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Finest of fare on Ha Long Bay

Released at: 09:53, 21/07/2019

Finest of fare on Ha Long Bay

Photos: VET Magazine

Executive Chef Dao Van Dao from President Cruises in Ha Long Bay tells VET's Ngoc Lan of its Michelin-star menu crafted by Chef John Burton-Race - the only such menu on the famed bay.

by Ngoc Lan

Executive Chef Dao Van Dao from President Cruises in Ha Long Bay

President Cruises is famous not only for its impressive space but also for its cuisine, with Michelin-standard menus. When was the menu from UK celebrity Michelin Chef John Burton-Race introduced on President Cruises?

President Cruises’ meticulously-crafted menu was officially launched in February. The menu itself contains 40 unique dishes, expertly chosen by the two-star Michelin Chef and Celebrity Chef, just after the event entitled “A Michelin star journey in the World Heritage Site” he hosted on President Cruises on January 5. 

Chef John spent two weeks in Vietnam, taking inspiration from the wonderful ingredients of Ha Long Bay to build his exclusive menu. This was also his first visit to Vietnam, and he was very much impressed by the fresh local ingredients, which allowed him to showcase East meets West. His cooking style was greatly inspired by Vietnam’s fantastic cuisine, and he put all of his passion into the menu while in the country. 

What is your view of the role the menu from Chef John plays in attracting tourists to President Cruises?

President Cruises is currently the only cruise line on Ha Long Bay offering a Michelin-standard menu. This is not simply about having a name for good food - it’s also about providing guests with an unforgettable experience aboard our luxurious cruise. For gourmands and gastronomes, a Michelin-standard menu is an absolute must. Not only are we using fresh, local ingredients from right outside our doorstep, we also use a creative mix of Eastern and Western styles in the 40-dish menu.

What aspects of Vietnam’s culinary culture has Chef John expressed through his dishes? How has his creativity been shown?

Chef John went to Ha Long Market on his first day in Vietnam and was astonished by the sheer diversity of Vietnamese ingredients. Everything is freshly harvested or caught, and it’s not hard to find what you are looking for. He was particularly interested in the diversity of herbs and spices in Vietnamese kitchens, saying that other countries usually use spices to cook but no one use herbs to flavor dishes like Vietnam. 

Signature dishes on the Michelin-star menu were made from fresh, locally-sourced ingredients such as sea bass, prawns, and squid. Of course, Chef John also used secret Michelin techniques as well. He loves seafood, and gave a big shout out to Vietnamese tuna for its freshness. He also spent days discovering the world of local cuisine with President Cruises’ chefs, to create Vietnamese-inspired dishes while maintaining Michelin-star standards. He creatively turned simple Vietnamese ingredients into delectable fare worthy of Michelin stars. 

Western cuisine has strict rules, so how was a balance struck with the culinary characteristics of Vietnamese dishes?

While with President Cruises, Chef John was shocked to find that 85 per cent of Vietnamese prefer their steak well-done. We explained to him the differences in eating habits between Vietnamese and Westerners, and he adapted and challenged himself to create a secret cooking method to offer the best well-done steak possible. It is our responsibility to follow his instructions while maintaining the good taste of his dishes. Both Eastern and Western cuisine have their own particular rules, and it is our mission to keep that difficult balance between both worlds. Take what is best from each culinary field and always respect the dish and the people. Strive to maintain both the unique flavor and technique in each and every dish. Listen to constructive criticism, and follow what is right.

After crafting the menu, Chef John spent nearly four months training all of President Cruises’ chefs and staff. He follows up on his work by returning every three months to check on quality and organize additional training. He loves to hear feedback from our guests, so he can understand how customers are also different.

What is the most important factor in the successful preparation of dishes when using local ingredients to make Michelin-star dishes? Which dishes on the menu are the most impressive for diners? 

Our guests come from all corners of the globe, from Asia and Europe and back again. In general, what they really want when traveling on Ha Long Bay is to experience local flavors. This is why using locally-sourced ingredients and cooking with traditional recipes always bring pleasure to our guests. A recommendation: Fillet of Beef, Sweetheart Cabbage, Crispy Shallots and Capers, Sourdough Croutons, Olive Oil Butter, Beef Marrow Jus - a soft texture and sweet taste combining beef marrow jus and sourdough in bringing out the best taste of the beef, accompanied by a glass of wine. Now that is a perfect dinner in the middle of the World Heritage Site. Fillet of Beef is the number one choice on the menu and people love the way it is cooked well-done, with 85 per cent of our guests ordering it this way during Chef John’s four months with us.

People are increasingly interested in food hygiene and safety. What standards have been adopted in this regard?

Food safety has always been a top priority for us, from the selection of suppliers to carefully training our staff. President Cruises has completed procedures to obtain food safety and hygiene permits and certificates in food safety and hygiene training, and made other commitments relating to food safety. We pride ourselves in using fresh and locally-sourced ingredients, which we carefully select. Our Michelin-star standards are the highest in the field. Combining Eastern and Western cuisine is no easy task, and only the best of the best can create such tasty, illustrious dishes. %

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