite, book for Wednesday, when tempura mussels, fresh salmon with green seaweed salad, and teriyaki-grilled salmon are on offer.
Italian-style salmon piccata wrapped with parma ham, braised beef and red-onion ragout, and cold smoked salmon with lemon dressing are among the delectable new dishes being served on Thursday. Thai food takes over on Friday with beef massaman curry, mussels in an omelette, and deep-fried salmon with sweet basil.
Saturday is always crowded with seafood lovers, but you don't want to miss the smoked, cured and fresh salmon dressed variously in cocktail sauce, mustard, red wine and olive oil. Other choices include baked salmon with jade salt, mussels steamed with white wine and cream, and seared beef with mushrooms.
You might get an education, too.
"Andrew Robert, an oyster shucker from Tasmania, will be here to guide diners in their selection and show them the fine art of shucking," says Orton. "He'll bring along some herbs and spices too, like Old Agony and jade salt, and show how to use them."
Oysters are quite all right simply raw, of course. You can add a few drops of lemon juice or shallot vinegar if you prefer, and even better, dress them in ponsu, Chinese vinegar, red wine or even tom yum.
UNDER DOWN UNDER
<< "Taste of Tasmania" will be part of the dinner buffet (6.30 to 10.30pm) at Cuisine Unplugged at the Pullman King Power hotel tomorrow through Saturday.
<< On weekdays it costs Bt1,230 and on Saturday it will be Bt1,430. This month and next there's a "Come 4, pay 2" deal, and children under 12 eat for half price.
<< Make arrangements at (02) 680 9999 or www.PullmanBangkokKingPower.com.