Samui Wining & Dining

This month we tantalise our taste buds at X2’s laid-back restaurant 4K.


17Last year, a poll taken around a number of resorts discovered something interesting. Visitors were asked to put in order of preference the reasons why they chose to come to Samui. The top reason was ‘the climate’, with ‘friendly people’ coming a close second. But in third place came ‘quality of dining’. This had several options that could be ticked-off and the most popular response was ‘top international cuisine’, with ‘traditional Thai food’ coming only half way down the list. It seems that the majority of folk who come here really enjoy their food.

      But how do you find the best places to eat? Well, there are two ways of doing this. One is cored in the pioneering spirit, with word of mouth and the sense of adventure driving gourmets to discover quality eateries for themselves. The other has evolved from the age of reason. It’s more scientific. It relies on technology, the internet and research – visits to TripAdvisor and a study of Samui Wining & Dining included! And it’s this method that highlights those hidden gems that you won’t just somehow stumble across, those gastronomic treasure houses that are off the beaten track. Such as, for example, ‘Fork at Cross To’.

      Well, yes, I suppose I am talking in code – a bit – as it’s a cunning play on words. The name of the resort is X2 . . . said as ‘Cross To’, although the resort’s full title is ‘X2 Samui’, subtitled ‘ . . . cross to a new dimension of luxury and design’ – you get the drift. And, in line with this, the resort’s very chic, airy, low-key and high roof, open-plan restaurant is simply titled ‘4K’. (No prizes for working out how this is intended to be said.)

      This is a resort where the design flair lies in the lack of it – minimalistically speaking. Today the cutting edge of boutique hotel chic is in subtle understatement, usually offset by an elegant flair that incorporates highlights of natural woods and fabrics together with the contrast of scrubbed concrete and living greenery. And this is X2. And it’s also very much evident in its signature restaurant, 4K.

       The restaurant is open on three sides, but the thing that slows you down and makes you gaze around is the combination of the dramatic seascape and the immensely high ceiling. It’s perched on several lofty pillars, and there are different levels in the wooden flooring, making for natural space-breaks in the layout. But it’s the manner in which the furnishings relate to all this – it’s more like a lounge than a restaurant, with huge and comfortable loungers that are almost like daybeds with a backrest. For those who prefer to be sat-up rather than laid-back, there is a range of very individual but traditional seating, too. And all of it with that dreamy, almost surrealistic, 180 degrees of golden sand as a backdrop, complete with distant islands, little fishing boats and a landmark coral reef that obligingly provides a sense of scale. Never mind the food: it’s worth it just for the sunsets!

      “But we do mind the food”, I hear you murmuring, your appetites already fired up and whetted. So, then, down to business, and therefore an introduction to the man behind the menu. Enter Executive Chef, Julian Fernandez. Julian is no novice to the international culinary scene, having previously served his time at 5-star restaurants in Spain, Columbia, Argentina and Turkey, amongst other locales. He has a refreshingly delicious approach to his cuisine, favouring a creatively different interpretation of local dishes, but with very much the influence and approach of someone raised with South American cooking. It’s quite unique and has resulted in a menu you just won’t find elsewhere on the island.

      “South American cuisine uses a lot of grain and different pulses, beans and so on,” Julian explained, “but these are used together in dozens of different ways. Wherever I find myself I always spend months exploring the local dishes. Then ideas occur to me, and I combine different elements and approaches from the local dishes with some of the South American techniques. So here you’ll find Italian pasta dishes with rich Madeira sauce, tomatoes, mushrooms and cream. Or bruschetta topped with cheese, apple, walnut and honey. Or a traditional northern Thai dish like laab moo (spicy ground pork) in a Mexican taco with tomato, onion and coriander. I’m an advocate of flavour. I don’t believe in the culinary philosophy that flavours should be tuned down, or that sauces should be thinned and diluted. I think flavours should be rich and full, and my art is to tailor them so as to add complementary textures and aftertastes to the dish.”

         Which brings us to the unique signature dish of 4K. It’s lamb chops! But looking at what you’ll find on the plate gives no clue at all as to what’s just about to set your taste buds tap-dancing. Not even the menu listing does this: ‘Lamb Chops – cutlets marinated in herbs and wine with grilled vegetables and lentils’. There’s no mention that the sauce is a reduction of thick beef stock that’s simmered with carrots, onions, celery and rosemary for 24 hours until it’s all dissolved together. Or that the long marinade has been in red wine and bay leaves. But the first mouthful halts you in your tracks. The sauce is sublime and just packed with flavour, wonderfully offsetting the crispness of the lightly grilled potato slices. And the meat is prime New Zealand cutlet. It’s all too wonderful for (more!) words.

         Get yourself across to X2 around the sunset time of 6:00 pm. Enjoy the happy hour with half-price cocktails. Nibble a plate or two of the equally super selection of tapas, while you watch the gold of the sky spread onto the sea. And then pay homage to the lamb cutlets, courtesy of Chef Julian. But don’t forget to book your place – this is one signature dish that needs prior notice!

Rob De Wet


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