Samui Wining & Dining
Really Rocky’s Resort 's

The reality of why Rocky’s Resort is still up there with the best.

 

20-12-01Doing what I do, rarely a week goes by without someone asking me the question that I dread. It’s a simple enough thing. But it makes me take a deep breath, raise one eyebrow, and look away for a moment. What to say? It all depends on what you want. (That’s my opening line!) Everyone’s idea of ‘what is the best restaurant’ is going to be different, depending on his or her criterion. Location? Ambiance? Price? And so I’ll come out with a string of names, from Thai beachside seafood to 5-star extreme. But in there, always, up with the very best, I’ll speak the name of Rocky’s.

      There are some very good reasons for this. For a start, it has to be one of the prettiest resorts, not just on Samui, but anywhere in the world. It’s family-owned by Ole and Collette Larsen, and Collette is the one responsible for the task of the initial decor and its subsequent ongoing evolution. The resort is a study in contrasting textures, from the rocks and fabrics to the gnarled and twisted wooden sculptures that are subtly dotted around. And at night it’s wonderful – huge red Chinese lanterns glow in the trees. Hidden lamps throw pools of light onto the steeply descending central path, offset with tiny white fairy lights. And the red theme continues into the main

restaurant, The Dining Room, with three more gigantic lanterns hanging from the ceiling, red candles and glasses on the tables and red cushions scattered everywhere.

      And then the location takes some beating, too. I’ve seen many fine-dining restaurants, and mostly they are nowhere near the beach. And I’ve seen dozens of great beach restaurants, but they weren’t fine dining. But Rocky’s is located on a spur of land that nudges out into the sea, just a short way south of the ‘Grandfather and Grandmother Rocks’ (Hin Ta Hin Yai). The land is wooded with big mature trees. And, fringing this, running alongside the main body of The Dining Room is a lower terrace of rock that holds more dining tables, plus a little thatched bar. Even in the (open-sided) body of the restaurant, you’re right at the edge of the sea. And the cuisine? Rocky’s is most definitely ‘fine-dining’!

      There are actually two restaurants here. As well as The Dining Room, on the other side of the central path and raised on a higher level, screened by foliage, there’s ‘The Bistro’. This is a delight in its own right, serving Thai cuisine with a ‘Royal Thai’ bias, and featuring an intriguing open show-kitchen. But, excellent as this is, I have to say that it is The Dining Room that lures the discerning diners in the evening. Reputations don’t just somehow happen: Rocky’s intention, right from the start, was to put together some of the finest cuisine available, with a quality of service to match. There has always been a top chef running the kitchen, most recently culminating in the award-winning island legend of Azizskandar Awang. And the thinking behind the layout of the menu, and the superlative cuisine, bears witness to this.

     I’ve known chef Aziz and his culinary arts for some time now. He’ll tell you that his approach is rooted in French classical cuisine, but brought up to date, with the old heavy sauces lightened and refined, and the entire approach more adventurous and lively. But perhaps all top chefs are similar in that they take the basics for granted. In everyday terms, what you’ll find coming to your table at Rocky’s are quality, fresh, prime ingredients that have been cooked quite perfectly. And, yes, of course, all the subtle flavourings and enhancements just add to this. Subsequently, what this means is that every dish that you’ll experience at The Dining Room is just sublime, and something you’ll want to take your time over and enjoy to the full.

      The General Manager here is Martin Fells. And as we talked I realised he was placing stress not only on the cuisine, but on the awareness of the staff, too. “It’s not enough just to train staff,” he mused, “this isn’t something that happens and is over with. It’s a continual process. The staff training at Rocky’s, at all levels, is an ongoing process, from one degree of awareness to the next. For example, we recently had a training day where our restaurant staff tasted a wine with scallops, then with fish, then with beef, and then were encouraged to discuss the different flavours and aftertastes. It’s important to hear other people’s thoughts voiced out loud – it gives everyone a more thoughtful perspective.”

       And at The Dining Room this level of staff sensitivity is nowhere more important than with the five-course or seven-course ‘Chef’s Degustation Menu’. These are favoured by a great many diners, and come with the option of paired wines, too. And with a choice of mains such as ‘Poached lemon sole, Scottish smoked salmon mousse, beetroot, caviar and Champagne sauce’, or ‘Roasted Australian striploin, potato presse, sugar snap peas, baby carrots and red wine reduction’, you can see why an informed wine-pairing is important. The à la carte menu also features items which are not quite so usual, such as the Salad Cerviche (that’s marinated with avocado) or the Samui Crabcake (with its honey mustard dressing). And even the pork loin, a common menu item, is uncommonly presented with ‘cider and red wine jus, sautéed green apple and potato with tarragon, and grilled radicchio’.

         All of which is assuredly a gourmet’s dream. But, to put the icing on the cake (as it were) several evenings a week see all of this combined together with some complementary entertainment. Mondays are ‘Lobster and Jazz’, Tuesday evenings see the Thai buffet with music and dance, Thursdays are ‘Tapas and Jazz’. But the spangled extravagance of the week occurs every Friday, with possibly the most spectacular ladyboy cabaret show on the island. Fine food and fantastical fandangos indeed! And just one more reason why here the sum is greater than the parts – and Rocky’s Boutique Resort continues to remain up there with the best!

         

Rob De Wet


 


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