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A thing of great beauty
Thursday 15 March 2012, 02:56PM
Thai chef Tammasak “Noi” Chootong opened up his first restaurant just over one year ago. Practically ever since then, his Suay Restaurant in Phuket Town has been ranked one of the best on the island. The acclaim is largely due to the talent of Khun Noi, who has a string of accolades to his name and experience at the JW Marriott Resort & Spa Phuket, Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts, Renaissance by Marriott Resort and Spa Koh Samui, and time working on-board luxury liner Queen Elizabeth II. It was while he was working at the Marriott that he was awarded Manager of the Year 2005, Tsunami Hero for 2005 (after rescuing a man in the 2004 tsunami and getting him to hospital), an Outstanding Performance award, and a Leadership award for the hotel’s kitchen team. Khun Noi, 38, has travelled extensively and is fluent in German, Thai and English. Born in Hat Yai, he moved to Stuttgart, Germany, with his family as a teenager. He was raised there, and graduated with a masters degree in kitchen development from the German Ueberkingen culinary school in 1994. In 1999, after five years at the Maritim Hotel in Stuttgart and the Michelin-star Top Air Restaurant, he joined the QEII, before returning to Germany, and arriving back in Thailand around eight years ago. He joined the Marriott, then in 2007 began work at Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts as their Corporate Thai Chef, working around the world to develop and implement the Saffron signature Thai restaurant in 10 Banyan Tree resorts, before becoming Area Executive Chef for the Banyan Tree Bintan Indonesia. Looking to develop his own brand, Khun Noi left Banyan Tree and, alongside his sister Mam, opened Suay in Phuket Town in November 2010. Since then, the restaurant has gone from strength to strength, and is currently ranked Phuket’s number one restaurant on TripAdvisor, out of a total of 569 listings. His concept is simple – delivering high quality food at reasonable prices, meaning locals can afford to dine there often. The restaurant is a white and pale-green cottage, surrounded by lush garden. The décor is at once sharp, crisp, elegant and airy, with incredibly reasonable prices. Most of the dishes on the menu range from B80 to around B200, though of course there are high-end options for up to B600. Signature dishes include the steamed salmon with rice noodle in yellow curry (B129), spicy yellow fin tuna salad (B99), grilled US sea scallops with spicy exotic fruit salad (B250), and the mango sticky rice spring roll with black sesame ice-cream for B80.“The food is Thai contemporary. It still has authentic Thai taste, but is presented in a modern, Western way,” says Khun Noi. “It’s about making people trust you and your food. People know what they are getting when they come here.” That is to say, they’re getting nothing but the best. Suay Restaurant, 50/2 Takuapa Rd, Phuket Town, 087-888-6990;  suayrestaurant.com, facebook.com/phuketsuayrestaurant
Naughty and nice
Sunday 4 March 2012, 08:41AM
Naughty Radish restaurant manager Darachan “Nok” Yakorn spent 20 years living in London before returning to Thailand to raise her children in their native culture.Her family are now scattered around Thailand – her children live with their grandmother in Bangkok, while Nok’s husband Virat (who she met in London) works in Khao Yai. Because of this, she devotes her time to the vegetarian-friendly salad restaurant, located at the Burasari resort in Patong. The breezy restaurant, adjacent to the resort’s Just for You juice bar, has air-con, but its doors are glass, meaning it has the feel of sitting outside but without the suffocating heat. On the menu is an extensive range of signature salads – including the best-selling Massaman chicken salad. Just like the popular curry but in salad form, Massaman sauce is tossed through a fresh salad. There is also a create-your-own salad bar, grilled meat dishes, and a host of vegetarian options. Salads are priced from B220 upwards. As a vegetarian herself, Burasari group owner Lily Udomkhunnatum wanted to start up a restaurant with healthy food, as well as provide great vegetarian options for similarly-minded customers. Priced around B120, drinks from Just for You include the trademark Detox Special – perfect for those recovering from a night out on Bangla Road – made from mango, pineapple, kiwi and mint leaves. Also popular is the Carrot and Ginger Energiser, made from carrot, tomato, lime, parsley and root ginger. In a nutshell, Naughty Radish is the perfect place to have a light lunch before heading to the beach, or a great way to relax once you’ve had your dose of sunshine. Not that naughty, but nice.  