Samui Wining & Dining
Full Moon Rising

Anantara’s Full Moon restaurant ascends from the superb to the sublime.

 

8-9The 5-star Anantara Bophut Resort has always been something of a demure delight. Very nearly touching onto the fringe of Fisherman’s Village, and right across from the landmark of the go-kart track, it occupies a broad swathe of prime real estate that runs from the ring-road to the beach. Lovely little suites and cottages peep out from amongst the giant trees, surrounded by wide ponds, water features and lush tropical greenery. Everything is solid, substantial, understated, and simply oozes quality. Visiting at night is a joy as you make your way through and around the warmly-lit shrubs and borders, towards the twinkling decks of the lights ahead. And, as you press on further, the path twists around untilyou reach your destination, Full Moon.

      The Full Moon restaurant is on two levels although, effectively, the open dining deck is elevated above the alluring blue lights of the infinity pool and sun terraces below. You’ll be warmly greeted and guided to your table as you unknowingly slip into the envelope of care and attention that is at the heart of the dining experience here. “There is a lot of mystique surrounding fine dining,” explained the resort’s Food and Beverage Manager, Jacek Orzechowski. “But every restaurant serves food. Here we serve more than food.”

      “You come here,” Jacek continued, “and what you are really saying to me is, ‘I have a few hours. I want to spend this evening in a nice way, a special way’. Our job is to make you feel special. In a week, or a month, you might not recall exactly what you were eating. But you’ll remember all the special touches. The out-of-the-ordinary attention to detail and the depth of care – the entire flavour of the evening. And you’ll feel good. And you’ll want to come back for more.”

      Well, of course. What else would you expect the front man for a restaurant to say? Don’t they all say this? However, as soon as you enter, it really does begin to happen. The resident wine guru will appear to enquire about your preferences. Dry? Fruity? Sweet? In the course of this, she’ll ask about what you plan to eat. It may be that you’ve got a yen for fish. She’ll stay with you for a while, delving into your inclinations. Seafood? Spanish? Mediterranean? Spanish – okay. Do you prefer a dish that’s rich and saucy from the northern region or more crisp and crunchy à la Andalusia? Each query narrows down your wine-match and tailors your dish and the corresponding wine precisely to your palate. The menu choices are exemplary and the temperature controlled wine vault below-stairs is huge!

      And this is quite likely the point at which the quietly smiling figure of Executive Chef, Bernard Koll, will appear. I’m not presenting his résumé here, but for over 15 years, he’s been in world-class 5-star restaurants in both the international Minor Group and the corresponding Mandarin-Oriental organisation. He’ll take the process further and continue to ask exactly how you like your food prepared, and additionally what flavours and textures you are partial to when it comes to the accompanying sauces, which he will make specifically to match your needs.

      The cuisine here is international, but with the art of char-grill taken to perfection. Bernard sears each selection according to taste and then, where appropriate, continues with the inner broil in a tandoori oven. While this is happening, two attentive young ladies will bring your bread, together with a trolley on which there are six different olive oils and five types of rock salt. And, after consultation, they’ll fresh-grind the salt of your preference and dish it next to your bread, together with your preferred olive oil dip.

       To fully describe the thought and care that has gone into the concept and the layout of the various menu sections would take a whole story by itself. But to summarise, there are the expected sections of appetisers, then selections of soups, truffles and special risottos. Then others, which follow the themes of ‘above, on and below the water’. Needless to say, a variety of fish and seafood offerings are found ‘below the water’ and the steaks and meats are ‘above’. A note here about the char-grill process – none of the items are marinated before grilling, the sauces come alongside in separate small dishes. And, as Bernard points out, the meat has to be absolutely prime and at the peak of freshness to be presented like this. To complement this, after selecting your meat you’ll be offered a choice of four different meat/steak knives, according to your whim.

      It also has to be said that at the end of each of the menu sections there is a signature flourish in the form of a serenade combination. In ‘Ocean Deep’, for instance, you’ll come across ‘The Only One’ – ‘400 gm seafood spear, with rock lobster, scallops, tiger prawn and tuna with vegetables, seared, and baked in a tandoor’. And ‘The Ultimate One’ – ‘400 gm spear of wagu beef, korobuta pork, veal and vegetables, seared, and baked in a tandoor’. Which all sounds nice enough. But the words on the menu page simply don’t prepare you for the visual impact when this is presented. Forget about tiny food nouveau portions. This is not only substantial but it’s also wonderfully arranged, with all your specially tailored dips, sauces and sides bordering around most elegantly. Oh – and it tastes simply sublime!

       There’s that word again. Trying to convey the atmosphere here of thought, care, and attention to detail is not easy to paint in words. I can mention the live at-table preparation trolleys for dishes such as the carbonara or the Caesar salad. Or the national award-winning cocktail mixologist hovering in the background, who really will make your bourbon-mix smoky, with the addition of real hickory smoke. The local fisherman who beaches his boat in the evening with a still-flapping selection for the table? Or the boxed offering of 20 different diopter reading glasses, just in case you’ve forgotten yours. But all of this is words, just words.

         What all this morphs into at the end of the evening is what Jacek was talking about to begin with. You won’t forget Full Moon. You’ll remember it with fondness, if not longing – the totality of what you experience here will linger on long after you’ve gone. Because this is truly one restaurant where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It’s risen way up above being simply superb – it’s now become sublime!

         

Rob De Wet


 


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