88 Obi Ln S, Spicer's Tamarind Retreat, Maleny

We arrived…

on foot from our luxurious villa on the property, set in the Sunshine Coast hinterland rainforest. We were pleased there was a torch in the room; the walk from the villa to restaurant was dark. There's no daylight saving in Queensland!

We chose here because… The Tamarind is playing host to famous Japanese chef Zaiyu Hasegawa (the chef behind Tokyo's Den, recently named the Best Restaurant in Japan) for a very special dinner as part of the Curated Plate festival in August. We were here for a preview of what diners might expect at this new festival, designed to be a celebration of Sunshine Coast growers and ingredients.

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Our first impression was… that we'd been transported to Thailand. We were seated outside, surrounded by lush vegetation in the steamy tropical warmth. I felt like I was in a luxury Thai resort - at least until I clocked the local Queensland frogs serenading us with their croaky song.

We started with… a palate-prepping cup of zingy tom yum broth, followed by a small, perfectly balanced Issan-style mushroom salad featuring grilled Noosa oyster mushrooms, Thai herbs, lemongrass and tamarind. This was followed by three more courses of finely-executed Thai-infused, seafood-based dishes with a hint of fusion to them. They like this style of cooking in these parts as it tends to suit the climate and the local ingredients; this was by far the best example I tasted on the Sunshine Coast. Chef Dan Jarrett has a light hand and an excellent feel for flavours that work to highlight, not hide, the delicate local seafood.

The chef has an excellent feel for flavours to highlight, not hide, the delicate local seafood. Photo / Spicers Tamarind Retreat
The chef has an excellent feel for flavours to highlight, not hide, the delicate local seafood. Photo / Spicers Tamarind Retreat

The highlight was…

the "southern style" fish curry with local, sustainably-caught Mooloolaba swordfish, betel leaves, chilli and Fraser Island spanner crab. The curry was rich, complex and spicy but delicate enough that the fish was still the star.

The highlight was the 'Southern style' fish curry. Photo / Spicers Tamarind Retreat
The highlight was the 'Southern style' fish curry. Photo / Spicers Tamarind Retreat

Dessert was…

Unusual. I can't say I've ever had jerusalem artichoke in a dessert before, and I'm not sure I'd choose it again. The jerusalem artichoke and koji creme caramel with bergamot sorbet had a flavor and texture that was polarising around our table, most of us falling on the thumbs-down side of the ledger. It wasn't unpleasant; just… artichokey.

Jerusalem Artichoke and koji creme caramel with bergamot sorbet was an interesting dessert. Photo / Spicers Tamarind Retreat
Jerusalem Artichoke and koji creme caramel with bergamot sorbet was an interesting dessert. Photo / Spicers Tamarind Retreat

Come here if…

You fancy a bit of high-end fusion in a sexy rainforest setting.

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The bill… A "chef's selection" 5-course menu costs A$105 per person. You can also order a la carte and choose two courses for $69 or three course for $79 per person. The Curated Plate dinner on 10 August is $290 per person, including matching wines.