After our brief artistic detour, we were quickly seated facing the gently breaking waves on Kata Beach. The light ocean breeze drifting in through the open French-doors was pleasantly cooling, negating any need for air-conditioning. Soon after, our friendly sommelier and host for the evening, with the memorable name of “S”, introduced himself and guided us briefly through the menu. Meanwhile, fresh bread rolls (the soft, chewy and salty pretzel-style bread was superb) and an appetiser of velvety mushroom soup was served.
The menu lives up to the restaurant’s name with its focus on charcoal-grilled meat and seafood dishes, complemented with fresh vegetables and matched with selected wines. Their range of signature Thai dishes features some perennial favourites, greatly enhanced by the use of fresh herbs and spices and locally-sourced seafood. Despite the breadth of the menu it was an easy decision for me, I was eager to try the latest addition to their line-up – the dry-aged beef.
Dry-aged beef is the latest buzz in high-end steakhouses from New York to Tokyo and I was interested to find out if it lived up to the hype. First, let me explain what it is – dry-ageing beef is a process where large sections of the beef carcass, what are called the primal cuts, are hung in a very cold temperature-controlled space for several weeks or more.
The Boathouse hangs their prime-quality beef for 60 days and during that time natural enzymes start to break down the connective tissue, making the meat even more tender. This natural process evaporates some of the water in the meat, further concentrating the flavour of the juice. Amino acids are also generated during this period, the most important one being glutamate – which provides the much sought after umami flavour which gives foods such as mushrooms, tomatoes, and even fish sauce, their rich and complex savoury taste.
So after ordering Tom Yum Goong and Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce for appetisers, I settled on the dry-aged 300g Sirloin Steak with Truffle Sauce and a side of Cauliflower au Gratin. My companion, not being a fan of beef, decided on the Goong Pad Nam Makam or Wok-Fried Tiger Prawns in Tamarind Sauce.
Ever helpful, “S” suggested we try one of their light Italian white wines to accompany our appetisers to help mellow the spicy flavours of the Tom Yum and compliment the juicy chicken breast skewers and mild satay sauce. It was a perfect match, this wasn’t surprising, considering we soon learned that “S” had only days ago won first prize in the sommelier competition of the Andaman Hotelier and Tourism Fair 2016. That’s quite a feat when you consider how many five- and six-star hotels there are in the region.
So as we finished of our appetisers, I asked “S” what wine he would recommend for my first ever dry-aged steak experience. Again, he kept us in Italy and took us to Tuscany to find a full-bodied red worthy of paring with such quality steak. I confess here that this selection wasn’t on the wine list, but “S” decided to treat us and thought it would be perfect for the sirloin. With his extensive knowledge and the boathouse’s incredible cellar, I’m sure even the most discerning wine drinker will find satisfaction.
Finally the dish I had been waiting for – the dry-aged steak – had arrived! After selecting one of the Lacrox deluxe steak knives presented to me by “S”, I eagerly sliced a piece of the perfectly medium-rare steak and popped it in my mouth. Bliss. The smoky char-grilled meat was supremely tender and juicy with the perfect ratio of fat to meat. In fact, I ate almost half of it before I remembered to try the truffle sauce. This red wine jus, infused with a hint of truffle, provided another burst of umami flavour which combined luxuriously with the beef and was perfectly matched with the fleshy Tuscan red.
I was so enamoured of my steak that I almost forgot to ask my companion for a taste of her Tiger Prawns. I was surprised by the depth of the tamarind flavour, often this dish suffers from over-sweetening, but here the dark, fruity tamarind was right there to taste and balanced well with the delicate flesh of the prawns.
After mains we decided we could squeeze in a dessert if we shared, so we settled on the Lemon Cheesecake with Berry Compote. This proved to be the perfect end to our meal, we nibbled at it while slowly finishing our bottle of wine, and as we sat there listening to the waves break, I understood perfectly why Boathouse is still sets the bar for fine dining in Southern Phuket.