Located on Amwaj Islands, Art Rotana is an ideal place for a getaway without having to leave the country. Standing tall upon the reclaimed land and man-made islands, the hotel offers its guests a private beach which opens to the waters of the Gulf Sea and all ocean-front rooms providing a great view of the clear blue ocean as far as the eye can see. Along with a splendid interior and a tranquil outdoor area, Art Rotana provides its customers with the most exquisite dining experience, specifically that in the recently opened restaurant, WU Asian Restaurant and Lounge. “Wu”, which means five in Mandarin, is the perfect representation of traditional Asian cuisines from Japan, Malaysia, Thailand, China, and Korea. Perle Magazine was invited to experience WU and speak with Speciality Head Chef Mac Withojit about his signature recipes that are widely becoming popular in Bahrain.
Walking out from the lobby, towards the dancing fountain, a staircase leads to the restaurant situated under the al fresco seating area, to the lounge and terrace area of WU, while behind the glass doors inside there is a spacious dining area. The food can be enjoyed in either of three locations, with friendly and informative staff available for prompt assistance if required. Prepared by award winning, Thai Chef Mac and his team, the food is served in sharing plates to bring the essence of Asian culture – of sharing food while eating – to the table.
Chef Mac and his team created an impressive spread for the four-course meal that followed, incorporating his signature dishes in the menu as well. Before the starters were served, a generous serving of Edamame cooked with sea salt and a drink of your choice was presented. For starters the chef prepared a vegetarian Maki roll, which was filled with cucumber, carrot, and shisho leaf, all of which added a nice crunch against the soft outer rice shell. Serving three different types of salad, each of a unique flavour, Chef Mac prepared the Slow Roast Duck with Watermelon salad with homemade tamarind sauce, Pomelo Salad with prawns and chicken, and Grilled Prawn, Green Papaya salad with spices and nuts. The mixes of flavours in the salads refresh the palette and start off the meal on a tantalising note and are almost like an introduction into Asian cuisine.
For the appetisers, the chef prepared a Tom Yum Kung soup with prawns and vegetables, crispy green bean tempura, and Chef’s signature Spinach Gyoza. The Tom Yum Kung was rich in flavour as the tastes of the different vegetables and the prawns combined together, while the crispy green tempura was soft on the outside and crunchy on the inside and entirely delectable. The gyoza, a Japanese dumpling, was prepared with the uniquely delicious combination of spinach, date, and water chestnut and comes in bite-sized portions – anything unlike in Bahrain ever before. The wholesome combination of flavours from across Asia lets the diners experience fragments of the various Asian dining traditions. Stepping away from the tradition of offering Spring Rolls as an appetiser, Chef Mac says that he’d rather the customers try other dishes that come from these countries and are just as delicious.
The main course consisted of a mouth-watering spread that included Chef Mac’s speciality Short Rib, signature Lamb Shank, Massaman Curry (Thai curry), traditional Pad-Thai noodles, Kung Pao prawns, Jasmine rice, and eggplant bites with barbeque sauce.
Chef Mac explained the extensive process to prepare the short ribs, which also is their best seller. The enticing dish is made using the 8 bones of the ribs, where the thick meat is, after which it is cut further six inches to make it fit on the serving plate. The ribs are then marinated overnight in the chef’s secret marinating sauce. The following day, the ribs put in the sous-vide machine and cooked slowly for 14 hours, after which they are cooled down and prepared as soon as an order comes in. The entire method not only soaks in all the flavours of the marinating sauce in the ribs, but also leaves the meat tender and palatable. The lamb shank as well is prepared through an equally lengthy process during which the lamb shank is cut and cooked in the special sauce, once the sauce starts to bubble, the stove is turned off and the lamb shank is wrapped with all the herbs and spices and put in the oven and covered with aluminium to cook for 165 degrees for 2 hours. The result is a soft and succulent lamb shank that dissolves like butter in every bite leaving behind a rich and flavoursome aftertaste. Chef Mac’s award-winning Massman Curry (prepared with lamb) was brimming with flavours of authentic Thai cooking and the Jasmine rice served as the appropriate complementary dish for a complete meal. The Pad-Thai noodles, also an integral part of Japanese cuisine, were prepared to perfection with a mix of fresh vegetables and turned this commonly served street food into a gourmet gastronomic experience. Showcasing his expertise in the broad spectrum of Asian cooking, Chef Mac also prepared The Kung Pao prawns, which were a reminder of traditional Chinese cuisine. Originating from the Sichuan region of China, the Kung Pao Prawns were cooked with peanuts, vegetables, and chillies, fusing together the different textures of soft and crunchy with a hint of spiciness. The eggplant skewers – especially for those who prefer vegetables – were grilled and prepared into bite-sized cuts, with a drizzle of barbeque sauce, and accompanied with pickled cucumber, teriyaki sauce, and kimchi as additional flavours for the dish.
