Samui Wining & Dining
Signature Dish

This month’s mouth-watering morsel is fit for a king and comes courtesy of Chef Bem at Akyra Chura.

 

Page-5One of the best things about Samui is the sheer range and quality of cuisine that’s around. I read somewhere that there are more fine-dining restaurants here than anywhere else – but that’s working it out based on the size of the island and the number of people on it. Be that as it may, you’re certainly spoiled for choice if you’re looking to dine somewhere along Chaweng Beach Road. There are plenty of great eateries located elsewhere, but just this one street alone is packed with them! In fact, you’ll probably end up not going so far: there’s just so many to choose from!

      But just because a place looks pretty doesn’t mean the quality of service and the food will be good. There are quite a few top-notch restaurants that don’t need to put on a show or fight with each other in order to compete. They’re content to sit quietly, without gimmicks, and let their reputation speak for itself. Plus word of mouth too, of course. These are the restaurants where you’ll find the best international chefs, gourmet cuisine, and the most elegant and refined surroundings. And one of these places is Akyra Chura Samui.

      Akyra is a relative newcomer to the Samui scene, having opened in June of 2011. It’s actually a very select beach resort, having no fewer than 61 luxury suites in a broad swathe of land that runs between the beach road and the sand. But, like so many of the high-end resorts here, it also has its own discrete signature restaurant. You’ll find this right on the main road, walled and set back a little way, and with a large area within for parking. It’s all very low-key and modest, and you’d quite possibly overlook it if you weren’t aware of the joys within. The surest way to find it is to head north along Chaweng Beach Road past the junction with the Lake Road and towards Samui International Hospital. You’ll see Akyra not so far past this on the opposite side of the road.

      The restaurant is actually titled ‘Noodle House’. But happily, the quality, range and variety of the cuisine that will be revealed here belies this humble epithet. The surroundings and décor are correspondingly up-market, too, elegant and subtly laid out, and with an open kitchen to one side. But although the thrust of the cuisine is positively Japanese, it’s not what you’d call traditionally so. In fact, I’m not sure if there is such a thing as ‘Japanese-International fusion’, but if not then consider it suddenly invented! Yes, you’ll find the expected green, brown, black, egg, tofu, and rice noodle dishes, but they’ll be accompanied by such unexpected bedfellows as imported Australian beef, black cod or fresh tuna. The key to all this, and an insight into the heart of the cuisine presented here, is all to do with the art of one man, Akyra’s Executive Chef, Khun Amporn Choeng-Ngam – otherwise known as Chef Bem.

      Chef Bem is something of a quiet celebrity. He’s been in charge of 5-star kitchens at such prestigious establishments as Four Seasons and Chiva Som International and, prior to returning here to his current position, was the private chef to Princess Hassah bint Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudia Arabia, specialising in health-food-oriented cuisine. And it’s the lean, light, clean zing of Asian-styled healthy eating that he is most excited by. “For the most part, we don’t like to be deceived by our food,” he explained. “We want real meat when we order steaks, and we want to know what our sauces are made of. ‘Healthy’ shouldn’t mean tiny flavourless portions! Here there’s a fine-dining menu that tastes amazing and rivals the culinary big guns in terms of innovation and presentation.”

      “For example, take a look at the ‘Lobster Granita’,” Chef Bem continued. “Large chunks of lobster and fresh vegetables in a delicate paper-thin spring roll and sprinkled with a sour iced granita that serves as a dressing. Or the ‘Miso Glazed Snow Fish’, presented on a purée of what looks like mashed potatoes, although this is actually crushed lotus seeds, so removing most of the carbohydrates from the meal, but without reducing any of the flavour.” There’s real art to doing all this; putting together healthy food – but instead of slimming all the taste and richness out of it, actually endowing with a set of complementary spices and flavourings that make it sing. Chef Bem uses skillets so that food can be cooked without oil, marinating different ingredients far ahead of time, and producing dishes that often take hours to prepare.

       One such delicacy is his featured signature dish: ‘Kalbi’; Korean-style barbecue de-boned beef ribs served with homemade pickle and potato pancake.’ This is light and tangy with just a hint of spiciness and comes with a secret-recipe pesto sauce. The tender prime beef is carefully marinated beforehand and rubbed with salt and pepper to bring out its full flavour. The pesto is a blend of basil, garlic, cashew nuts, cheese, and light virgin olive oil. And the potato is mixed with egg, onion, salt and pepper to complement the moist texture of the beef. Finally, this signature offering is presented with the potato pancake over the beef, with a side green-salad, and with the pesto mix cascaded over the pancake. It’s delicious, light and healthy and is a dish fit for a Arabian princess, if not a king!

         

Rob De Wet


 


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