Naughty Radish, Burasari, 18/110 Ruamjai Rd, Patong, 076-292-929; burasari.com
X marks the spot
Thursday 23 February 2012, 03:18PM
Chinese dough, or patongkoh in Thai, is a very popular local snack for breakfast or dinner alike, with many local vendors around the island found selling this delicious treat. Patongkoh is made from wheat flour, sugar, salt, water and yeast, which is then moulded into an ‘X’ shape before being cooked in hot oil. One vendor is Wanchai “Ko Chai” Wuttisom. His popular stall has been open for almost 10 years. However, Ko Chai says that patongkoh is not actually the real name of Chinese dough. “Thai people called this Chinese dough patongkoh but it is actually not. The dish is in fact called iw chia koy or iw cha koy by Chinese people.” He says patongkoh is instead the name of a Chinese sweet candy, which is not popular but is normally sold with Chinese dough. The confusion occurs because vendors normally sell both types of snacks. “Th ‘X’ shape signifies a couple. In China, there is a story about a soldier who was revered by the local people. However, this soldier was the victim of rumours by another, evil, soldier, who spread bad words about this good man. Because of his slander, the good soldier ended up being killed in jail, which made the people very angry and upset with the evil soldier and his wife, who started the trouble. “So they began making patongkoh in an ‘X’ shape, because they believed that when the patongkoh was cooked in the hot oil, it was punishing the bad Chinese couple. Ko Chai’s patongkoh stall is on Patipat Rd, Phuket Town, and open daily from 6pm to 3am. The price is B3 each, or B6 including a dipping sauce of either egg custard or sweetened condensed milk.
Finding amore and happiness
Thursday 23 February 2012, 03:14PM
Falling in love brought chef Fabrizio Crocette back to Phuket, and his dream job and beautiful family have kept him here since. Chef Fabrizio is the head chef at Mare, the fine-dining Italian restaurant at Centara Grand Beach Resort Phuket, in Karon. Originally from Ravenna in the north of Italy, Chef Fabrizo came to Phuket on holiday three years ago. It was here he met his future wife, saleswoman Ao. He moved to Phuket permanently one year later to marry Ao, and to establish the new Mare restaurant. The couple now have a one month-old son, Tommy. Chef Fabrizio spent 15 years working in various Italian restaurants and has now spent seven years working as head chef. His style is “simple and traditional”, with the restaurant a more relaxed venue during the day, and “stepping it up” to fine dining in the evenings. “I’m Italian, and everywhere we go we need to eat Italian food. We need our pizza, pasta, breads, wines and olive oils – it is in our blood. “My kitchen is healthy, there is not so much fat or oil, and the food is not heavy.” Chef Fabrizio says his talent is working successfully with a combination of flavours. For example, dishes that contain both fish and meat, or are salty and sweet, or spicy. The restaurant has an open-plan kitchen, indoor and outdoor dining, and a large wine cellar. Service is  efficient, with the layout meaning guests are able to watch their meals being prepared. In November Chef Fabrizio introduced a dish of duck breast with wild berries and fruits (B820), and says it has become his signature. “It is sweet, sour, and has a strong taste of duck.” Another favourite on the menu is the carpaccio di manzo alla carbonara, (B590) which surpirisngly has no pasta. The carbonara cream is instead served on Australian wagyu carpaccio. In