Samui Wining & Dining
The Heights of Perfection

Not only a lofty outlook but also fabulously fine food, at Conrad Koh Samui.

 

12-13At one time, it was slow. Then it began to quicken. And in the last few years, it all seems to have taken off like a rocket. Yes, the rate at which Samui’s dining standards have accelerated is really quite a thing. It began with fine-restaurants but, when the ‘big boys’ moved in, it peaked. The ‘name’ resorts: InterContinental; Four Seasons; Banyan Tree; W Resorts – and others.

      Their effect was two-fold. Firstly, they brought with them some of the best chefs in the world – there were quite a few here already, but these new stars were added to the bubbling mix. Second, this cauldron of quality then spilled over, down the line. Today, even modest side street eateries have had to revise their service, menu and presentation. And for a lesson on how to do things with faultless flair and unquestionable quality, more than a few of these have looked to Conrad Koh Samui.

      Everything about Conrad is impressive. Even getting to it, up a very steep hill that’s regulated by radio-linked security, top and bottom, raises eyebrows. And the reception room appears as a small and solitary cube, immaculately fitted and furnished, but alone and by itself – until you ascend to it and are stunned by the view. It’s more Everything about Conrad is

impressive. Even getting to it, up a very steep hill that’s regulated by radio-linked security, top and bottom, raises eyebrows. And the reception room appears as a small and solitary cube, immaculately fitted and furnished, but alone and by itself – until you ascend to it and are stunned by the view. It’s more

      There just isn’t space in this story to wax poetic about this resort and all that it contains. Suffice to say that the term ‘understated-palatial’ (there’s nothing brash here!) might apply to the accommodation, and all of the extensive facilities are, simply, world-class. The entire edifice is very cleverly designed into the rocky cliff face, and supplemented by 50 electric buggies to ferry guests and visitors along the winding path that sashays its way from reception through the descending levels. Last stop is the beach and Azure Grill & Bar. But Conrad boasts another two restaurants, also.

      Around about halfway down is a popular place to pause for the view, although many come here with a purpose. There’s not only a wide turning place for the buggies, but this adjoins a wider terrace that hosts their daytime restaurant, Zest and also the broad Lobby Lounge just next to this. Gazing upwards one level or so higher, you’ll see the geometric lines of the resort’s ‘fine-dining restaurant’, Jahn – although I have to say that this is a relative term. It’s most certainly of a world-standard; but both of the others are outstanding restaurants, too! And I’ll go into the fascinating details of Jahn in just a few moments.

      Stefano Ruzza is the genial and down-to-earth General Manager here. And after a short while talking with him, I was smiling in agreement. “Not that long ago ‘exclusive’ hotels were just that,” he explained, “you were excluded from them – denied access – unless you had a specific kind of lifestyle. I think we’re ‘exclusive’, here. But the meaning has become re-defined. We offer a warm welcome to all visitors from outside, and we’re keen for them to share our facilities, in particular the spa and restaurants. In fact we’ve created some very special incentives when it comes to dining!”

      One of the most striking aspects at Conrad is the view. But combine this with the sunset and it becomes a thing to marvel at. To make this more accessible, the happy hour here (two for the price of one), runs from 4:00 – 6:00 pm, down at Azure. And, up at the Lobby Lounge it’s the same, but from 5:00 – 7:00 pm. Although Zest is a ‘daytime’ restaurant, it’s informally on a par with many other ‘fine’ restaurants, and offers a full menu of traditional Thai dishes, plus International mains that feature pastas, risottos and Australian beef and lamb platters.

       But it’s no secret that Jahn is the resort’s showpiece fine-dining restaurant. Décor is ‘contemporary Asian’, and that just about sums up the cuisine, too, although this by no means conveys the totality of your dining experience here. To begin with, it’s all floor-to-ceiling glass, supported by tasteful wood framing, so the panorama and sunset is right there with you. The service is impeccable, without the staff being stiff or formal. The Executive Chef is the legendary Konrad Inghelram, who had previously worked with such culinary Picassos as Ferran Adria at El Bulli and Thomas Keller at French Laundry. His cuisine is everything (and more) that this implies. And contemporary Asian it certainly is – although this element of the menu comes courtesy of Thai Chef Khun Ning. Sample for example the ‘Wagyu of beef massaman, with new potatoes, peal onions and peanuts’. Or the ‘Seared Barbary duck curry with pear pumpkin puree, dumplings, galangal, kaffir lime and pomegranate’. The desserts are simply out of this world. Amidst the other treasures, you’ll find gems of hand-made ice-creams – cinnamon or pineapple – and iced sorbets such as the likes of ‘pumpkin and Belgian delice’. And, finally, you won’t believe the coffee. It’s ‘Black Ivory’, the most exclusive coffee in the world, and it’s made in an antique brass steam engine that’s straight out of an alchemist’s laboratory!

         But the highlight of the menu is the ‘Tastings of Jahn’. This is a 7-course tasting menu, each one being paired with a matching wine. Wonderfully, Jahn has its own separate vegetarian menu (which has exactly the same quirks of quality) and this is also available as the 7-course tasting option. But thinking of those amazing desserts again . . .

         “Many people think it must be really expensive to dine here,” continued manager Stefano. “But take into account the happy hours. Then add to it this: anyone who eats here at Zest or Azure will get a two-for-one voucher for one of Jahn’s exclusive desserts. Or, alternatively a 10% discount voucher. And let me add that if you book to come here for the Tastings of Jahn, then we will collect you from your resort and return you again afterwards. We’re not out to exclude anyone,” Stefano added with a smile. “It’s just that Conrad’s a perfectly exclusive resort, that’s all!”

         

Rob De Wet


 


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