Behnaz Sanjana took a long drive from the city lights to this idyllic resort restaurant set in the wilderness for a fantastic start to the weekend.
The approach to Keizo, the Oriental dining outlet nestled deep within the tranquility of the Al Areen Palace Hotel & Spa, itself is a romantic ride. Winding through some camera-worthy landscaping on a golf cart brought us to a man-made moat, which girdled the grand structure of the eatery.
My partner and I were greeted by the welcoming restaurant supervisor, Rio, who ushered us to our table.
Keizo’s ambience is as impressive as its menu, which offers a wide range of Asian fusion cuisine. Japanese, Thai, Malaysian, Chinese and Indonesian dishes fill the pages, and the knowledgeable Rio was able to guide us through the various courses.
We started with ebi tempura. Ebi is a Japanese style of ‘butterflying’ shrimp; ours was coated in a generous, crisp, fried batter. The calamari tempura took me back to the afternoon I spent lounging around at a beach shack in Bali – nowhere else have I had squid that has such perfect bite inside a crunchy golden exterior. The spicy mayonnaise and sweet chilli dips were ideal complements.
The sushi that followed was fresh, light and pleasant on the palate. The Crazy Kani Maki Roll borrowed a subtle sweetness from the crab and avocado, while the Spider Maki Roll was an interesting combination of prawn, sticky rice and seaweed – all flavoured expertly.
We also shared a chicken tom yum soup, enjoying the slight twinge of heat that the brown broth brought to the taste buds. We worked our way through the tender chicken pieces, lime leaves, mushrooms, red chillies, lemongrass and galangal to slurp up the very last bits of this tangy-spicy concoction.
After a brief breather, we went with the suggested mains – grilled lobster for me and prawn in hot garlic sauce for my partner. All my fears of struggling with a crustacean on my plate were dispelled as soon as the course reached us – the lobster was neatly de-shelled, with its dressed head sitting pretty beside it. The succulent white meat and the accompanying grilled vegetables were coated in a creamy teriyaki sauce that did not overpower the authentic tastes of the dish.
My companion’s plate was a bright one – stir-fried prawns in a smooth and vibrant red, sweet chilli gravy. It gave off just the right hint of pungency to offset the mildness of the seafood and the nuttiness of the steamed rice that accompanied it.
All this delectable food had reduced our ravaging appetite to a craving sweet tooth, and, needless to say, Keizo did not disappoint. The mango cheesecake stood on a deliciously dense biscuit base, and was generously topped with small cubes of fresh mango and chopped mint leaves. I must say the pairing was a match made in heaven – for both the gustatory and the olfactory senses.
The lemongrass crème brûlée was probably one of the very few that I have ever wanted to polish off. Maybe it was the understated flavour and fragrance of the herb emanating from below the glassy sheet of torched sugar that did the trick.
We left the grandeur of the location, making a mental note to return and relive this gastronomic experience under a gazebo on the picturesque outdoor terrace of the restaurant. Now that would be something else to write home about.
Call 17 845-000.