Thursday, January 21, 2010

Seven Seas Restaurant Review

Whileback, I was asked to write a restaurant review for a magazine. They decided not to run it (disappointy face) and so I've decided to post it here on my blog. It was one of the more memorable evenings I've had in Kuwait. I think that the owners were still mulling over the new menu and weren't sure what they would keep and what they would scrap. I HOPE that they have kept the paella because it ROCKED BAYBEEE! If you go there, ask for it - even if they don't have it, maybe they can be coerced into it.

I sat down to dinner with long-lost friends I was meeting for the first time. Our table overlooked the water and the lights flickered over the waves.

Transporting guests is a passion of Operations Manager for New Concepts, Miguel Estevez-Gonzales. “You have to love what you do or you’d better stay at home.” He says with an enormous, sincere Spanish smile. He exudes a positive energy that is contagious.

Miguel comes to Kuwait from Galicia, “the Seafood Coast” in Spain where his family has owned a farm for five hundred years. He knows seafood and good produce. He set off to discover the world through food, establishing and running restaurants all over the UK, “I used to drive 7 hours a day.” Looking after 75 restaurants is no small feat. During his career, he has managed and opened restaurants in thirty-seven cities in the UK. After thirteen years, he searched for a new adventure and when the opportunity presented itself to come to Kuwait, he took it.

In Kuwait for a brief 6 months, he has worked with the Al-Humaizi family (owners of Kout Food Group) to create a new concept for the Seven Seas restaurant; in operation for several years but that has been somewhat of a sleeping beauty, “Just look at this location!” Miguel is here to liven up the place. Kuwait will change in five years time. Whatever happens in Europe and the US will come here. Eating well is very important.” Miguel promises an organic menu with wild seafood rather than farm-raised. “If we are going to change people, we are going to change them through good quality.”

His philosophy is simply based on four essential ingredients to restaurant management: Ambiance, food, service and entertainment. “If one is missing, none of the others matters.” He mentions “entertaining the guest” often. “Don’t ever forget you are on a stage.” He wants people to feel like they belong; like the restaurant is someplace where they can come to relax and feel at home. “I love people. I want to put soul into the restaurant. We want to be proud of it.”

His methods translate through the ranks. He uses positive energy and a hands-on approach to training. “Some people think your work stops when you become a manager, but that is when the work starts.” He gladly empowers staff members and gives incentives, but warns that quality must be consistent. “I don’t want to hear the same old, ‘thank you sir/maam.’ I want servers to have a personal approach, to be welcoming. You don’t call a 25-year old customer, ‘Sir’ for example. We do it right or we don’t do it at all. Let’s entertain people! I don’t believe in advertising a product. I believe in advertising who you are.”

Corporate Chef Souhail Ahmad shouldn’t need to advertise his product. His creations don’t just speak to you, they sing. Souhail has been in Kuwait for nine years and started at the international award-winning hotel, JW Marriott. He and Miguel travel together to other countries to check out the competition and seem to get along like Lebanese-Spanish brothers. They’ve obviously put a lot of thought and creative energy into developing the new menu for the Seven Seas that incorporates the varied flavors of Spain. “We’re not going to use cream (said with a scowl). We don’t want to hide the taste of the wonderful seafood.” Their plans to entertain the guest include live music; they are anxiously awaiting the arrival of a white baby grand piano, “You can’t just put on a CD and expect there to be ambiance”. They will also soon incorporate a proper afternoon tea (with scones, finger sandwiches and pastries) and an extensive and quite varied European breakfast (including a variety of muffins and eggs and specialty items like Spanish egg frittatas, boiled eggs with truffle sauce, and caviar eggs benedict), so that guests can visit at any time of the day.

