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(3/29/2005) On a recent extended visit to Bali's luxurious 313-room Conrad Bali Resort and Spa, balidiscovery.com's Editor managed to personally sample each of the resort's main restaurants and also catch up with the man who's turning heads among Bali diners – Gary Rosen, Director of Culinary Operations and the Resort's Executive Chef.
With nearly 30 years of professional kitchen experience acquired in locales as gastronmically diverse as Israel, Australia, Thailand, China, Vietnam, Guatemala, South Korea and Bali – Chef Gary Rosen has prepared food for kings and commoners alike and along the way has come to know and understand what he believes works and what doesn't in pleasing the discerning palate.
In Praise of Slow Food
An enthusiastic proponent of the Slow Food movement – Gary Rosen counts himself a member of that large and increasing organized group that opposes the globalization of foods and tastes by defending the need for consumer information, organic ingredients, the cultivation of distinctive culture identities in food and gastronomic traditions, and animal and plant biodiversity worldwide.
Fusion is Confusion - Anyone For a Double Patty, Extra Cheese, Tempe Burger?
In Rosen's view, modern efforts to "fuse" differing food traditions into new taste sensations often result in "confusion"- typically stacked precariously atop a plate in montages of colorful and competing varyingly "edible" layers of eclecticism.
"Fusion is confusion," says Rosen, preferring instead a Zen approach to food preparation.
Hearing the often-used and much-abused "Zen" word, we asked increduously, "A Zen approach to food?" Rosen defended his stance, explaining that to his view what's not on a plate is sometimes equally important as what's on the plate. Good food, insists Rosen, should be simple, honest and useful – a pleasurable reward for the senses capable of instilling a feeling of overall well-being. Like those dishes fondly remembered from our childhood years, good food - modern or otherwise, should invariably follow the example set by our mothers' kitchens which always strove to please and nourish, giving food's ability to dazzle and impress a factor of much lesser importance.
Chefs as Artists
In a comment with the potential to bruise the well-fed egos of any kitchen prima donna, Rosen claims that good chefs are artisans and not artists. Artists, he contends, make items of absolute beauty but of no practical value while, on the other hand, artisans face the double challenge of creating items of practical value that are also aesthetically pleasing.
Following his Zen-like philosophy, Chef Rosen educates his kitchen brigade to always try to limit each dish to 3 or 4 main ingredients, allowing the very highest quality of produce, meat, seafood and poultry available prepared to perfection to speak for themselves.
Dining at the Conrad
Those seeking to put Chef Rosen's philosophy to the test need look no further than the Resorts three main dining outlets - Spice, 8 Degrees South, and Suku.
The Resort's premier dining venue Spice is, by its very nature, sensual in its setting, seductive in its service, passionate in what it does, and eclectically exciting in its concept.
But, hold on a moment. How can a restaurant so attached to slow food and culinary verite be labeled eclectic and still remain true to its pledge of ethnic purity?
The answer is found in Spice's focused commitment to culinary consistency to each separate menu item it presents. While the entire memnu may represent a tour de force of global cuisine, each individual item on the menu, however, has its own separate ethnic identity drawn from the rich culinary traditions of North Africa, Middle East, Japanese, Chinese, Indian, Thai, or Australia.
Thus, while the entire course-to-course experience at Spice may have a wide ranging and widely-traveled overall effect, each individual course represents a loyal rendering of a specific local gastronomic tradition. The results are stunning; comfort food able to reawaken culinary memories long lost to the well-traveled palates that frequent this restaurant.
Our favorite: a 7-Spice Quail Coriander marinated in coriander, star anisette, cinnamon, smoked paprika, raz el hanout, mace, and ginger. The many spices comprising the marinade are combined with wine and crushed garlic before being pan-fried and finished off in an oven before arriving at the table in an understated presentation accompanied by lentils.
Now, after 9 months operations and firmly established as a "happening" venue on the local food scene, Spice is aiming to further cement its glowing reputation by inviting visiting celebrity chefs representing specific ethnic traditions to display their skills in combination with specially selected wines from the world's best vineyards.
8 Degrees South
Located in what is arguably Bali's most dramatic sea-side dining setting, 8 Degrees South is described by Rosen as an "in your face Mediterranean seafood" restaurant. Oysters, mussels, crabs and other delicious sea bounty - all imported from the Pacific northwest – are used to create menu selections such a local bouillabaisse, bowls of black mussels, and paella - each keeping amiable good company with wines from the Chef's personal sub-list of recommended wines drawn from the hotel extensive cellar.
Suku - Indonesian for tribe is the name adopted for the Conrad Resort's casual all-day dining venue. And, like its two sister outlets, Suku has the same commitment to slow food emphasizing dishes drawn from a variety of cultural traditions to be enjoyed slowly with the friendly members of your tribe.
Whichever venue you select, be assured that looming somewhere nearby, is that full-ranking officer in the local slow food police: Chef Gary Rosen, providing the insights and orchestration that has made the Conrad Bali Resort and Spa's restaurants the talk of the Island.
More information: http://www.balidiscovery.com/hotels/hotel.asp?Id=376