A series of dinners by Tim Butler, chef of Thailand restaurant Esenzi have been organised at the Maltese president’s summer residence at the Verdala Castle to raise money for charity over the past few weeks.
The dinners are also a way for the chef to assess the local’s response to his cuisine as he is set to open a Maltese version of his signature restaurant Esenzi in Phuket while researching on Maltese produce, suppliers and also receive feedback from Maltese customers for his Asian inspired cuisine.
Held in a majestic dining room in a palace built by the Knights of St John in 1586, Tim and Mark Weingard, the Englishman who has been investing heavily in Malta in the past few years and who will open the boutique hotel Iniala on the St Barbara bastions where the restaurant will be based welcomed a group of international food journalists for what was probably the first ever food related press visit on the island of Malta.
Tim used Maltese produce from the sea and combined it with Thai influences to create a great dining experience. The American chef has been living in Thailand for the past 12 years.
Among the Maltese produce he used was the sea urchin and fish like pagell (sea bream) and cipullazza (red scorpion fish) as well as calamari and local crab.
Two charity dinners and two gala charity dinners are left for Tim but his research on the produce continues before the opening of the restaurant later this year. Weingard has set the ambitious target of November for the restaurant opening which will be housed in a 23 room boutique hotel and which will have the most stunning view in Malta overlooking the Grand Harbour and the three cities of Vittoriosa, Cospicua and Senglea.
Tim has been visiting Malta since January to get acquainted with the produce that this small Mediterranean country has to offer.
Among the dishes he served on the evening were were the scorpion fish which he served with an incredibly intense broth from the fish heads which were also served at table as well as its liver on toast. Tim said this was the philosophy of the restaurant to use the fish in its entirety and reduce waste as much as possible.
The calamari dish stuffed with brandade and served with Iberico bellota chorizo and piperade was also exceptional as was the orecchiette with nduja sausage, lobster and thai bird chili. I also loved the combination of flavours of the Maltese sea urchin with local brown crab, chawanmushi and sambai.
The chef is currently responsible for the restaurant Esenzi at the Iniala Beach House in Phuket. He works mainly with seafood at his Thai restaurant and he wants to repeat the same concept at the new Malta restaurant.
Read more in our interview with Tim Butler soon.