Raya Restaurant – Phuket
Raya Restaurant is simply the Thai restaurant in Phuket Town. Set in a renovated Sino-Thai mansion originally built at the beginning of the 20th century, this venue literally takes its patrons back to the past, and serves them such a delicious genuine local cuisine that movie stars, prime ministers, and royalty frequent this establishment while they are in Phuket.
Located on New Dibuk Road, on the side of Phuket Old Town, Raya Restaurant is certainly the best venue to discover Thai cuisine at its best; especially their crab curry, which is often ordered even from Bangkok and delivered by plane!
Think Sino-Thai with a generous splash of Portuguese colonial thrown in and you’ll get the picture. Raya may be old but she has aged gracefully and the zig-zag stairways in the centre of the restaurant are the original ones.
The mosaic tiled flooring is also original (and impossible to replace these days) as are 50’s-era tea and coffee poster-girl ads and pictures of Thai monarchs. It’s all the Real McCoy and tulip-shaped wall light shades add to the olde worlde effect.
Over by the bar, four signature-and-message-splattered whiteboards hang and an ancient windup gramophone graces the door area.
Totally unlike Phuket’s other top restaurants, Raya exudes a Sino-Thai atmosphere with no hint whatsoever of tourist-related compromise.
Local businessmen, families and just plain locals make up the clientele. With sotto voce Thai ballads complete with lots of tinkling piano and florid orchestral arrangements, brighter-than-normal lighting (but thankfully no neon) and a no-nonsense attitude, no one can claim that Raya is a romantic hotspot – at least in the western sense. But if good food in a retro-Asian atmosphere is your thing, you’ll be in seventh heaven at Raya.
Unobtrusive, discreet and obliging, the service is efficient and brisk while Khun Kulab and her witty sister keep everything personal and warm. Finally, Si-tong – the ‘real owner’ – a well-fed tabby cat adds more of a personal touch as he does his rounds. Cooking classes available – phone for information.
Trisara Seafood Restaurant in Phuket
‘Seafood’ is the latest culinary creation of Trisara – the only five-star resort on the island with a Thai chef. Chef Kla is an extremely well-travelled man, having been sent on culinary missions to Sydney, New York, Singapore and Spain – working alongside and learning from one- and two-star Michelin chefs.
Set on the beachfront area of the resort, Seafood features three separate areas: a stylish indoor dining room, a few tables under the shade of a pergola, and a terrace right next to the beach. Classy yet unpretentious, Trisara Seafood is the right place for sampling freshly caught products from the Andaman Sea in style.
The restaurant itself mirrors the opposite side of the court only it sports elegant nautical touches such as ship’s rope wound around columns and touches of blue, white and turquoise as well as louvered shutters.
Outside, light touches such as trelliswork enhance the subtlety of the place. This restaurant doesn’t need to speak in a loud voice; instead it whispers its seduction. We choose a table on the wooden-decked terrace although we could just as well have sat ‘les pieds dans le sable’ on the beach as the French say, or inside the air-conditioned interior with its Café Del Mar music. It’s not a beautiful day but still the magic of this spot is overpowering and the only music we hear (or need) is the crashing of waves on the shore and the odd fishing smack passing by.
After a dish of mixed international oysters (the Phuket ones were the most muscular) we sample a spanking fresh tuna tartar with pomelo, citrus, ginger and dried seaweed and an almost perfect sole meunière with green asparagus and potatoes. You couldn’t get a better example of the level of Seafood’s cuisine than this fish dish.
We also enjoy light, battered fish and chips along with a sea bass dish featuring squid, sugar snap peas, watercress and red quinoa. All this, along with a heavenly dessert selection and 2010 Whispering Angel rosé from Provence, is enough to make one believe that terrestrial paradise is achievable – it’s just a matter of knowing where to look.
Old Siam Restaurant – Phuket
Old Siam is the perfect restaurant for an authentic Thai dinner in a very peaceful environment. Located in Nakalay Bay on the private beachfront of the long-established yet opulent Thavorn Beach Village & Spa (which celebrated its 26th anniversary in 2014), Old Siam is one of the few restaurants in Phuket at which guests can still enjoy a delicious Thai Royale Cuisine dinner with their toes in the sand.
The restaurant – and most of the resort – are built in classic Lanna Style (from the 15th century in northern Thailand) and features three distinct dining areas: indoor, in a courtyard, and right on the beach. The food served at Old Siam is indeed genuine Thai cuisine presenting specialities from the four main regions of Thailand: north (Chiang Mai & Chiang Rai), northeast (Isan), centre (the “Rice Bowl of Asia”) and south (from Suratthani to the border with Malaysia). Classy yet unpretentious, a dinner at Old Siam is a unique experience blending top-notch food, outstanding location, and excellent service.
Thavorn Beach Village settings are simply superb: the resort occupies 40 rai (64,000sqm) of landscaped gardens (hosting rare breeds of plants, and beautiful statues of Thai mythological characters) on Nakalay Bay which features a 450m long, south-facing beach. Old Siam is situated towards the western end of the beach and has three one-storey buildings forming a U-shape around a courtyard. The indoor dining areas are entirely made of teak wood and decorated with wood carved patterns and old framed photos; the courtyard is paved with authentic terra-cotta and gives dinners the impression of going back in time.