January 2010, Chef Fabrizio was an Italian finalist at the Valrhona Chocolate Competition, where he presented a brown sugar biscuit with salty caramel cream, and chocolate and coffee flavours. His signature dessert dish at Mare is the variazione al limone (B250), made from lemon sherbert, frozen lemon, candied lemon skin and lemon foam. “It’s all about the lemon – different consistencies and form, and it tastes very fresh.” He was specially trained in desserts while working in Spain, but says the Italian food he likes cooking most is pasta. “I think it is the most difficult dish to cook right.” Mare Restaurant, Centara Grand Beach Resort, 683 Patak Rd, Karon Beach, 076-201-234, cpbr@chr.co.th; centarahotelsresorts.com
Famous duck curry at Burasari
Friday 17 February 2012, 11:28AM
Head Chef Rattanachart “Thon” Khannglar is well-known for his famous red duck curry, priced at B250 at Burasari Resort’s Kantok Restaurant in Patong. Khun Thon spent hours with his mother in the kitchen as a youngster, learning how to make Thai food and particularly learning how to perfect the art of cooking red duck curry. He has worked in England, France and in the Caribbean, with such experiences contributing to his knowledge today, and the improvements and adaptations made to his curry dish over time. Khun Thon has spent hours teaching his staff at Kantok Restaurant how to make his famed red duck curry, and supervises them to ensure it is being made correctly. He has worked at Burasari for four months, and before that worked in England for five years. Originally from Udon Thani, he grew up in Chiang Mai, but has made Phuket his home now, and brought his delicious red curry recipe with him. He makes the curry paste from scratch, using ingredients of dry chilli, gallangal, red onion, and coriander root. Palm sugar is used instead of white sugar, to ensure that the dish is not too sweet. The duck is roasted in the oven, at a medium temperature (about 180C) over an hour and a half. Infused with lemongrass and covered in honey glaze, it is the perfect meat to put in the curry, Khun Thon says.  “The meat comes out so tender, not tough at all. The skin is crispy, it tastes delicious,” he says. “I think duck works better with the red curry flavour because the meat is so tender and it has a really good smell.”  Kantok Restaurant, Burasari Resort, 18/110 Ruamjai Rd, www.burasari.com
Weighing in with good food
Friday 17 February 2012, 11:12AM
Anchor Inn restaurant co-owners, Orathai “Pukkie” Leelateep and Makkachai “Jackie” Seangchat, have spent the last 15 or so years working to constantly improve the menu of their Chalong eatery. The Anchor Inn attracts many expats from the area, and its location on the Chalong pier road means its also in the perfect location for dive instructors and accompanying tourists. The restaurant is co-owned by Sea Bees Diving, who operate next door, and the eatery provides many meals for its hard-working employees, plus many other dive instructors in the area. The restaurant first opened in 1989 with six tables. These days it is a bustling hangout with 20 tables, including an upstairs area.It is surrounded by trees and has a thatched roof, something Jackie loves because he is a huge nature fan. The couple learned to cook Thai food from a young age, then asked for help from their Westerner friends to perfect their European-food cooking. Pukkie says cooking is an “exciting adventure” for her. Anchor Inn is known for its large serving sizes, particularly the salads, of which leftovers are virtually guaranteed. Their dressings, including a mayonnaise one and a mustard one, are both highly-rated by customers, but the recipes are “top secret”, says Jackie. The menu is extensive, with both Thai and European options, plus various snacks. Salads, including a greek salad pita pocket for B150, range in price from B70 to B150. International mains are B200 up, while lasagne (B200), carbonara (B110) and pizza (B200) are also included on the menu. The restaurant also offers a 15 per cent discount to Rawai Naiharn Business Association cardholders.  Anchor Inn, 1/3 Moo 9, Viset Rd (on Chalong pier road, next to Sea Bees Diving), 076 28 1329.
