On islands around the globe, creative resort chefs are reaching unexpected heights with ambitious culinary programs. Chew, chew, chew at these three Fijian resorts for one tasty getaway - and a delectable sampling of what could be awaiting you at other idyllic sandy locales.
LAUCALA ISLAND RESORT, Laucala Island
At this ultraluxurious property, French executive chef Martin Klein not only creates sublime cuisine, but his culinary staff caters to every whim of guests lodged in the island's 25 villas. Among five different dining venues, the airy, colonial-style Plantation House serves up the most formal setting. Klein recently introduced a "butler's tray" of delights served tableside at breakfast, including charcuterie, seared tuna, steak tartare, French cheeses, fresh-fruit crudités, and pastries - all a prelude to his hot entrees.
In the evening, an eight-course tasting menu proves worthy of any culinary capital, featuring dishes like beef carpaccio with parmesan cream; tuna in a rich dashi broth cushioning a velvety sous-vide egg; meltingly tender suckling pig raised on Laucala's own farm; and a final flourish of perfect mignardises sweets. Klein's plates don't just taste good - they also look spectacular, completing the feeling that you're a world away from "castaway food."
Craving Asian? Savor pan-Asian cuisine - from Thai to teppanyaki - at the Seagrass restaurant, where each dish comes beautifully plated. Or opt for more casual fare and sushi poolside or oceanside, or settle into the Rock Lounge for sundowners, appetizers, and spectacular views. A barbecue on a private beach might feature rich Wagyu beef and fish caught that day.
In addition to Klein's international cadre of cooks, including an Austrian pastry chef, his secret weapon is the vast garden, greenhouses, and orchards that help him source 80 percent of his ingredients on the island. Laucala even raises its own chickens, ducks, pigs, and Limousin and Wagyu cattle.
From $4,200, three-night minimum; meals, beverages, and most activities included. 011-679-888-0077; laucala.com
LIKULIKU LAGOON RESORT, Mamanuca Archipelago
At this more casual getaway that features 45 spacious bures ("houses" in Fijian), traditional architecture marks the open-air dining room, with its soaring ceilings and tile flooring. Young New Zealand chef Ihaka Peri, who has cooked in Australia and Europe, creates vibrant dishes that are true works of art, graced by fresh micro-herbs and edible flowers from the resort's garden.
Peri offers an impressive morning spread of fresh fruits, juices, cereals, and pastries, plus a create-your-own elixir you whip up by dropping an assortment of fruits and veggies into a juice extractor. A standout on the menu of hot items: a Gruyère soufflé.
Light lunches start with a "cooler" shot (a slushie-like refresher) and an amuse-bouche - for example, a pineapple and coconut cooler paired with seared yellowfin tuna and lemon jam. Mains often reflect the chef's international experience, with bright Thai flavors, Indian spicing, or Korean flair. Local fish, including Spanish mackerel and coral trout, are some of his favorites, but he doesn't neglect the meat-eaters, either. Desserts dazzle with tropical fruits - a bush lemon and passion-fruit tart, for example - and satisfy serious chocoholics. Could you resist the chocolate-hazelnut mousse wrapped in dark chocolate and garnished with raspberry gelée?
Peri's cuisine even infiltrates the spa, where a new couples offering turns the entire Tatadra ("House of Dreams" in Fijian) facility into a private wonderland filled with candles and flowers. Staffers greet you with Champagne and luscious finger food, followed by a ritual foot bath and aromatic couple's massage. Afterward, relax in a hydrating milk bath strewn with hibiscus petals.
From $880, meals and some activities included; couples only. 888-946-5458; likulikulagoon.com
ROYAL DAVUI ISLAND RESORT, Royal Davui Island, off the southwest coast of Viti Levu
While this resort's cuisine doesn't quite match what you get at the other two, the Royal Davui presents its culinary treats with a sense of fun and adventure that impresses. Each morning, guests in the 16 multilevel vales (Fijian for "homes") choose their lunch and dinner selections in advance, and the venue - the dining room, their private deck, or one of the secluded dining tables tucked into various niches on the rocky island. Selections might include an Indian masala served in a metal tiffin or a Mongolian barbecue, where you pile meats, fish, and vegetables on a platter for the chef to stir-fry with your choice of sauces.
You and your sweetie can also sip on Champagne and munch on nibbles at the new Love Shack, a small, rustic hideaway on a promontory with commanding views. But for a real adventure, request a picnic hamper and book the 15-minute boat ride to a pristine white-sand spit that emerges every day at low tide in the middle of the ocean. Staffers set you up with an umbrella and refreshments, and then return for you at whatever time you request.
From $1,020, meals and some activities included; couples only. 310-928-1182; royaldavui.com