Sanya Supplement: Eat, Pray, Love… The Sanya Edition

By Linda Atkins

When I first read Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestseller Eat, Pray, Love (2006), detailing the author’s struggle with depression and consequential one year holiday across Italy, India and Indonesia, I felt a burning jealousy, and I’m sure I wasn’t alone. After all, when the going gets tough, most of us can only dream about taking a year’s extended holiday to go travelling the world, neither having the budget nor (let’s face it) the time, before some work commitment kicks us back to reality and has us on the next plane home.

Whereas Gilbert had four months in each country, this reviewer had only four days total in which to spend a brief getaway from the fast-paced fury of Shanghai living, determined to get some much-needed rest.

And so she decided to attraversiamo (cross over) the sea separating sunny Sanya from the mainland, and touched down for a four-day weekend determined to eat, pray, and try and find a little bit of love during the short duration of her stay.



In the original Eat, Pray, Love, Gilbert spends the first four months of her vacation predominately in Rome and Naples, pigging out on pizzas, gorging on gelatos, and trying to fit in a bit of the local culture (when she’s not busy trying to fit an extra ravioli in her mouth).

And on arriving in Sanya, this reviewer had strong intentions of doing the same, juggling sightseeing and eating that is. Internet search guides at the ready and timetable planned back to back, she had done her research and was ready to hit the local seafood markets to try a few local Hainan specialties, before realising that actually, with only 24 hours to spare, the idea of running round, trying to stuff her face with seafood wasn’t the best way to start a relaxing getaway. 

Besides, when it comes to comfort food, there’s a reason Italy is famous as the food capital of the world. But with Italy obviously too far-flung for a four day getaway, I was curious to discover what the nearest alternative was, especially seeing as Sanya doesn’t have quite the extent of selection that Shanghai has.

And so my search for the first part of my Eat, Pray, Love experience brought me to Sofia, the Ritz-Carlton Sanya’s sophisticated Italian fine dining restaurant specialising in cuisine from the southernmost reaches of Italy. Beautifully decorated in deep, ruby red hues, the romanticism of the place was not lost on me, and as I was handed a rose by my handsome waiter, I wondered whether I wasn’t about to embark on the Love part of my Sanya experience first.

But at the Sofia restaurant, the food soon came to take centre stage with a selection of special signature dishes prepared by Chef Christian. After being served a basket of warm breads with three different types of paté (which I devoured with gusto), I was positively drooling at the dishes as they came out one by one. The Caprese “Secondo Me”, an appetiser of tomato bubble sponge, mozzarella cream and basil pesto (RMB 208 + 15%) played havoc on the senses, smelling so intoxicatingly appetising that I barely had time to appreciate the presentation of my dish before it was hitting the back of my throat. The Tortelloni Ai Carciofi (pictured; RMB 208 + 15%) that followed, a homemade ravioli dish served with artichokes, basil butter and tomato confit, used pasta that had been prepared that day, and had such a freshness to its soft, creamy texture that I was left wondering whether I had room for another portion.

Still, I had to make room for the Cannoli (RMB 88 + 15%), a rich ricotta dessert served with candied citron, a brandy snap and a glass of accompanying lemoncello mousse.

For food you can fall in love with, Sofia’s a must to have on any Sanya traveller’s list, and there are a few dishes using local pesci such as the Misto Grigliato (RMB 248 + 15%), a dish of selected grilled fish served with Hainan chili jam, Thai lime, potatoes and parsley garlic sauce, if you want to get a taste of traditional Hainan too.

Proof enough that you don’t need to travel round Italy to appreciate authentic Italian cuisine. Serious Italian soulfood has come to China’s south.

Ritz-Carlton Sanya. Yalong Bay National Resort Area. Tel: (898) 8898 8888. Web:

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