Verdant tropical foliage on one side and the aquamarine sea on the other, Jala Restaurant, the latest addition to The Andaman, is a lush natural oasis encouraging guests to take deep breaths and inhale the invigorating surrounds. The open-air beachside location gifts diners with the opportunity to relish in delicious cuisine with their feet in the sand and ocean drafts in their hair.
Inspired by the natural environment and local community there’s a strong focus on seafood and warm Malay hospitality. Drawing on both local and western cooking methods, the fruits of the sea are celebrated with simple seasonings allowing the taste of the ocean to take centre stage.
|As seen from Jala Restaurant|
We check our sandals in at the Shoe Concierge and immediately free ourselves from any formalities of fine dining. The sand floor of the restaurant is our first connection to our surrounds, one of many that we are about to make.
|Beach Bar, The Andaman, Langkawi|
The sunset deserves a sundowner so we’re quick to order some white wine. Served in graceful glasses, my Sauvignon Blanc, Villa Maria, Private Bin from New Zealand (RM50) displays all that I love about this grape and terroir: ripe tropical fruit on the nose, medium body in the mouth and an elegant crispness in the finish. Hubby goes with French soil for the same grape with the Michael Lynch (RM40) from Bordeaux, France. I detect more mineral aromas, full body and a lingering end to this wine. Both are delicious and well suited to both our light starters and fish main.
|Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc|
A bowl of Jala bread, spongy focaccia and white rolls, perfect for sucking up the dippings, are made in house. Hummus with sambal, red pepper mojo and cucumber raita get us plunking straight away. A ‘herb collection’ or ‘edible plant pot,’ served at alongside the bread, stirs up intrigue and excitement from the go. We dig deep into the clay dish, using our hands, finding raw carrots, tender asparagus and ‘soil.’ A black olive tapenade sows a layer of rich topsoil, and cream cheese settles underneath. We’re active, engaged in the dish and our dining experience already. Our minds are set for exploration. The first plate has served its purpose well.
|House Made Bread, Dippings and Herb Pot|
Chef appears, beaming, with an excited twinkle in his eye. We like him immediately. He speaks animatedly at a rapid pace, clearly intoxicated by creating food experiences that capture guests’ imaginations and involve them more intimately with the food. He explains that food is much more than flavours. “If you only rely on taste, you leave so much behind.” We recruit the “concept of using all of your senses.” We try to infuse as many different experiences into the meal as possible. We change the feedback to the brain so it stays active. It keeps the journey exciting,” Chef discloses. Thrilled we are, and we move on to our starters.
Mango and Melon Salad (RM40) is a fresh mouthful of fruity juiciness with ripe mangoes, melons, chili and basil. Whipped buffalo ricotta, crisp and slightly bitter frisee salad, pumpkin seeds and crispy croutons add density to the dish, as well as some pleasant bites of crunch.
|Mango and Melon Salad|
Pumpkin, Pumpkin, Pumpkin (RM40) satisfies my fondness for the orange squash and arrives styled in a variety of ways. To begin, a relatively barren landscape is dotted with a mound of mousse, a singular dehydrated crisp, cubes of pumpkin gel, a sprinkling of dried pumpkin powder and seeds. A separate bottle of soup is poured over the top, flooding the area. The soup is creamy, “milky” hubby refines, and the dissimilar textures are linked by taste. Fab!
|Pumpkin, Pumpkin, Pumpkin|
Chef returns and we learn that he’s been chasing monkeys! (Not in the last few minutes, but in his two years tenure here.) He’s absorbed with his locality and fascinated with the age (10 000 years old) of the rainforest that surrounds his restaurant, Jala, and The Andaman. He’s been trekking through the jungle with a local naturalist, uncovering edible delicacies grown in his own back yard. Realizing that the macaque monkeys are omnivores just like humans, he has set out to follow them, observing what they eat and trying their diet for himself as his own personal discovery of the indigenous flora.
He has also been working closely with a local organic farmer. Talking of sourcing produce from just down the road in the Datai Valley, again chef’s face is alight with enthusiasm. He describes, almost drooling, his words afire with passion, the sweet sweet mangoes that are grown there. He tells too of the process used to make extra virgin coconut oil and soon we’ve caught his contagion and want to go visit the farm for ourselves. It’s with these images in our minds, that the main is served.
Our main is chosen from the fresh fish showcase, which spotlights the catch of the day. There’s a seafood expert to assist guests in their selection. Apparently some fish are better prepared with distinct cooking methods than others. Choose your fruit of the sea, desired cooking method, sauces and sides. The specialist also advises on which dressings and accompaniments go well with your choice.
Hubby orders the charcoal grilled red snapper (1kg RM271), a local fish, with Langkawi green chili, and calamansi and chili sauces. The fish arrives filleted, so there are no bones. The head, skeleton and tail are too presented on the plate. The white flesh is flaky and moist with a faint whisper of the grill seared into the taste profile. Both condiments are spicy. The local chili sports a sharp tang, and the citrus is smoothed over with a gentle sweetness as a result of its partner ingredients: sugar; ginger; garlic; shallots; andsoya sauce. Three side dishes: bok choy blanched quickly with onion and garlic; pineapple and turmeric fried rice; and steamed baby carrots with honey, dill and parsley, are fitting sides.
|Charcoal Grilled Red Snapper|
Strawberry Reef (RM35) is hubby’s pick for dessert. A pistachio sponge cake is befriended with coconut ice cream, strawberry puree and sweet pistachios. It’s a colourful platter that is just as interesting in the mouth as it is on the plate. Salad leaves adorn the ends, which confuse us a little at first. Upon tasting however we discover they’ve been dehydrated. They don’t offer much flavour, but do furnish a delicate crunch in collaboration with a sense of surprise.
Licorice Crème Brûlée (RM30) is what started chef on his oration about mangoes and local organic produce earlier, so I must have it! A rich velvety custard with the distinct aromatics and hue of its namesake, is partnered by a mango sherbet, mango salad and ginger meringue. Smooth, delicately balanced in flavour and a fine finish.
|Licorice Crème Brûlée|
Chefs makes his way to us once again on his rounds of the tables, checking in on meals and taking feedback. He divulges, “It’s always enjoyable coming out to see empty plates,” of which ours clearly are. With such delicious food, we’re happy to oblige.
Reasons to visit: dine with feet in the sand; stunning location on the beautiful Datai Bay; glorious sunsets; inventive cuisine; fresh catch of the day; intrigue gently intertwined with dishes from start to finish; use of local sustainable and organic ingredients where possible.
Jala The Andaman
A Luxury Collection Resort Langkawi
A Luxury Collection Resort Langkawi
Jalan Teluk Datai
+6 04 959 1088
Open 6pm – 10:30pm (Closed Mondays)