Lovelette Brooks, Lifestyle Editor
A hop away from Negril is RIU Palace Tropical Bay in Hanover. The hotel itself is elegantly poised, the grounds immaculate, but the pièce de résistance for Food over the past Labour Day weekend was the fusion restaurant Krystal.
A gourmet, full-service experience, Krystal beckons with a captivating view from the outside made possible by picture windows of clear glass. Signature RIU, we are told.
The arresting decor let's you forget that you are indeed hungry. Back-lit wood-panelled walls glow with coloured lights accentuating various objets d'art, hand-blown vases and contemporary paintings. Recessed lighting cast a glow over lavender-draped chairs and ixoria-sprinkled tables.
Restaurant supervisor Sharlene Brown greets each guest personally with a welcome drink, Quroyal - a blend of brandy and champagne. We are seated by hostess Tamar who offers us the menu accompanied with a practised smile.
Dining here is by reservation only and if you miss the 6:30 pm offering, you may be lucky to get a seat for the 9:00 pm. This is because Krsytal does not pre-prepare meals, neither does it cook in bulk.
"Everything is done to order, we go from the fire to the plate to the dining area," beams master chef Oneil Vernon who is also executive sous chef for all the restaurants at RIU Tropical Bay.
For sixteen years he has been with the RIU group and, after training in the Dominican Republic and Miami, he has honed skills to spin Kyrstal's French menu at any of the company's palaces worldwide.
"What makes Krystal unique is that its menu is set across the chain of hotels. So if you go to France, Spain, The Bahamas, anywhere there is a Krystal, the same taste and flavour awaits," says the confident chef.
Tapas on the table dressed with hand-painted place mats and side plates consist of: smoked salmon, avocado mousse with herb mayonnaise; Parmesan cheese brick, tomato and watermelon delight perfumed with basil. Food gives this a Grade A.
For starters, Food has a choice: pumpkin cream soup with scallop and caramelised sunflower seeds; seasonal salad with fruit and Modena vinaigrette; vegetable ravioli with shrimps and Chardonnay wine sauce; red tuna on chickpea purée with soya and sesame infusion; crunchy pastry with roast vegetables and goat cheese.
Food has vegetable ravioli which is delectable, and, according to chef Brown, it is a favourite on the menu.
Roast salmon with pineapple chutney follows, and Food thinks this is tasty - a savoury and sweet a nice blend here. Other choices were sea bass with chilli centre-stewed tomato and basil foam (this is a favourite, says chef); lamb loin with vegetable compote and Madagascar pepper; glazed beef fillet with fine herb butter and mushroom foam; and vegetable paramentier with dill oil.
To satisfy the sweet desire, choices are chocolate coulant with vanilla ice cream; passion-fruit bobbon with coconut foam and fresh fruit with anisette soup. Food savours the fresh fruit and gives it the thumbs up. The chocolate coulant is the popular dessert item on the menu, chef Brown says.