Samui Wining & Dining
Raising The Bar

Fine dining has now become even finer at Rocky’s revitalised restaurant!


5Most restaurateurs spend at least some of their time pondering upon the concept of success. It’s an occupational necessity. But it’s one of those elusive formulas that are beyond deduction, like debating how many angels can fit on the head of a pin. How can you ensure that an eatery is going to work? A restaurant is pointless if it is not a success. And a huge amount of mental energy is constantly being applied worldwide to solving this conundrum. But it no longer has to be deliberated at Rocky’s Boutique Resort, in Lamai.

Because it’s not something they even have to think about. Not any more. Their restaurant, of the same name, has long been established as one of the best around. And on an island that’s famous for the quality and variety of its dining that should be achievement enough. Job done, as they say, usually with handshakes and sighs of relief. But they’re restless at Rocky’s. Here it’s excellence that they’re seeking, not merely success.

The thing about excellence is that there is no limit to it,” explained Erik Larsen, the resort’s Director. “Exactly how good is ‘excellent’? If it can be made even better, then was it already ‘excellent’ in the first place? Philosophy aside, we’ve taken what we’ve already got and enhanced every aspect of it. It’s been a major project in every sense of the term.

When I’ve talked to other managers along similar lines, what they’re usually applauding is a new chef, or a menu that’s been extended, or different furniture and a coat of paint – that sort of thing. But the restaurant at Rocky’s is the culinary equivalent of a competition-proven racing car. And instead of adding slicker tires or slapping on a sleeker spoiler what they’ve gone for is a body-off chassis-up total rebuild.

The geography of Rocky’s is straightforward. It sits between the main ring-road and the beach, just a little way south of the ‘Grandfather and Grandmother Rocks’ (Hin-Ta Hin-Yai). The ground hereabouts slopes downwards to the sea and is scattered with rocky outcrops. A broad and leafy path runs right through the centre, with the pool and restaurant to the right and the elegant and luxurious villas to the left. At least, that’s how it was up until this month – December 2010.

Suddenly, there are now several new villas. Next to them, a big two-tiered pool has been added. And also a ‘bistro-style’ open-air second restaurant with a showpiece free-standing open kitchen serving International and Thai food, complete with stage and entertainment area. The original ‘Rocky’s restaurant’ is still there. But now it has a re-designed gourmet fine-dining menu and the quality of service and staffing has been enhanced and fine-tuned.

Actually, all of this began to take shape almost a year ago with the appointment of a new executive chef, the award-winning Azizskandar Awang. It’s usual for a new chef to tweak up the menu a bit and stamp his personality on the offerings. But it quickly became apparent that chef Aziz and the rest of the management team were very much in concord and got on together like a house on fire. Ideas ricocheted around like bullets in a movie but with most of them all heading in the same direction.

The new plan quickly took shape and Erik explained it to me like this: “Rocky’s restaurant has always been about quality dining but we needed to cover too many bases. Wedding party revellers, guests fancying a burger and a beer, buffet theme nights – all of them having to somehow mesh together under one roof. Our cuisine has always been a point of pride but it’s hard to justify the ‘fine-dining’ tag when there is a bevy of transsexual show-dancers parading between the tables. All of these aspects are now in the new restaurant, Rocky’s Bistro, which has been specifically designed to accommodate them. And Rocky’s Fine Dining is now purely about food – gourmet food with no distractions.

There are around 30 tables here with a team of 10 floor staff allocated one small section each, ensuring an attentive presence without being intrusive. Guests are greeted by the hostess and shown to their table where their personal waiter settles them and brings the menus. An amuse bouche immediately appears along with a fully-loaded bread basket. There’s a seductive à la carte selection with a resident sommelier on hand to advise on the choice of wines, of which there are around 80 labels to consider. And there’s also a tasting menu of either five or seven courses, each with a choice of paired wines by the glass. And even when you’re sighing and sated you’ll be faced with the petit fours to squeeze into a gap somewhere. And that’s not even taking into account the cheese board.

Chef Aziz is a cheese aficionado. And he’s put together a cheese board which diners quite often visit Rocky’s specifically for, as it’s an art-form in its own right. This varies, as with everything that comes in and out of season, but will always contain cheeses with soft, medium and firm textures. There are five different esoteric cheeses on the board, all of them of European origin, and the set is complemented with dishes of pistachios, walnuts, almonds, cashews, crotons, poached fruit, breads, purées, figs and sliced apple in port wine. In theory this is aimed at two people, but Aziz tells me that it’s sometimes taken as a group ‘meal’ (and usually with much ado about what wines to savour alongside the spread!).

And on the other side of the central avenue the show still goes on. There are two gourmet buffets a week at Rocky’s Bistro: the ladyboy cabaret spectacular every Sunday and the Classical Thai evening on Tuesdays. These are not only ‘all you can eat’ gourmet events but are also very attractively priced. You certainly get the best of both worlds at Rocky’s

Yes, with all these changes, it will be a long, long time before the management will have to start thinking about new improvements. But I’m sure that won’t stop their ongoing deliberations!


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