Samui Wining & Dining
The Answer is Hansar.

Why H Bistro at Hansar Samui still has everybody talking.

 

9Where are you staying? On Samui, I mean. If the answer is Chaweng then right away you’re spoiled for choice with restaurants. Even where it’s quieter in, say, Maenam or Bophut, you could still eat-out in a different local eatery for every night of your stay. But people don’t usually do this. The first couple of nights they tend to stay in, tired from their journey. Then they go out to explore what’s nearby. And that’s where they’ll remain for most of the time, eating-out at restaurants they can walk to. But there are always a couple of evenings where everybody feels the need for something special. And one sure bet is that, wherever you’re staying, you’ll visit Fisherman’s Village at least once during your time on the island.

    In theory the street along the seashore of Fisherman’s Village is one way. Both people and vehicles make their way from the jetty-area in the centre past the shops and restaurants, following the setting sun westwards. And, after having explored what appears to be just about all there is, you’d be forgiven for turning around and heading back the way you came. But wait! Because right at the end is where you’ll discover the 5-star Hansar Samui resort and its excellent signature restaurant, H Bistro.

This is a comparatively recent addition to Samui’s dining scene, having opened its doors for the first time back in July 2010. But in just these couple of years, Hansar and H Bistro have established reputations for themselves that are up there with the best. The restaurant here is right on the seafront and is split into two open-sided levels, with the elevated and laid-back Chill Lounge upstairs and the fine-dining surroundings of H-Bistro at sea-level. Although the Chill Lounge was initially conceived as a kind of ‘meet ’n’ greet’ space, it very quickly evolved into an alternative dining area to the one below. Huge comfy sofas abound, together with big day beds, and a ‘tray service’ from downstairs so you can enjoy your gastronomic goodies at recumbent leisure.

      As with any quality restaurant, everything – the bias of the cuisine, the form of the menu, manner of presentation, quality of ingredients and, of course, the ensuing reputation – all stems directly from the attitude and abilities of the chef behind it. Plus (and few folks realise this) the constraints of the food and beverage budget conferred upon them. At Hansar, French-Canadian Executive Chef, Stephen Dion, has been given free rein to work his culinary magic. Stephen had previously created gourmet menus that even kings have been happy with. Quite literally; although, in fact, just the one of them! Because, before his most-recent previous appointment at the 5-star State Tower Bangkok, Stephen was the personal chef for His Majesty the King of Jordan.

      There’s a distinct French-Mediterranean slant to the International menu here, with fresh seafood featuring widely. Not simply the usual fresh-caught seafood from the local fishing boats, but also live lobster shipped-in from abroad, and giant live razor clams and langoustines from Scotland, as well as king crab from the USA, oysters from Japan and mussels from Australia, not to mention the Japanese Wagyu and Australian beef.

       “Samui is a very small island,” Stephen told me, “with an almost disproportionate number of 5-star and fine-dining restaurants. Culinary trends and fashions suddenly appear and spread almost overnight. But I keep to the edges of all this and am always looking for ideas and ingredients which others aren’t using, such as the live razor clams we just talked about; they’re huge, around 11 centimetres long. They’re cold water clams and have a sweet flavour, very distinctive, and a comparatively fragile texture, not rubbery in the least. I prepare them carefully to retain and enhance their natural flavour, and bed them with a risotto which complements their taste, rather than competes against it. This is topped only with butter and saffron, no cream, for the same reason, and finished with a giant langoustine for contrast.”

      Stephen has been employing slow-cooking techniques for a very long time now and the melt-in-the-mouth results are satisfyingly notable in the ‘Mains’ and ‘Chef’s Specials’ sections of the menu. The classic Japanese Wagu beef is an example of this, imported from Kagoshima, and served with a pink garlic clove, green peas and baby golf ball carrots, with a light Bordelaise sauce.

      As you might expect, the menu layout is not overly fussy, and is cleanly-sectioned into ‘Appetisers and Salads’, ‘Mains’, ‘Thai’ (and the Thai side of the menu is prepared from only prime imported meats and poultry), ‘Chef’s Specials’ and ‘Desserts’. And a special mention here about the desserts – they are gourmet treats, individually created by Stephen, and you’ll be truly sorry if you don’t leave room for one.

      But an additional feature proudly boasts its own separate menu – ‘Dining Under the Stars’. A private table right on the beach, your own discreet butler for the evening, and a 5-course degustation menu, each course available with or without paired wines (as, indeed, are all the main menu items). The already-mentioned Wagyu beef is one of the courses; but to continue extolling the excellence of this menu, as well as further revealing Stephan’s creative ingenuity, you’ll also be enjoying, amongst the other courses, ‘Tarragon Mustard-Crusted Salt-Bush Lamb Rack, Vandouven Caramelised Onions and Roasted Potato Rings with Root Vegetables and Lamb Jus’.

      After absorbing all of this it might not come as a surprise to hear that for two years running now H Bistro has been awarded the country’s highest restaurant accolade, by being listed in Thailand Tatler’s ‘Thailand’s Best Restaurants’. And if any questions still remain to be answered, then you’ve only to listen to what people are taking about on that feared and respected vault of judgement, TripAdvisor. This is the acid test and, believe me, what people are saying is nothing but the best!



Rob De Wet


 


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