Up above the Gulf Hotel Bahrain Convention & Spa and into a realm of inviting and mysterious ambience, Sara Waddah entered Fusions by Tala, for a palatable experience.
Recently crowned the winner at the debut edition of MENA’s 50 Best Restaurants Award 2022 as the Best Female Chef, we were beyond honoured to be invited to visit Fusions by Tala, where we experienced a five-course tasting menu made by the remarkable chef, Tala Bashmi, herself. Taking the culinary scene in Bahrain by storm since the opening of the dining space at the renowned five-star hotel, Tala Bashmi took it on herself to elevate Fusions into a quintessential venue.
Walking through the restaurant, past the phenomenal terrace, and into the intimate dining room that was centred around an all-glass open kitchen, the restaurant was dimly lit and oozing mysteriousness and modernity from every angle. Sitting at the forefront of the restaurant, with our backs to a magnificent skyline view of the island (we were ultimately focused on the kitchen), I soaked in the entire restaurant and the attention to detail that brought the whole concept to life.
Esperanza, the Restaurant Manager, introduced herself and told us a little about how our evening would go. Explaining that Chef Tala would be preparing a five-course menu for us, and how the dishes were all related to Middle Eastern cuisine, but in the restaurant’s very special fusion style.
Our culinary experience started as we watched the chefs plate our dishes in harmony from where we were sitting. Serving us a freshly made, carefully placed, Seabream Carpaccio with hibiscus pickled radish and golden tobiko. Aesthetically pleasing as much as it was delicious, this was the perfect way to get our appetites going.
Our next dish was the Softshell Crab, which came with a side of cardamom pickled cabbage, Harissa honey and Mehyawa aioli – as advised by the chefs, when taking a bite we were sure to get everything in together to ensure the complete experience. Magnificent! We were also served the Lamb Parcels that were generously doused in dashi yoghurt, mint and sumac. All the different flavours not only made me extremely nostalgic and reminiscent for Friday afternoons at my grandmother’s house, but the way that the dishes were put together was particularly different, and yet still achieved what I could say was a bold twist on the staple Middle Eastern meal.
Before we got carried away and excited to try out the main course of the journey, the attentive staff brought out sorbets to refresh our palates – and asked us to guess what we thought the flavours were. Definitely, a fruity and refreshing feeling, giving our taste buds a light nudge, the in-house prepared watermelon and yuzu sorbet took us by surprise but was also a focal point of our evening.
As the taste of the sorbet still lingered in our mouths, we were ready to see what else the chef had in store for us. A popular dish that has been the talk of the island for months, I was beyond excited to finally be able to witness and experience, the Bamia Wagyu Beef Cheek. Not only was this dish reinterpreted, then elevated and brought forth in a completely different way from that we’ve grown accustomed to, but Chef Tala was truly able to turn the traditional okra stew into a whole new entreè. With tender beef cheeks, paired with tomato broth rice, and the okra appearing in the form of crispy glass, not only was I beyond impressed with the way the dish was orchestrated but beyond immersed in the entire feeling of consuming it.
Still thinking about the tenderness of our last mouthful, our final and sweetest dish came out of the kitchen with the chef herself – her version of a deconstructed baklawa, accompanied by in-house made saffron ice cream, mango orange blossom gel, caramelised pistachio and crispy filo. Plated in a beautiful tower that was waiting to be toppled over, we smashed the filo whilst giggling with excitement as we enjoyed this exemplary finale.
It can surely be said that food is the way into the hearts of many people, but when the food comes with a story, with a history, with a memory and with feelings, it’s without a doubt going to take up all the space. That is how I felt at the end of my dinner at Fusions by Tala.
A cuisine that has been entangled in my life growing up, the chef and the team at Fusions by Tala have been able to perfectly capture the essence of Middle Eastern taste and take it to an avant-garde level that will, without a doubt, give the cuisine the love and attention that it so well deserves. Chef, I can’t wait to come back for more!