Samui Wining & Dining
TaHouse of The Rising Sun
A look at the new and subtle Suikin Japanese restaurant
at Chaweng’s akyra Chura Samui resort.

 

TaHouse of The Rising SunJapan is a fascinating nation, particularly when it comes to dining. On the one hand there are the street kitchens and small restaurants, filled with jostle and noise and surrounded by a steaming veil of aromas and odours. And quite often you’ll find this aspect in many of the better restaurants, too. There’s a tensely-competitive interplay between them and quite a bit of theatre involved, with an open kitchen and galloping cooks on show and colourful life-size replicas of all the dishes garishly displayed in the windows.

 

But, at the other extreme, with what one might regard as ‘fine Japanese dining’, it’s all quite different. It’s quiet and serene. There’s no showmanship. The décor is refined. The quality of the cuisine and the service is impeccable. The entire dining experience is a mixture of pampered leisure and calm enjoyment. And this is exactly what you’ll find when you visit Suikin.

 

akyra Chura Samui is one of the more-recent additions to the Samui scene, having opened its doors for the first time in June, 2011. In many ways, it’s a very significant place, one being that it’s the only resort on the island to have an underlying Japanese element running throughout. It’s not what one might call Japanese in style: the joint owners are Thai and Japanese, respectively. But, arriving there (in the northern part of Chaweng just across from Samui International Hospital on Chaweng Beach Road) you’ll see the influence right away. Coming through the low-key entrance you’re immediately faced with a wide, simple, rectangular stone building. There’s no glowing neon or glitz, just an elevated line of bonsai trees on either side of the central door. But look again: this is the initial impression from a distance. This is actually a very clever feature, as they’re large, indigenous Thai trees of the type that has big, knotty, twisted roots sprouting-out far above their bases. And they have been carefully pruned-down to replicate their tiny Japanese counterparts. The building that you’re seeing is actually Suikin, by the way, but more about this excellent restaurant in just a moment.

 

A few minutes spent wandering around inside the grounds will confirm the consistent subtlety of the Japanese influence. The rooms are based on a simple geometry that has none of the elaborate embellishments of the popular local Thai architecture. Large rectangular windows reveal pale wooden floors, with balconies unadorned and rooflines unobtrusive. There are 62 luxurious suites laid out on a harmonious grid pattern and tucked away under a shady canopy of trees. Plus there’s an exclusive spa and a state-of-the-art gym, and a book and music library. Then there’s WiFi throughout and 24-hour room service with in-room dining. And there are two feature restaurants that, between them, cover a range of Japanese, International and Thai dishes. This is altogether a remarkable and up-market resort. And that brings us back to Suikin.

 

It’s all quite deliberately minimalist,” explained the resort’s Resident Manager, Axel de Boynes, “meaning that superficial decoration is seen to be unnecessary; superfluous, distracting, even. But everywhere you look you’ll see integrated elements of quiet Japanese style – the repeated big wooden frame motif; the slatted and matching wood that occurs on the room dividers, the chair backs and the screens. This is enough. Our intention is to let the cuisine speak for itself.

 

Suikin is a long, high space with quietly-swirling ceiling fans, low-lit and cosy, and divided into two areas by huge, dark-timbered arched frames. There are actually two ways in, with one being directly from the front of the resort meaning that if you’re coming from outside you don’t have to wander around trying to find it. The other is more cunning, hardly noticeable, and comes in from the direction of reception via a narrow space between the ‘frames’. And yes, there are the expected red Japanese lanterns. But they’re iconic rather than functional, unlit, and they line the roof space above this entranceway. Over to one end there’s a bar. And close to this you’ll see a semi-open kitchen where you can see the red-bandana-clad chefs are busily working.

 

Leading the kitchen brigade is the restaurant’s Japanese Executive Chef, Goro Takatsu. He’s been around the culinary block, as they say, and absorbed a wealth of gastronomic knowledge during his travels. Having worked in his homeland for the first ten years of his career, he then spent time in Mexico and then Spain before travelling to Bangkok. There he worked for a further six years in the prestigious Bangkok Suikin. And when this restaurant begat a clone of the same name on Samui he was the obvious choice to lead the kitchen.

 

This is the only local Japanese restaurant which offers really authentic Japanese cuisine,” he ventured. “There are all sorts of different sushi rolls, including pressed sushi with eel, but also a selection of nigiri sushi, with one containing scallop especially imported from the Sea of Okhotsk. But this is what people always seem to expect from Japanese food. And so I’ve included some of the more-traditional items too, such as mitsuna leaf salad or the exciting Conga, Pike and Seaweed Tempra rice bowl.

 

But he also went on to reveal that he’s put together a ‘Special Menu’. And it really is special: you won’t find anything like it anywhere around, because, although it’s traditional Japanese cuisine, it also contains a ‘fusion’ influence from his time spent abroad. Plus it’s astonishingly affordable at only 680 baht. For which you’ll receive five courses, with a choice of five entrées: soft shell crab, rock lobster, curried sea bass, braised chicken or French beef. This has to be one of the most arousing menus on the island, and can be enjoyed in a setting that simply whispers ‘quality’.

 

But I’ll leave it to Chef Goro to have the last word. “Plus,” he said with a mischievous grin, “we’ve also got Häagen-Dazs!” Enough said.

 

Rob De Wet
 


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