PHUKET: Depending on your concept and interpretation of life, you could take the “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” approach or simply strive to improve what you’re actually already very good at. Silvano Amolini, Executive Chef at Dusit Thani Laguna is most definitely a man of the latter category.
And typically of Signor Silvano, he has recently introduced an innovative new menu in the resort’s flagship restaurant, La Trattoria. Hopefully without falling back on hyperbole, I could put hand-on-heart say that its range of textures, tastes and presentation is nothing short of sensational – not that last year’s award-winning selection wasn’t an entrancing wander through Italian gastronomic excellence, mind you.
As mentioned in a Phuket Gazette review of La Trattoria last year, Chef Silvano is a markedly distinctive culinary craftsman; his dishes stand out because of his light approach to clever pairing of flavors and textures: Put more prosaically, he’s a one-off.
And La Trattoria itself is no slouch: It’s a pleasure to sit early evening on its terrace and watch the sun slip into the Andaman while the thwack, thud and hiss of waves hitting Bang Tao Beach mingle with a far-off tinny operatic Italian baritone. This restaurant certainly has the “it” factor in spades and is one of Phuket’s most distinguished beachside eateries.
Space limitations dictate that it’d be impossible to go through all the changes that Chef Silvano has introduced, but in the words of the maestro himself, “It’s a new dimension”. For starters, tuna carpaccio with crispy fennel, rocket salad and orange wedges is swiftly followed by crispy poached egg on a perfectly-executed bed of sautéed spinach cheese fondue and mushrooms.
Sound good? It gets even better with an excellently piquant Australian mussel stew with Italian parsley, fresh tomato, black pepper, garlic croutons and Sardinian fregola pasta.
From the Noodles and Risotto menu selection comes a saffron risotto with duck foie gras and veal reduction which is probably the best risotto I’ve sampled in years – the foie gras more than complementing the dish. From the Mains Fish section we try out pan-fried grouper filets with capers and parsley sauce, marinated zucchini and slabs of white polenta.
Moving on to the Mains Meat dishes, lamb chops with Sicilian pistachio crust, braised red onions and carrot purée is good, hearty Italian country fare with a strong character and excellent aftertaste.
Finally, a crunchy Sicilian cannoli with sheep ricotta, candied fruits and chocolate shaves admirably represents the dolce selection.
And here’s the part you’ve been waiting for: price-wise, the most expensive dish, the lamb, clocks in at 1,100 baht, while starters are 380 baht and mid-range prices around 500-600 baht apply for the noodles and risotto.
After a few discreet inquiries, we learn that about 80 per cent of the surrounding tables are taken by repeat diners, some on their sixth-night running. I daresay that I’d join them if I lived close enough and had the money, but hey, we can all dream.
The restaurant’s wine list thankfully eschews the “all-Italian” approach and embraces world wines from a decently priced 1,100 baht bottle to a blowout 25,000 baht Bordeaux premiere cru.
I’d rate La Trattoria the best Italian fine-dining restaurant in Phuket (and by extension in southern Thailand) for its winning combination of setting, excellent cuisine and impeccably-sourced ingredients, faultless service and fair-minded prices. It’s certainly not cheap for Phuket, but is in fact a bargain for Swiss and Australian tourists, both of whom have great current exchange rates. If you’re looking for fine Italian dining in an elegant setting, I’d highly recommend La Trattoria.
La Trattoria, Dusit Thani Laguna Phuket
T: 076-326900 – Open: Breakfast 7-11am, Dinner 6:30-10:30pm, Dress code: Casual, no shorts, Seats: 130.
— Sam Wilko
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