Anyway, the favourite dining area remains the beach itself: offering a splendid view to the south, guests can admire Patong Bay and, on the mountains behind, they can even spot Phuket Big Buddha. It is also an exceptional sundowner spot. Tables and gazebos are set apart from each other between the trees on which small lanterns are hung, offering a first rate romantic atmosphere for couples. To accompany the fabulous ambiance, Songbirds is a talented acoustic trio performing classic soft songs in an unobtrusive way around the tables; they have been in charge of the music six nights a week at Old Siam for 22 years.
Old Siam menu hosts a great choice of specialities coming from all regions of Thailand; Royal Thai Cuisine is the true rendition of authentic Thai cuisine, featuring recipes which have been created and prepared for centuries in aristocratic households.
A great starter is the set of four authentic appetisers at 520 baht that can be accompanied with a plate of chicken/beef/pork satay at 380 baht; the two most famous soups of Thailand – Tom Yam Goong (spicy soup with prawns) and Tom Khao Kai (coconut soup with chicken) – are of course part of the menu, respectively at 450 and 380 baht; for the main course, a classic yet unavoidable dish is kai phad med mamuang (sautéed chicken with cashew nuts) at 440 baht. Khun Noi, maitre d’hôtel at Old Siam for an impressive 17 years, assures that seafood, meat, and vegetarian dishes are prepared according to customers’ choice concerning the degree of spiciness.
Old Siam Restaurant’s wine-list features an excellent choice of new and old world wine labels; we opted for an Australian Cabernet/Merlot – The Riddle at 1,700 baht which complemented very well the fare. Summing up, Old Siam Restaurant should figure at the top of the bucket-list of any person interested in sampling delicious genuine Thai cuisine in an idyllic and enchanting setting in Phuket.
Senzanome Restaurant in Phuket
Senzanome Restaurant is a stylish venue located at Phuket Boat Lagoon Marina, in the northern outskirts of Phuket Town. Opened in January 2015, Senzanome is the ‘baby’ of prestigious Italian Chef Bruno Nicolino who, with over 40 years’ experience in haute cuisine all around the world, settled in Phuket to join the shortlist of top chefs on the island, which includes Pablo Blattman, Daniel Isberg, Cheryl Johnson, and Alessandro Frau, to name just a few.
The settings of Senzanome are superb: the entire restaurant is dressed in white and looks over the splendid yachts moored in the marina. Chef Bruno specialises in a creative and organic rendition of Italian cuisine. Surprising and innovative, his cuisine would delight the pickiest customers.
The Boat Lagoon Marina is, most evenings, a haven of tranquillity, the silence only disturbed by the soft lapping of the sea against the yachts’ hulls. In this relaxing environment, Senzanome is just the perfect place to chill out and appreciate the subtle flavours of Chef Bruno’s cuisine.
Senzanome features two dining areas: the front porch permits al fresco dining with a view to the marina, caressed by the refreshing breeze from the sea, while the air-conditionned interior dining room is immaculate and its uncluttered furnishing and design gives the place a neat and clean futuristic impression. Inside, only the bar counter, with its electric blue light, and a large pillar painted in dark blue bring touches of colours to the otherwise entirely white décor.
Regarding food, get ready to sample top-of-the-range delicacies prepared with the finest organic ingredients (most of them imported) and most innovative culinary techniques such as low temperature cooking.
Senzanome Restaurant has two distinct menus, both of them pretty short yet presenting enough dishes to please everyone. The lunch menu features six light dishes such as Caesar salad (with low temperature cooked chicken – 260 baht), buffalo mozzarella (served with slices of fresh tomato – 280 baht), or spaghetti with Salsiccia sausage (280 baht).
Joe’s Downstairs – Phuket
Joe’s Downstairs is one of Phuket’s most prominent restaurants. Enjoying a stunning location on the granite cape that separates Patong from Kalim beach, it overlooks the Andaman Sea and offers a splendid sundowner spot, perfect for sipping a skilfully mixed cocktail in good company.
Joe’s Downstairs kitchen is run by the talented American-born Chef Aaron Hooper, who creatively blends flavours from all around the world in his dishes. With its remarkable location, sophisticated setting, and delectable cuisine, Joe’s Downstairs should be on the bucket-list of every epicurean coming by Patong.
The first impression one gets of Joe’s is the way the all-white theme dovetails neatly with the immediate by-the-sea feel of the place; the sea is in fact a firm part of the décor here.
It all seems so spotless yet far from clinical and with the recent addition of a large deck terrace it’s never cramped. A tastefully lit bar lines the descent into the restaurant. Cool stuff.People of all ages frequent Joe’s but it does have a markedly youthful feel to it. And who wouldn’t feel sprightly and full of life sipping on a martini, watching the fabulous sunset here?
Part bar, part restaurant, by mid evening the restaurant vibe is dominant but then the cool sounds and relaxed yet chic bar vibe takes over.
Joe’s Downstairs is a year-after-year winner of Wine Spectator Magazine’s ‘Award of Excellence’ and not only that, it has access to the immense wine resources of neighbouring Baan Rim Pa and Da Maurizio.
With this combination the restaurant is one of the top five in southern Thailand when it comes to wine.
American-born Chef Aaron Hooper makes the art of good food seem effortless. Dishes are all pieces de resistance with the emphasis on great taste matchings along with top priority accorded to freshness.
Fois gras shu mei with toasted pistachios and tamarind/plum sauce is a worthy starter; the flavours complementing and blending in a master creation. Premium jumbo crab cake simply cannot be bettered – and this on an island world-famous as a seafood destination.
400-day aged Wagyu beef tenderloin with leek and potato hash is a filling and tasty main course. All in all, Joe’s is a class act and, given the setting and the talent involved it is seriously worth a visit – at sunset, of course.