Graham Reid | | 2 min read
Like many people visiting Coconuts Beach Club Hotel on Samoa's Upolu Island, I ran into Mika over drinks at his famous 3-Stool Bar in the resort. He was great company, had some very funny stories, and his fish dish was a delight.
And he was prepared to share the recipe.
Here's his story, and the recipe follows. Easy too.
Mika gave me the recipe for his exceptional coconut fish on one condition, that I wouldn't open a restaurant next door. That was unlikely.
Next to his restaurant at upmarket Coconuts Beach Club Hotel on Samoa's Upolu island is Sinalei Reef Resort, an even more exclusive place. Land around here overlooking the white sands and aquamarine ocean is at a premium, and rightly so. This is a slice of paradise.
At least it is according to an internet search undertaken by Coconuts' owners Barry and Jennifer Rose, lawyers from LA who tired of freeways and litigation and programmed their computer to search for "paradise".
It came back with "Samoa" and in 1990, after leasing land at Maninoa village, they broke the ground to build Coconuts.
Mika -- originally Michael Pirics from Slovakia who took his new name in a kava ceremony -- opened his famous 3-Stool Bar at Coconuts' and then the restaurant serving a combination of French and Island cuisine.
When Simon Winchester, author of The Surgeon of Crowthorne and Krakatoa was cruising around the Pacific for Conde Nast Traveller he stopped in and later wrote about the amiable and talented madman who presented food that was the talk of the island.
He neglected to mention Mika by name who, over an ever-present Bacardi and Coke, didn't seem to mind. Much.
"All he had to do was put in a comma then 'Mika', but it doesn't matter", he laughed.
We were sitting in his restaurant as the women from the village prepare the open-air barbecue and a kitchen staff work on sashimi, escargot, zucchini mozzarella and gazpacho.
Hardly the kind of delicacies you 'd expect to find in Samoa, but that is why visitors to the island are prepared to make the cross-island trip from Apia to these silent shores. Mika's restaurant -- designed by LA architect Robert Ross -- adopts many of the characteristics of local architecture, but it is the menu which keeps people coming back and gets him mentioned in magazines such as London's Sunday Express, if not Conde Nast Traveller.
And his special creation is coconut fish which was borne out of necessity.
The man who lives in a place called Coconuts and is standing under a coconut palm says to me, "To tell the truth, I don't actually like coconuts so I had to create a recipe that used them, but which I could enjoy. "
And he did. It's simple but delicious, I've tried it many times since he and I shared a drink under swaying palms while some of the villagers prepared for the fiafia night.
some full bodied white fish fillets
a tin of crushed pineapple
Dip your solid, white-flesh fish in a blend of egg and milk then roll in a mixture of breadcrumbs and shredded coconut. Saute the fish in butter on a gentle heat until golden then remove.
Combine half a cup of crushed pineapples in syrup with two tablespoons of honey and half a cup of coconut cream and cook until thickened, then pour it over the fish.
Serve with a fresh salad.
Mika's suggestion for added perfection? Serve it after you've had a Bacardi and Coke or two. My suggestion? Forget trying to make it yourself and get to Mika's 3-Stool Bar and restaurant. The fish at home will never taste as good as it does when you are sharing a table and a story with Mika while listening to the Pacific roll quietly beyond the palms.