One thing we’ve become certain of over the past few years: There’s no stopping this celebrity chef's restaurant empire. For the last three years alone, chef Thitid “Ton” Tassanakajohn has extended his culinary repertoire all over the world, and his latest expansion is in Phuket, Samut, wants to give local Thai seafood the all-star treatment.
Taking over the space from Chivitr Wellness Resort’s old lobby, Samut carries on some of the hotel’s Thai-Chinese decor, resembling Buddhist pagodas with predominantly simple, reserved wood furniture and antique-looking entrance—both of which are preserved from the original estate. Stepping outside, there are a few seats on the balcony overlooking extended staircases, perfect for the days Phuket’s gives us some mercy.
Samut, meaning “ocean” in Thai, makes a clear commitment to bring ingredients from Thailand’s coastlines to the table. And it’s not just Phuket; chef Ton partners with Thai fishermen in Prachuap Khiri Khan, Phang Nga, Chumphon, Surat Thani, and more for the seafood delicacies for his eight-course dining experience (B2,690).
Buare goon yang (Southern-style prawns with crispy polyscales leaf). Photo: Porpor Leelasestaporn / BK Magazine.
We didn’t see chef Ton in person on our visit. But we did meet his head chef, Chatchawan ‘Banky’ Varahajeerakul, who oversaw our dinner in his place. “The idea is to taste all our Southern specialties in 16 dishes,” he explains.
Poo ma neung (steamed blue crab with crunchy crab roe crumbles served in a passionfruit bowl). Photo: Porpor Leelasestaporn / BK Magazine.
The first course arrives in four savory bites: poo ma neung (steamed blue crab with crunchy crab roe crumbles served in a passionfruit bowl), bure goon yang (Southern-style prawns with crispy polyscales leaf), prik gaeng hoy mak (Thai sweet clam dipped in fiery hot curry), and khao yam (a bite of pomelo, dried fish, and fermented fish sauce covered in pinkish torch ginger jelly) with a tartness that tingles the tongue and acts as a palate cleanser.
Yum hoi lord, razor clam in pineapple dressing. Photo: Porpor Leelasestaporn / BK Magazine.
Next was yum hoi lord, razor clam swimming in pineapple dressing served with lemon grass and green mango and topped with pineapple foam. Por pia goong, meanwhile, is reimagined from Phuket’s dim sum morning stalls, with local favorite nam chor sauce in a liquid-like gel on the top of plumb tiger prawns wrapped in rice paper.
Por pia goong, reimagined from Phuket's dim sum morning stalls. Photo: Porpor Leelasestaporn / BK Magazine.
Another memorable dish was pla meuk nam dam. The staff carries a huge chunk of banana leaves and cuts them to reveal a gelatinous-looking squid inside. The squid was slow roasted in a charcoal grill and topped with squid ink; the cured egg yolks on the top help enhance all the flavors.
Pla meuk nam dam. Photo: Porpor Leelasestaporn / BK Magazine.
Before the main course, the staff serve a ma muang bao sorbet made from a mango variation from Southern Thai provinces. The sorbet is garnished with large crystals of sea salt—and we would have begged for a second spoonful.
Pla gor lae, the coral fish grilled in a coconut barbecue sauce. Photo: Saksiri Soonthornpanyawut / BK Magazine.
The main course, which arrived in four samrub (set menu), has some hits and minor misses. Some are pleasant combinations but others are rather combative in terms of flavor. We loved pla gor lae the coral fish grilled in a coconut barbecue sauce that adds a sweet tang from pickled chili, and the six-hour-braised murex snail was soft and fresh with its crunchy betel leaf. The skins from 7-day dry-aged wild red snapper in pla tom tao jiaw could have been crispier had it not been sitting in the fermented soy soup for so long.
Gaeng kua hoy mara, six-hour braised murex snail in Southern curry. Photo: Saksiri Soonthornpanyawut / BK Magazine.
Our course, this all ends with tu bo Phuket’s rare sweet treat that chef Banky reimagines into an elaborate dessert: red bean ice cream served with artful drops of sweet potato puree and salted coconut cream—a sensual pleasure to the eye with unmitigated sweetness. Buffered by white sesame cake, the plate offered a stimulating interplay.
Tu bo, Phuket's rare sweet treat. Photo: Saksiri Soonthornpanyawut / BK Magazine.
Is it worth a stop? The restaurant’s commitment to Thai seafood has added a fresh momentum to Phuket’s fine-dining scene. We were told by chef Banky that they will revamp their menu for Samut soon, so you can look forward to well-earned attention for unsung Southern Thai dishes soon. By Porpor Leelasestaporn.
|Samut, 14/106 Rawai. Mueng. Phuket, Phuket, Thailand
|Wed-Sun 5-11pm; Sat-Sun 11:30am-3pm
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