Tucked away on a winding backroad is the hidden oasis of Sala Phuket. We entered the resort, heading past the breezy reception and its huge reflection pond, just as the sun was beginning to set over a deserted Mai Khao Beach.
The friendly staff seated us quickly and soon after we were sipping a fruity mango and mint lassi (lassi is a kind of Indian-style drinking yoghurt) as the suns rays faded into the horizon.
We snacked on some of the fluffy, freshly-baked naan breads dipped in creamy satay sauce while we consulted the menu.
The menu at Sala features an array both traditional and new-takes on popular Thai dishes, enhanced by the chef’s skill, fresh herbs and spices, and designed to highlight the best of the island’s seafood.
There are also several Western-style dishes for the less adventurous, but even these often have a flourish of Thai-inspired flavours or garnish to keep things interesting.
We started off with the lamb meat balls, slowly braised in a mild massaman-like peanut curry, garnished with goat cheese sour cream and grilled flat herb bread.
This interesting take on the traditional Thai massaman curry was a resounding success, the sauce was a deep orange colour and simply bursting with flavour, the sour cream perfectly cutting the richness of the sauce with its creamy refreshing coolness.
We used the warm bread to wipe the bowl clean not wanting to miss any of the delicious sauce.
Now our appetites had fired up we tried the mieng goong som o – barbecued prawns diced and served with minced pomelo, mint, shallots, toasted coconut, cashew nuts, diced chillies, tamarind dressing and romaine leaves.
You eat it by forming a little package filled with your choice of ingredients and wrapping them in a lettuce leaf. Again, this is a twist of the classic Thai appetiser that traditionally features betel leaves instead of lettuce.
My Thai companion was particularly fond of this dish and I really enjoyed the complex mix of flavours all packed in to one mouthful.
For mains I settled on the Australian Black Angus beef tenderloin – barbecued, topped with herb marinated grilled rock lobster tail and served with mild coconut green curry.
The steak was juicy and tender, and although I’ve never come across this combination, the mild green curry sauce was perfect with both the lobster and the beef.
Also served with the steak is an array of unusual salts and homemade mustards. From Himalayan pink salt to matcha green tea salt and a handmade honey mustard blend, these condiments made a colourful addition to the table.
And despite my initial scepticism each type of salt really does seem to enhance the flavour of the beef in a unique way.
My companion had the duck leg, which is cured overnight, then braised for nine hours, pan seared to crisp the skin and served on a bed of kale sautéed with garlic confit and mustard cream garnished with caramelised onions.
This novel approach to cooking the duck resulted in the meat being melt-in-the-mouth tender, coming away on pieces at the mere touch of a fork.
The meal left us wanting to discover more of surprises that lie in wait at Sala and given that the restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, it’s the perfect place to drop into anytime you are in the north of the island or heading over Sarasin Bridge for a day trip.
For more information or bookings visit: salaresorts.com/phuket