Back to basics for fine Italian
Friday 17 February 2012, 11:06AM
Dusit Thani Laguna Phuket’s resort executive chef, Silvano Amolini, has been at the Dusit for the last two years, and runs the resort’s seven restaurants, including the fine-dining Italian restaurant La Trattoria. It is the second time around for Chef Silvano at the Dusit: he was first here from 1993 to 1997. But the lure of Phuket’s beautiful beaches and the chance to work in a top Italian restaurant (La Trattoria gained mentions in Thailand’s top restaurants list in 2007, 2010 and 2011), meant he was eager for the opportunity to return. Award-winning La Trattoria has been open for the last 19 years, and is well-known around the island for its high quality food. It is the only fine-dining Italian restaurant in Laguna. Chef Silvano’s style at La Trattoria is very “back to basics”. Meaning the food is what everyone can relate to, and no doubt will surely find their favourite Italian dish on the menu, he says. “It is honest, sincere food. Italian is my cuisine, it’s what I’ve grown up with. It is a complete cuisine, with different flavours, and centuries of traditions.” Fluent in Thai, Chef Silvano is a perfectionist and comes across as very passionate about his native Italian cuisine. Service is top quality at the restaurant, and Chef Silvano’s serves us a delicious and well-presented five-course meal, complete with wine matches. Tuna carpaccio, Australian Mussels stew, Saffron risotto, pan-roasted duck breast and Sicillian cannoli with sheep ricotta, candied fruits and chocolate shaves for dessert. But Chef Silvano’s knowledge really comes across when he is explaining the cheese platter. Cheese must be tasted in order from weakest to strongest, to ensure the flavours are not mixed, he says. He talks us through the cheeses: Nussler (two months of ageing with walnut leaves and nocino liquer), Robiola Di Mondovi (a fresh cheese made from cow’s milk with 21 days of ageing), Homatikas (made from cow’s milk and wrapped with hay from the Alps), Testun Al Barolo (made from cow’s milk, sheep’s milk, with six to eight months ageing in a cave, the last two months alongside Barolo grapes), Cusie Al Malte Whiskey (cow’s milk, sheep’s milk, with six to eight months ageing in a cave along with malt, barley and whisky), and the lucky last, Carublu, (made from cow’s milk and aged with cocoa beans and rum). Hungry yet?  La Trattoria at Dusit Thani Laguna Phuket, 390 Moo 1 Srisoontorn Rd, Cherngtalay, 076 362 999; dusitthanilagunaphuket.dusit.com
The Lotus blossoms
Thursday 9 February 2012, 02:43PM
A lady that lunches
Thursday 9 February 2012, 02:41PM
Uraiwan “Waeo” Voute first opened The Lunchroom three and a half years ago as a way to spend more time with her children, compared to her previous job as a busy dive tour guide. The Lunchroom, just opposite the Kathu waterfall road and next to Grizzly’s sports bar, is a relaxing restaurant that many Phuket-based expats use as their local hangout. Khun Waeo first moved to Phuket in 1996 to work as a trainee waitress but soon began assisting tour groups and and managing the day-to-day running of a busy dive shop in Kamala. “With two young children, it was very full on. I soon realised I had to start something of my own, and I’ve always loved eating,” she says with a laugh. What began as a small coffee shop with cakes and snacks is now a full blown restaurant, which was expanded considerably when Khun Waeo took over the shophouse next door. The restaurant is open air, with matching rattan furniture, and a nice view of the nearby Kathu bush. “It’s not really fancy, but it is very comfortable. Many people come here because they feel welcome.” The menu is a mix of Thai and European dishes, including chicken with cashews (B100), cordon bleu (B250 and made fresh every day), and spaghetti carbonara (made with real cream, B150). Khun Waeo also offers half portions, meaning people can easily mix and match their favourite foods. However, she’s most well known for her Australian beef burgers and ‘Lunchroom curry’, chicken breast filled with cheese and topped with a yellow curry sauce. “It’s a great combination.” The Lunchroom is open every day except Sunday, from 7am to 11pm (kitchen is open until 10pm). There is also free wi-fi, and computers available for customers.The Lunchroom, 9/96, Moo 6, Kathu, 076-323-772, 081-956-3166, lunchroomphuket@gmail.com
