Expensive Tastes

05 Jun 2014
POSTED BY Y Magazine

Money can buy you the best of everything, including food. Shishira Sreenivas looks at some of the world’s rarest delicacies



Opulence and luxury doesn’t end with a Givenchy dress, must-have Birkin bag or a pair of Manolo Blahniks. It extends to what you put in your mouth as well.

But be prepared to pay for the extravagence, says Sébastien Cassagnol, the executive chef at The Chedi Muscat hotel.

“These products have a high price tag due to the fact that they are quite rare and have a limited production,” he says. “For example, Perigord truffles, which I love to use, are extremely rare and highly dependent on the season and weather. Sometimes, we do get unlucky and they are not available some seasons.”

According to Cassagnol, there is strong demand for luxury foods in the Sultanate from residents and visiting tourists.

Here is a list of the five super-luxe foods that can give your wallet a rigorous workout. While the options for fine dining may be limited in Oman, the first four on the list are definitely accessible for local residents to try.

White Alba truffles: Found only in very specific regions in Italy, these hard-to-come-by fungi are commonly called “white gold” and cost a fortune. A kilo can retail for about RO2,000 or more. The fungi has a strong, earthy smell and grows up to a metre underground around the roots of oaks, lime and hazel trees. Unearthing them requires the help of truffle hunters, such as dogs and their owners. These elusive nuggets of white gold are found only in winter. Truffle is incorporated into many gourmet dishes in the form of oil or shavings.

Caviar: One of the most coveted and expensive foods in the gastronomy world, and long known as the essential delicacy of the rich, caviar is the roe (eggs) from female sturgeon, a fish mostly found in the Caspian Sea. The most famous types are Beluga, Osetra and Sevruga. Depending on the type, a kilo of caviar can cost up to RO12,800.

Saffron: The most expensive spice in the world, it derives from the stigma of the saffron crocus flower and can be harvested only by hand. Found in certain parts of Europe and South Asia, it costs about RO700 a kilo. It takes about 70,000 flowers to make two kilos, which makes them as rare as gold. Saffron is known for the yellow colour it imparts to dishes and a bittersweet taste. It’s used heavily in Indian cooking.

Kobe beef: Considered the most high-end beef in the world. it comes from the Tajima-gyu breed of cattle found in Japan’s Hyogo prefecture, the capital of which is Kobe. The cows live in luxury as they are massaged and well fed every day. The result is a well-marbled, tender and luxurious meat that melts in the mouth. Quality costs, of course, and this dish comes at a hefty price of about RO60 per kilo.

The Chedi Muscat hotel serves something similar to the Kobe beef – Wagyu beef. Its Wagyu Marble 9 tenderloin is the most expensive dish on the menu. The meat is served with mashed truffle potatoes, confit tomato and shallot tatin and is priced at RO38.

Densuke black watermelon: The fifth delicacy on our list is grown only on the northern island of Hokkaido, Japan. These melons are crisp, sweet and extremely rare as a harvest will yield only about 30 or so of them. In 2008, a 30kg-plus black watermelon was auctioned for more than RO2,000.

While the foods described here might not appear to warrant their exorbitant price tags, their allure and high-class reputation have had the wealthy salivating to get their hands on the rare culinary gems.

Recipe: Chef Sébastien Cassagnol’s Saffron Seafood Risotto

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 400g Arborio rice
  • 1g saffron
  • 50ml virgin olive oil
  • 100g onions
  • 50g garlic
  • 5g thyme
  • 100g butter
  • 100g bream
  • 200g Parmesan cheese
  • 800g prawns
  • 200g scallops
  • 200g lobster
  • 100g sea urchin
  • 200g razor clams
  • 200g vongola 

Method: 

  • In a saucepan, sweat olive oil, garlic, onion and thyme without browning the mixture, then add the rice and stir for a couple of minutes. Add saffron* and the fish stock a little at a time for the rice to absorb the liquid. Finish the rice with butter, cream and Parmesan shavings.
  • Mix the vongola with garlic, onion and cover until the shells fully open. Remove the shell and keep the juice.
  • Grill the prawns and scallops at the very end, when ready to serve.
  • Clean the razor clams, blanch in boiling water for a few seconds and refresh in ice water. When ready to serve, warm them in the vongola stock. Slice the cooked lobster tail and warm.

* The saffron can also be served as a garnish on the side


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