Chef's Cut: A Cultural Dining Experience

You may not have thought that a hotel restaurant could serve incredible food, but Anchor & Den at the Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort has proven otherwise. Anchor & Den was one of six restaurants chosen across the Marriott brand globally, and the only one in the Caribbean, Central America and South America, to be a part of Chef’s Cut. Over the course of a week, all six participating restaurants allowed their chefs to shine by creating a 4 course dining experience that was personal to each of them. Stepping into the unknown was half the excitement as you only found out what was next on the menu as the chef brought out each dish.

From November 5-11th Anchor & Den hosted five dinners, each more creative than the last. All five nights they held two seatings and featured Chef Damian Manfre, who targeted his childhood memories of Argentinian cuisine; Chef Kilian Werner, who took diners on a gastronomic world tour; Chef Balakumar Ramaraj, who showcased the diversity of Indian cuisine; Executive Chef Steve Griffon, who highlighted cuisine from Paris and the French countryside; and Chef Andres Davila, who brought the diversity of Latin American cuisine to your plate. As intriguing and delicious as each of these dinners sounded, I could only attend two - Chef Damian Manfre’s “Discover Authentic Argentina” and Chef Andres Davila’s “The New Latin Cuisine”.

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Knowing only a minute amount of information about Argentinian cuisine, I was expecting four courses with a lot of beef and perhaps some chimichurri. Luckily for everyone at the table, Chef Damian Manfre assured us that there was much more to Argentinian cooking. For our bread course we were served an airy, warm rye bread with a spoonful of addictive truffle butter (with my only wish being that I had more bread to smear it all on). Our first course took us to an unexpected cheese course - a brûléed camembert with thin toasted focaccia, herbaceous pesto and tomato chutney. For the second course the chef brought out one of my favourite foods, octopus. This tender octopus tentacle was served with a potato foam, translucent potato crisps, roasted potatoes and a romesco sauce. A pretty classic pairing of ingredients, but just done so elegantly. The third course was my anticipated beef dish, a perfectly medium rare CAB strip loin sous vide prior to searing and served with a pumpkin vanilla purée and roasted shallots. It was my first time having my steak sous vide and I am unsure if I can ever look at a grilled steak the same way. Before the meal came to a close we were given a sweet mango and lime gelée topped panna cotta for dessert. Overall, this meal was far from being the one I had envisioned when I first sat down and actually allowed me to taste the indigenous and Mediterranean flavours that make up Argentinian cuisine.

The finale of Chef’s Cut featured a Latin American dinner by Chef Andres Davila. Instead of honing in on one country he decided to merge different components of Latin American cuisine from the 20 countries that make up this region. A challenge in itself, but similarities across these cultures, ingredients and more were bound to make this an interesting dinner. Instead of serving the classic bread course, he opted to serve plantain and cassava (yuca) chips with a trio of sauces; a pickled chili dip, an earthy pepita (pumpkin seed) crema and finally a rich Peruvian huancaina sauce. The first course transported diners to the “coast” and it did not disappoint as we were given another trio of small bites in the form of ceviches. We all devoured the snapper with a Peruvian-style, yellow chili leche de tigre, the octopus with a tomatillo green agua chile and the shrimp served Ecuadorian-style with tomato and onion. For our second course, Chef Andres took us to the" “highlands” where his plate comprised of succulent pork belly with crispy crackling, beet purée, avocado, tomato, homemade blue corn tortilla chips and a polenta cake. Our third course was another surprise as the chef served an unassuming oxtail terrine with a corn purée, roasted carrots and plantain vinegar. It was mindblowingly delicious! Finally, we ended up in the “rainforest” for dessert where we received a light chocolate sponge cake with a passion fruit curd, mango tequila salsa and crunchy quinoa. Chef Andres ensured that his meal to close out Chef’s Cut was one to be remembered and everyone at the table felt that we experienced a unique tour of Latin American cuisine.

Being able to experience cuisines that are difficult to find on island easily is one of the reasons that I enjoy Anchor & Den so much. With the recent launch of their new menu and the multitude of events they host (basically one per month!) you can always find dishes targeting global cuisines more than any other restaurant on island. What’s more is they are an inclusive hotel with their events targeting their hotel guests, but also the local residents of Cayman. To learn more about their upcoming events from the Night Market to A&D Sessions and more, I strongly suggest that you follow them on Facebook and Instagram @anchorandden. I’ll see you there!