European ice cream treats
Thursday 2 February 2012, 10:57AM
Stepping inside Samero’s Ice-cream Paradise in Patong is so similar to going into an European ice-cream parlour, with its black and white chequered floors, a sparkling chandelier, marble tables, and black and cream bar stools, that you could forget you are just a few streets away from busy Bangla Rd. The ice-cream store, decorated in red and white trim, sells more than 20 ice-cream flavours, plus daily specialties such as Kibana, a kiwi banana mix, or pineapple-basil. There are more than 50 different creations on the menu, and if you still can’t find something you like, you can design your own. Prices start at B49 for one scoop, up to B300 for the “Mount Everest” – a whopping eight scoops. One unique recipe straight from Vienna is the ice spaghetti, where ice-cream is put through a special press and comes out looking exactly like pasta – kids love it, I’m told. After working as a communications engineer for 15 or so years in Vienna, Austria, owner and head ice-cream maker Wolfgang Sameros decided to change his career. Mr Sameros spent two months at Carpigianin Ice-cream university in Italy, learning the trade and how to make traditional European ice-cream, also known as gelato, before moving to Phuket. The store was opened in October 2010. “Now my customers smile at me, and children come in with big eyes. It’s a great job,” he says. Ice-cream is made regularly and is not frozen, so it has more flavour, texture, and taste, he says. The only ingredients are fresh milk, cream, mineral water, lots of fresh fruits and sugar – no powder or preservatives. The ice-cream is also sold from an environmentally-friendly cart, driven around Patong. The cart was designed by Mr Sameros and the ice-cream is kept cool through electricity generated a on-board compressor, powered by a 80 watt solar panel. Perfect for those hot afternoons relaxing on the beach.   –Claire Connell – Samero’s Ice-cream Paradise, 92 Sainamyen Rd, Patong, 087-468-5456. sameros.icecream@gmail.com, www.sameros.com
An Asian take on a French classic
Thursday 2 February 2012, 10:54AM
The recent Wat Chalong fair attracted thousands of visitors, and hundreds of food vendors to feed them. Out of all the stalls, one in particular attracted hordes of children who wanted to sample a Japanese crepe. This stall was decorated in paper cones painted with various Japanese cartoon characters. Traditionally, crepes are part of French cuisine, but the Japanese love them almost as much, and have developed their own distinctive style of making them. As with all things made in Japan, Thailand has taken this treat to its heart, with shops and vendors across the Kingdom selling the sweet-tasting snack. Phanaphat “Tid” Sawatsri has been a Japanese crepe vendor for one year, after wanting a change of career. Despite initial appearances, this dessert is not easy to cook, she says. “There are several types of Japanese crepe – crispy, soft, rolled or folded. As such, every vendor has their own individual way of cooking them” Ms Phanaphat says. “My ones are quite crispy. I learned this style from another vendor, who taught me how to spread the ingredients in the pan just right. If it is not spread well, it may be sticky or uncooked.” The crepes are made from wheat flour, egg, fresh milk, sugar butter and salt. Ms Phanaphat says the ingredients are first spread on a flat hot plate, then filled with various toppings before finally folding it into a triangle shape, and serving in a paper cone. Fillings can be savoury or sweet. Examples of the former include baked fish, crab meat, chilli paste, shredded pork, and sausage; while vanilla, pandanus, and jam are popular for those with a sweet tooth. “Kids generally order the crepes sweet, while adults order them spicy,” she says. Now that the Wat Chalong fair is over, you can find Ms Phanaphat’s stall at the market fair, opposite Thepnimitra Temple on Chao Fa Road, every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday, 3pm to 7pm. -Sukunya Phoonpong
Jamie's Phuket: Phuket waterfalls
Friday 27 January 2012, 10:34AM
