It’s unlikely that Phuket’s busy pre-Covid days will return any time soon, but that’s not stopping domestic travelers – especially expats – from heading south to enjoy the island’s outstanding charms, including some very fine restaurants. You’ll have them (almost to yourself) and the attention to detail will be outstanding.
So here is a list of five great places you should visit on your
next trip to Phuket.
Located at the InterContinental Phuket Resort, this sophisticated beachside restaurant serves classic Thai fare with a contemporary twist. The kitchen is headed up by Chef Chatchawan ‘Banky’ Varahajeerakul who cut his teeth working at Michelin-starred venues such as Sawaan and La Du in Bangkok.
Chef Bank has created an elegant menu that highlights both the seasonality and plentiful bounty of locally sourced produce. “I really support local farmers. Our vegetables come from a farm near here called Toltec Organic, the seafood comes direct from Sarasin Seafood, and our chickens are produced at a local orphanage and organic farm called Baan Sarn Fan. Even the goats we use are raised here in Phuket at Bang Tao”, shared Chef Bank.
The restaurant also showcases a line of wild “native-grown” tea from Chiang Mai called Monsoon, and I highly recommend the Lychee Green Tea.
Must-try dishes include the bright and colorful ‘Mieng Kana An-chan’ made with kale, butterfly pea flowers and the ‘Donut’ of Deep-fried Crab & Minced Chicken with Chili Jam.
My favorite was the evocative ‘Yum Som O Goong Yang,’ a bright pomelo salad served in a perfectly grilled Andaman prawn. The Blue Crab Southern Yellow Curry with Rice Noodles is exceptional and the signature Massaman Curry with Slow-cooked Goat is a rich, creamy and herbaceous delight that you won’t soon forget.
You’ll find Issara at Kata Noi. It’s an exciting eatery offering ‘fusion’ Japanese, Korean and Thai food that will fire your imagination and tantalize your palate.
It is the passion project of Chef Nikola Lesar who hails from Croatia and was the winner of the Master Chef TV show in his home country in 2012. Chef Nikola has created a trendy and modern space built directly into the cliffside that features an alluring indoor garden complete with soothing water elements.
The ‘Bao Buns’ are a popular favorite to start with and you can get Korean Fried Chicken, Pork Belly, or Katsu Tiger Prawn, although the steamed bun may be a bit dense for some. I was utterly impressed with the ‘Truffle Yakitori,’ which was swimming in green onions and is exceptionally juicy with a savory umami taste that was not too sweet.
The signature ‘Teriyaki Barracuda with Chestnut Barley Risotto & Ikura’as well as the Iron Chef (Thai TV show) award-winning ‘Penang Crab Cakes’ were also insanely good.
My favorite dish was the thinly sliced ‘Japanese Miyazaki Wagyu A5 Striploin (MBS10) with Mushrooms, Penang Curry Sauce, Coriander & Lotus Root’. The luscious beef melts in your mouth while the spicy sauce cuts through the richness of the meat. It’s simply scrumptious and was made all the better when washed down with a killer custom cocktail created by house mixologist Khun Mann.
There are many reasons to dine at Issara, especially the quality ingredients, unique food, and fabulous service.
Chalong Bay Distillery
They offer a plethora of tasty Asian inspired dishes that are tailor-made to complement their signature cocktails.
This is a small batch operation that produces only 55,000 bottles of rum per year at this one location. They make seven distinct rum flavors (Pure, Lemongrass, Thai Sweet Basil, Cinnamon, Kaffir Lime, White Spice, and Lime) using pure Thai sugarcane and fresh Thai herbs, spices, and local fruits and botanicals.
One of the coolest things to do when visiting is sign-up for the two-hour Cocktail Workshop, which includes a tour and teaches you how to make three cocktails from scratch while tasting all the rums they offer.
There is also a tapas pairing that is included and I particularly enjoyed the fresh ‘Prawn Spring Rolls’ and the ‘Spanish Style Gambas’. The cocktails all come with a recipe book to take home and if you're smart you’ll pick up a bottle or two of rum for later.
The kitchen is led by Chef Mark Jones and they specialize in Mediterranean cuisine with a focus on grilled items. The Panko Breaded Calamari with Oyster Sauce, Chili & Garlic is brilliant, while the ‘Moules Marinières’ of Organic Port Phillip Bay mussels steamed with white wine, shallots, and a dash of cream is almost ethereal.
The highlight is the ‘Seafood Mezze,’ which is a selection of local seafood caught fresh that day and hand-selected by the chef. I was treated to prawns that were as big as my fist, fork-tender squid fried to perfection, and the freshest grilled grouper I ever tried.
Everything was made even more magical by the upbeat live music and the award-winning selection of wines curated by wine connoisseur James Suckling. Finish your meal with their addictive Triple Chocolate Brownie Sundae with layers of Dulce de Leche and Chalong Bay Rum & Raisin Ice Cream.
This iconic beachfront restaurant is all about taking your time, enjoying the moment, and treating yourself to something extraordinary.
Open for both lunch and dinner you will find an eclectic international menu of snacks, healthy salads, seafood, and items from the grill along with a wide range of drink options including mocktails, cocktails, wine, and beer. They also feature an impressive selection of sake in addition to some unique rums from Nicaragua, Barbados, and Venezuela.
Recommended signature cocktails include the ‘Strawberry Hibiscus Margarita’ and the ‘Last Samurai’ made with Japanese craft gin, yuzu sake, pomelo, lime, cucumber bitter, yuzu tonic, and shiso leaf.
The homemade gelato and handcrafted pizzas are another must-try. The pizza is made to order and fired in a wood-burning oven. It has a thick, yet crispy and chewy crust that is the perfect vehicle for your choice of fresh toppings.
I also recommend the artisan Gin & Tonics made with locally produced spirits such as Chalong Bay or Kristall. Whether you stop by in the afternoon or the evening, Pine is the perfect place to lose track of time and let a few hours slip away