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Al fresco harmony at Nai Harn's Rock Salt

Located at the northern end of Nai Harn Beach, Rock Salt restaurant is a place every local resident knows of, but few have visited. Frankly, until recently I was one those “one day I will go there” guys and would’ve possibly never made it if not for an invitation from The Nai Harn hotel team. As often happens in Phuket things have a way of working themselves out and on a cool Friday night I found myself sitting at a table and gazing out over a breathtaking view of the beach with Andaman waves lashing the rocks just metres from my feet.


Anton Makhrov

Saturday 12 November 2016, 10:00AM


Mediterranean in both food and atmosphere, Rock Salt is a perfect choice for a romantic dinner. A fresh breeze from the sea brings a salty fragrance which mingles with appetising smells from the wood-fired oven while soft music naturally complements the wash of the waves. A perfect harmony for seaside dining at its best.

In a sense I was lucky to get here only in 2016, after new management took over The Nai Harn, the place was revitalised with Executive Chef Mark Jones taking over the kitchen and transforming it into Rock Salt. The menu is inspired by the culinary traditions of the Mediterranean but with a strong focus on local ingredients and dash of Thai influence.

To illustrate how this works, Chef Mark served one of Rock Salt’s signature dishes, the Rock Salt Ceviche of local Sea Bass with olive oil, lemon, mint and coriander. The fish was all freshness and the dressing perfectly balanced.

I talked Chef Mark into sharing the secret and it turns out that in order to please the taste buds one has to sacrifice sleeping in. According to Mark, a perfect Ceviche begins with waking up before dawn and getting to Rawai pier by 5am to get the freshest fish from local fishermen. As for the dressing, Mark’s secret ingredient is Pomelo (or Som O, as locals call it), which balances with sourness.

Actually a good share of treats on the menu are marked with an “S”, meaning they are made from sustainable products from local organic farms and artisan producers. These include the popular pomelo and green papaya salads (Yum Som O and Som Tam in Thai) and the Rawai Sea Gypsy Crab Cake, which I’ll definitely try next time.

Having finished the Ceviche, I went further along seafood lines but gave my meal a Thai twist with Rock Salt’s signature Goong Ob Woonsen – tiger prawns from Rawai baked in a pot with glass noodles, ginger and pepper. It is an iconic dish of Thai seafood restaurants and if you are looking for something classic, delicious and yet not too spicy, then definitely give it a try.

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For fans of spicier foods there is another typical local dish on the menu: Goong Chu Chee – tiger prawns with red coconut curry. This one is a real Southern-Thai favourite and a word of warning – it is really hot.

Along with individual Thai and Mediterranean dishes Rock Salt has several share plates. Chef Mark made the choice for me and soon after I finished my gargantuan prawns a Seafood Meze arrived on the table. The dish is recommended for two guests, but I’d say for at least two.

Rock Salt’s Meze is a generous selection of fried and barbecued seafood. I reckon the choice varies depending on the daily catch, but I enjoyed some more tiger prawns, squid and octopus, plus two types of fish including the renowned Andaman Red Snapper, which was just delicious.

The Seafood Meze is served with French fries, fresh vegetable salad and half-a-dozen dips to add variety to every bite. The fish and seafood were cooked to perfection with a nice crisp on the outside but tender and juicy inside. The only thing I could think of to make it even better was Nam Jim Talay or Thai seafood sauce, to add a local touch, but I was to busy enjoying the food and completely forgot to ask for it.

The final dish of this Thai-Mediterranean journey was Coconut Pannacotta with fruit salad and passionfruit ice cream. Even if you think you are full, there is always some space left for a good dessert, particularly if have the option to spend some time afterwards just relaxing comfortably on a couch and watching the waves beating against the shore. Rock Salt certainly has this option and it is all part of your meal.

Rock Salt restaurant is located at The Nai Harn hotel on the similarly named beach. The place has way more than just seafood on offer, including wood-fired pizza, charcoal barbecue and tandoori dishes, pastas and curries. For more information please visit the www.thenaiharn.com or call 076 380 200.

 

 

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