Their pride was apparent in presenting an enormous amount of some of the best seafood I have ever tasted - anywhere in the world. The new paella dish at Seven Seas puts all other paellas anywhere to shame. “It serves two,” says Miguel; but two of what? The portion is enormous (large enough to easily serve four) and like all the other seafood we were presented, perfectly cooked and arranged artistically, but not over-the-top. In my thirteen years in Kuwait, I have never had a properly cooked muscle until the night at Seven Seas. I asked Souhail if he knew the story of paella and he politely let Miguel tell it (in true romantic Spaniard style), “…There was a king who created it for his wife who he loved very much.” There are other variations on the story, but Miguel’s is my new favorite. The dish was the highlight of the evening with generous amounts of calamari, lobster, shrimp, and fish.

But it was a hard choice to determine a favorite, really. All the dishes were fantastic and memorable: appetizers of tender shrimp in a finely minced mango salsa, eggplant layered with ricotta and tomatoes, drizzled with fresh pesto sauce; a side of grilled asparagus with lemon; entrees of fish stew of balool (baby hamoor or grouper) in a light saffron-based sauce served in a terracotta dish, and an amazing rock-salt encased wild British sea bass that was professionally cut by first peeling back the skin to reveal fish cooked to perfection. This was all followed by a sampling of cakes; outstanding berry cheesecake (which Miguel thought was “too strong”, but I found to be just right) and an orange pound cake which was light and soft.

We ate a tremendous amount of food for a single setting. The other items on the new menu sound equally as spectacular as the food we “sampled”: battered cod and hand-cut olive oil chips, poached salmon with rocca and dill yoghurt, fresh rock oysters with shallot vinegar sauce, beluga caviar. The restaurant has kept their seafood display of fresh fish cooked in as-you-like-it styles accompanied by a variety of sauces. And – much to my delight - someone has finally come up with interesting salads in Kuwait: endive and pear, salmon and ruccola, shrimp and avocado. I am happy to see that they have kept one of my favorites, Kuwaiti Mourrabian, on the menu. For those who don’t eat seafood, there are several interesting dishes like roasted veal steak with peppercorn sauce and sautéed green asparagus; and home-made spinach and ricotta tortellini with cream and black truffle sauce. I can’t wait to try some of the desert items like bonbons gelato dipped in chocolate and pavlova meringue with strawberry sauce. There is also an item on the breakfast menu that has piqued my curiosity: a bowl of hot chocolate.

Our dinner time flew by. We were there for almost three and a half hours, but didn’t realize it. We felt so at ease and completely comfortable - as if we had known Miguel all our lives. He had, quite obviously, accomplished his mission of making us feel at home with friends; transported away from worries of the day. Driving off, I was contentedly sleepy and full of food. I was surprised at myself as my thoughts turned to the time when I could next visit Seven Seas. It was one of those memorable dinners that I won’t soon forget. The restaurant has combination just right: Outstanding food, great service, and comfortable ambiance.

The Seven Seas is located on the seaside of the Gulf Road, upstairs from Burj Al-Hamam Restaurant, in Bnaid Al Gar. For information phone 2240-2220.

- - -

What IS WRONG with Blogger formatting?? Why does it get screwy when you cut/paste from Word? I hate that!!!!


Anonymous said...

I'd be really interested in how long long ago you made your visit...I was there a year ago for a simple birthday sheesha gathering and I loved the ambiance, though I only had dessert.

Desert Girl said...

It was about 3 months ago that I visited them.

Anonymous said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


kuwait restaurants said...

Interesting review! I'd tried their paella too, it was great.. :)

Anonymous said...

I'm a big seafood fan and I was wondering how much this place would cost for two (appetizers, main course, dessert)?

Desert Girl said...

Big Seafood Fan: I'm sorry, I don't know because they decided to change the menu before the story was even published. It is pricey, however.

If you are a big seafood fan and aren't going for romantic charm and ambiance, may I suggest 2 of my favorites: Housny in Hawalli on Beirut Street and Muhallab at the Palms hotel.

Anonymous said...

It is just expensive restaurant
No good will not recoment