Samui Wining & Dining
More Than Fine

At Rocky’s fabulous signature restaurant, The Dining Room, it’s more than fine-dining – it’s sublime!

 

7A good reputation is more valuable than money.” The freed Roman slave, Publilius Syrus, wrote these words over 2,000 years ago. And I’m sure he’d be staggered to know that they were still being quoted in the 21st century. But he was a collector of maxims – of universal truths. And it’s certainly true to say that today, on Samui, there’s a small handful of restaurants that have more than merely a ‘good’ reputation. They represent the pinnacle of the culinary art and each has an ambiance that’s unparalleled and with standards of service to match. They are few and far between and are treasured by those in the know. And one of these gems is The Dining Room, at Rocky’s Boutique Resort, close to the Grandfather and Grandmother Rocks in Lamai.

 

Trying to work out what defines success, particularly when it comes to eateries, is much the same as trying to work out how many angels can fit on the head of a pin. But Rocky’s has continued to elevate and refine its dining experience ever since day one. And an experience it assuredly is; a stimulation of all the senses, not just taste. It’s tempting to wax poetic about just how stunningly attractive everything is. Or to respectfully applaud the friendly and attentive staff. But quality represents more than the sum of its parts, almost by definition. And that’s just what you’ll be regaled with on all counts, on a visit to their signature fine-dining restaurant.

 

One of the elements that can be defined here is way that the natural geography enhances the resort’s layout, particularly their restaurant. There are few better settings as it’s at the edge of the rocks, right next to the water and overlooking the nearby cove. And these natural textures of rock, stone and wood are deliberately and thoughtfully woven into the aesthetics throughout the resort. It’s a ‘picture postcard’ setting. And one that’s just perfect to enjoy the range of superlative ‘modern interpretations of classic French cuisine’ you’ll be presented with.

 

It’s also tempting to say that the heart of the restaurant here is its chef, the award-winning Malaysian-born Azizskandar Awang. But nothing can be effective in isolation and he’ll be the first to assert that not only is he a part of the culinary team but he’s constantly supported and encouraged by owners and managers Ole and Collette Larsen. His dishes, his creations, are light and delicate and full of tingles and snaps of unexpected contrasts of taste and texture. “I lighten and refine the traditional ingredients, particularly the sauces,” he explained to me. “My cuisine has its origin in the classical French tradition but not its form, which is fresh, clean and contemporary. And I’m constantly refining and experimenting with each dish. Not only do they evolve naturally but completely new ideas emerge and every three months or so I change the entire menu.

 

And with the current menu already being so tantalising, it’s difficult to believe how creating another set of dishes of the same calibre could be possible. But one permanent feature that Aziz employs is sous vide slow cooking techniques to further enhance flavour and texture. The ‘Norwegian salmon cooked in butter with wilted fennel, tarragon and citrus, and hot butter sauce with vinegar and white wine’ is a succulent example. But when it comes to sheer taste-bud luxury there are few things to match the velvety indulgence of the Wagyu beef, in this instance presented with a medley of organic baby vegetables, pommes bouchon, and port wine reduction.

 

But the most popular menu items are the five- and seven-course ‘tasting’ options. And, in the true tradition of the legendry French chef, Auguste Escoffier, each dish is thoughtfully constructed to complement and enhance those that come before and after it. And each can also be paired with an appropriate wine, if required.

 

Which is where the presence of the restaurant’s professional sommelier, Julien Valeix, comes to the fore. He’s constantly on hand to advise and recommend a suitable choice from the well-stocked cellar at Rocky’s. There are over 100 labels to chose from, both classical and New World offerings and they are thoughtfully selected and priced. “Our aim is to present a range that’s both extensive as well as affordable,” Rocky’s Director, Erik Larsen, told me. “There’s a fine selection of top-of-the-range wines, but a solid choice of mid-priced labels, too. And, added to that, a range of outstanding cigars to finish with that have proved to be both popular and sought-after.

 

And towards the end of the evening diners often catch sight of the impressive gourmet cheese board. There’s a varied range of esoteric offerings according to the season. And with typical flair, Aziz has created a presentation that’s a work of art and comes with a portion of pure honeycomb, pistachios and almonds, dried fruits and other intriguing nibbles.

 

Looking closely again at the menu reveals that the philosophy of ‘affordable quality’ isn’t just restricted to wine. The popular tasting options come in at 1,250 baht for the 5-course set and 1,500 baht for the 7-course option, with the mid-range wines costing between 1,200 and 1,600 baht. It’s not always considered discreet to wave prices around but, in this case, it’s yet one more attraction.

 

Unlike most, ‘The Dining Room’ is open all day although the dinner menu isn’t available until 6:00 pm. But don’t let that deter you from dropping in if you’re passing during the day, as there’s also the delightfully designed and decorated ‘The Bistro’ restaurant with its varied international and Thai dishes plus tapas bar and laid-back loungers and day-beds. The décor and lighting is just as enchanting as ‘The Dining Room’ and it’s open in the evenings, too.

 

Some places have it and others don’t and with some it comes, only to fade again. But not so here. Whatever the value of a reputation, Rocky’s Boutique Resort has always had a good one and it’s totally justified. And that goes whether you’re a visitor, a resident or a freed Roman slave, although there’s not so many of those around, nowadays!

 

Rob De Wet

 


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