The hotel itself celebrated its 30-year anniversary last year, having opened its doors on the 23rd July, 1987; a tremendous milestone in this world where the only constant is change. And in the equally evolving restaurant scene, Sam’s has an unparalleled track record, having been launched in 1990.
Leading the kitchen is Chef Chantaporn who, having joined as a cook-helper, has now been cooking at Sam’s for 28 years. His counterpart in the restaurant, Khun Supachai is not far behind with 17 years service. By coincidence, I myself am not that far behind, having been a regular diner at Sam’s for nearly 10 years. This longevity and stability undoubtedly contributes to this landmark in Phuket.
I am warmly welcomed and seated at a table adorned with a personalised reserved sign engraved with cute mini cow horns. Presented with the menu, I have an opportunity to survey the room. Sam’s has a slightly masculine ambience with a hint of the gentlemen’s club, wood paneled walls, slightly large tables to accommodate the platters, chunky leather armchairs and, as a nod to those who are celebrating romantic occasions, semi-circular booths so one may sit side by side; de-rigueur in my opinion when accompanied by one’s loved one. I also notice a semi-private room, ideal for a family celebration or a corporate dinner.
I am only slightly aware of soft jazz music in the background, which brings me back to the menu. I make my choices from the extensive a la carte which has a mix of both the traditional and the modern; a tempting variety of innovative appetisers, followed by a wide selection of seafood and meats.
Whilst most preferences are catered for, including vegetarians, the range of steaks does not disappoint. I see both Australian and US cuts to suit every budget; from tenderloins and tomahawks to rib-eyes and sirloins and several Wagyu offerings, the pinnacle of the beef pyramid. Once you select your cut, the menu has a clever section named, “your steak, your way”, enabling one to tailor your dish, from a lengthy list of vegetables, sauces and starches.
Having ordered, Chef Chantaporn sends out a complimentary amuse bouche of sushi with a tasty sesame mayo to stimulate my taste-buds. This is accompanied by a basket of warm home-made breads, butters and tapenade. An excellent start.
I begin with one of the signature flambee dishes prepared at table of fresh Andaman prawns and delicate Japanese scallops with accompanying mango, tomato salsa and micro greens. This mini-show seems to be attracting other diners to order tableside and also other dishes such as the Caesar Salad and the Beef and Reef (a modern take on Surf and Turf).
Tableside preparations do add a certain occasion to the dining experience.
I follow this refreshingly light seafood dish with a pan-fried Foie Gras with apple and balsamic reduction – this served with toasted bread batons to mop up the deliciously fruity, slightly bitter sauce, balancing the richness of the Foie.
Whilst preparing my steak, Chef, maintaining the steakhouse tradition, sends out a rather twee but super refreshing cantaloupe melon sorbet to cleanse my palate for the main event!
Right on time my Australian rib-eye arrives, perfectly cooked medium rare, accompanied with smooth mashed potato, a crispy roesti, Chiang Mai mushrooms and the piece de resistance for me, a world-class Béarnaise sauce. Despite this not being their most premium cut, the meat is melt-in-the-mouth and the rib-eye truly delivers that flavour we steak lovers seek.
The dessert menu is particularly tempting with, again, a tableside offering of classic French style pancakes in a caramelized sauce, however I choose the similarly rich warm chocolate fondant with the added twist of a marshmallow base. A fitting end to my evening.
Having been well taken care of by the incredibly professional and friendly serving staff, the experience has not yet ended; ice cream filled truffles are dramatically brought to the table. I will not however further spoil this surprise!
As I depart and reflect on my evening, Sam’s is clearly not just another steakhouse, it not only offers the traditional with premium produce, but has added dishes that you will never tire of, delivered from the kitchen and at tableside with finesse.
Sam, like a lifelong friend one has not seen for some time, I do so look forward to our next catch up!
Chris is a former Michelin Guide Inspector who, following an international career in hospitality spanning 30 years in both the Middle East and Asia, has now settled in Thailand and will contribute a monthly restaurant column.