I love waterfalls. I once detoured across half of South America to get from La Paz in Bolivia to the absolutely incredible Iguazu falls, which are on the border between Brazil and Argentina. Meanwhile, the Niagara falls on the American/Canadian border are maybe the most visited in the world. I’ve been there too, and it’s quite nice, that little boat ride on the ‘Maid of the Mist’. I tell you what though, you can’t do a boat ride at Iguazu. Certainly not when I was there in wet season. An unbelievable torrent of chocolate brown water was shooting from the jungle. One of the most amazing places I have ever been and well worth the ride on the ‘Train of Death’ to get there. Closer to home, the waterfalls in Phuket seem to be mentioned in just about every guidebook, website and blog. If you like nature and want to get away from the majority of tourists who prefer to stay at the beach, then the island’s waterfalls – all of them jungly and quiet – are worth a visit. That said, unless you live in Saudi Arabia or some other desert country and have never seen a waterfall or jungle, I wouldn’t suggest you devote a day to a ‘Phuket Waterfall Tour’. While we don’t have anything like Iguazu, you can still enjoy a pleasant little jungle walk and take a swim in the fresh water running off the hills, some of which rise up to over 1,700 feet above sea level. KATHU WATERFALL: Only a few kilometres from where we live is the highest point in Phuket, over 540 metres above sea level. Near this hill you have Kathu waterfall, only a short drive from Patong beach.You park at the end of the hill road, cross a bridge and start walking up some steps ... and up... and up.There are several wonderful cascades as you climb, in which locals are always playing and swimming. TON SAI WATERFALL: In the northeast of Phuket island is a large green area, which is designated national park. It’s called Khao Phra Thaew, and on each side of the 1,000 foot jungle covered hill in the middle are two waterfalls: Ton Sai on the west and Bang Pae on the east.In between is pretty wild country – I have read that you can hike between the two, but a friend of mine (who is a really fit runner and hiker) has done it and tells me it’s very tough going. He was even once attacked by a wild gibbon up there. Ton Sai is easy to find: turn right at the traffic lights at Thalang town (right if you are heading north). Follow the small road. I believe entry is free after 3pm (though subject to change), otherwise it’s B200.  There is a nature trail and several small falls up the jungle path.And on the way there you are in the heart of rural Phuket, so close to the main tourist beaches but in a different place entirely. BANG PAE WATERFALL: As mentioned, on the other side of the hill from Ton Sai is Bang Pae waterfall, and also the Gibbon Rehabilitation Project.The Bang Pae area is probably one of our favourite places in Phuket.There are many small back roads, some great rural scenery, vast rubber plantations, pineapple fields, and a few restaurants that we like to visit, such as Bang Pae Seafood and Peang Prai, which is at the entrance to Bang Pae – again, there is an entry fee here of B200 per person. Note that the entry fee does not go to the Gibbon project, which you can visit for free, although a small donation is always appreciated.If you’re planning to visit, be aware that Bang Pae is very popular with locals at the weekend.There are several small restaurants just inside the entrance. TAMNANG WATERFALL: Earlier this year, we were driving back to Phuket from Khao Sok National Park and decided to look for Sri Phang Nga national park. A friend had posted some photos on Facebook, it looked good and seemed to be not far off our route (but far enough to call said friend and ask him, “Where is it?”!).Sri Phang Nga is not actually in Phuket, it’s in Phang Nga province. You have to drive from Phuket via Khao Lak to Takua Pa and then on northward towards Kuraburi. About 30 kilometres from Takua Pa is the turn-off and then you have about another 10 kilometres on a narrow road, becoming a dirt road... no wonder it’s not well known.And here we found a really superb waterfall called Tamnang, with a cool fresh swimming pool beneath it filled with fish which swim all around you. Read more of Jamie’s posts atJamie's Phuket Blog   Jamie works at liveaboard dive specialists Sunrise Divers in Karon. More info: 084 626 4646, info@sunrise-divers.com; sunrise-divers.com.