A salad from the newly opened Málmal Café.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY MOLLIE KIMBERLING
There’s plenty of excitement around the long-anticipated opening of The Spa at Séc-he, which promises to be one of the most luxurious hot springs destinations in the United States. Visitors will experience the soothing ancient healing waters of the Agua Caliente Hot Mineral Spring as well as specialty spa treatments, a tranquility garden, fitness center, and outdoor mineral pools. But the tastiest amenity of all is the venue’s signature Málmal Café at The Spa at Séc-he.
Like the spa itself, Málmal Café focuses on wellness, blending healthful, fresh, seasonal ingredients with bold flavors, innovative recipes, and housemade everything to create a menu of good-for-you-meets-totally-delicious fare.
“We’ve come up with a menu of dishes that are tasty and healthy options,” says Executive Chef Kieran Fleming. “People are going to be surprised.”
In addition to utilizing plenty of fresh vegetables, beans, grains, and lean proteins like chicken and fish, Fleming explains, the kitchen will rely heavily on spices, herbs, and citrus for big bursts of flavor and brightness, and amp up the fresh flavors with housemade accompaniments, from salsas to salad dressings to house-baked pita chips.
Much of the menu highlights international cuisines that tend to be inherently nutritious in the first place. “A lot of dishes lean Mediterranean, for example, because Mediterranean food is on the healthier side, plus has tons of great flavor,” the chef says. “I love Greek food and eat a lot of Mediterranean food. The idea was to take that as inspiration. I borrow from other cultures to see what I can make that people will enjoy.”
The tabbouleh grilled salmon salad is one of those Med-inspired dishes, with the omega-3-rich fish sitting atop tabbouleh — a classic Middle Eastern salad made of tomato-and-parsley-laced bulgur and other fresh ingredients. “Just a little bit of mint and lemon juice really makes the dish pop,” Fleming says. “The salmon is grilled with Himalayan pink salt and black pepper. It’s a very simple but very flavorful dish.”
There’s also a wild mushroom wrap that centers around mushrooms sauteed in a mix of herbs to bring out the umami flavor, then paired with a vibrant red pepper aioli and fresh alfalfa sprouts for some crunch, all served in a spinach tortilla. Guests can expect other nourishing entrees like barbecue chicken breast with jasmine rice and grilled peach salsa, chilled lemon pepper beef salad, and one of chef’s favorite items on the menu: the vegan Buddha bowl layered with quinoa, mixed greens, carrots, tomatoes, and a red pepper dressing and topped with chickpeas rolled in a housemade spice mix and baked until crispy.
Those who start to regularly visit Málmal Café — which will serve not only guests of the Spa, but the general public too — will often find new options, as many dishes will come and go with the seasons. Ultimately, the menu includes a mix of specials and staples.
“I’m a big fan of changing up menus, and this is definitely going to be our starting menu,” Fleming beams. “I foresee us changing the menu throughout the year, coming up with seasonal items, using local ingredients. That’s the way I like to cook.”
This story originally appeared in Me Yah Whae: The Magazine of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, Spring/Summer 2023.