The ideal way to end any meal is by having a generous serving of dessert, and at WU Chef Mac surprised with a dessert platter that included a wide variety of sweets, suitable for every taste. Not a big fan of dessert himself, Chef Mac explains that his dessert platter, The Big Show, is a combination of bite-sized dessert options to be shared amongst family and friends. The platter contained Banana Wanton with Dulce De Leche dipping sauce, Green Tea cake, traditional Japanese dessert Mochi that is important especially from Japan, Lemongrass Crème Brulée, exotic fruit, dark chocolate cup, Watermelon and Lychee blend and a homemade coconut ice cream. Everything is set atop crushed ice in a rotating bucket, easy for everyone at the table to get a taste of all the appetising dessert options. From those who have a sweet tooth to those who don’t prefer sweets too much, The Big Show has something everyone can have to end their meal on a sweetened note.
The lush combination of different textures, tastes, and flavours provided a wholesome and hearty taste throughout the entire meal, while the service, ambiance, and the presentation of the food added to the overall relaxed yet luxurious feel of WU. Using only the finest of ingredients throughout his dishes, Chef Mac has elevated the standard of Asian dining in Bahrain through his signature recipes, his perfectionist cooking methods, and truly exquisite tasting dishes.
For bookings and reservations:
Timings: Restaurant – Monday-Thursday: 7pm-11pm, Friday-Saturday: Lunch 12pm, Dinner 6pm-12am, Sunday: closed.
Lounge – Monday-Thursday: 5pm-1am, Friday-Saturday: 12pm-2am, Sunday: closed
Art Rotana Hotel, Amwaj Islands
You cut your hands until you cannot cut your hands anymore!
Coming from a family of chefs, Chef Mac decided he wanted to break the mould and do something different. Picking up kick boxing and travelling as hobbies, he would always return to cooking, it was something in his blood, and eventually that, combined with his hard-work and dedication to the culinary arts, lead to his award-winning status.
Travelling from the mere age of 17, Chef Mac toured across Malaysia and Singapore and trained for two years under the guidance of famed Sushi maestro, Chef Masato Shimizu Recognising a talent in Chef Mac, Chef Masato took him on board and trained him, following which Chef Mac travelled to Vietnam, and then eventually to South Africa for 18 years. Having worked at luxurious Arabella South Africa Holdings, a company that owns and operates multiple hotels, resorts, golf clubs and so on, Chef Mac’s impressive résumé includes the openings of Sheraton and Westin in South Africa and was the Asian chef for the Sheraton Group. Chef Mac ventured in the Gulf region for the first time in 2008, before travelling back to South Africa 2 years later. Loving to travel and one to take on great growth opportunities, Chef Mac moved back to the United Arab Emirates where he was worked at Emirates Airlines as the Executive Sous Chef for Flight Catering and then served as the Head Chef De Cuisine at Anantara Hotels, Resorts and Spas. He then moved to Cyprus, where he was the Executive Chef at Prestige Group in Limassol in charge of their Tokyo Japanese Restaurant, before moving to Bahrain in January 2014 to set up WU.
Undoubtedly, Chef Mac’s years of experience and hard work has not only made him an expert in creating flavorous dishes, but also earned him numerous accolades. His achievements include his Massaman Curry winning him the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence in 2013 at Eastern Mangroves by Anantara Abu Dhabi, his restaurant Pachaylen Thai Restaurant was the winner of Time Out Abu Dhabi Award in 2013, as well as earning the Time Out Dubai Award in 2010, 2011, and 2012 for the best South East Asian Restaurant in Dubai, to name a few.
A firm believer in giving back to society, Chef Mac also participated in the charity organisation Cook for Africa where he was the Head Asian Chef and went with his team of chefs to Kenya to cook for the impoverished children, and continues to do so on a yearly basis.
“You cut your hands until you cannot cut your hands anymore!” a perfectionist by nature Chef Mac says he has spent years practicing his skills and mastering his dishes. For every dish he creates he ensures him and his team put their all effort into it. He adds that though he no longer has to look at a recipe to create a signature dish, but he still needs feedback from his customers every time he serves them. “Be honest. Tell me the details of what you do not like. If you do not tell me, I cannot fix it”, he says.
Through his dishes, Chef Mac allows his customers to go on a culinary tour of China, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand, and Korea by dining at WU, inviting customers to taste South East Asia one dish at a time.
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