PHUKET: There’s a brand-new, gorgeous-looking, blue-and-white seafood outlet down in Nai Harn Village called Palau Fish. It turns out that the restaurant is named after a Pacific island some 800km east of the Philippines, one of the world’s youngest states. Pub quiz aficionados take note…
Palau is way over the top, design wise, with billowing white curtains complementing its peripheral dining arrangements and faux-water hyacinth throughout its 70-seat set up. If you’re into dining next to a 62-inch flat-screen TV depicting undersea life, and like subaquatic-themed restrooms then this place is made in heaven for you. Still, I wish Palau the best of luck in its semi al-fresco seating standing up to Phuket’s southwest monsoon buffetings.
After a bracing vodka-Martini I leave my wife to decipher winning lottery numbers from the in-house breadbasket for a brief conversation with Palau’s Executive Chef, Sergey Klimento. He, like most of the young and very personable Russian management here, is from Vladivostok almost 10,000km from Moscow and exotically named the “City of the Sea Cucumber” – during which he explains that there’s another branch of this restaurant in the eastern-Russian port. Sergey helpfully adds that purchasing fish in fresh-food markets has stringent health rules, i.e. spanking-fresh fish should have bright eyes (rather a hard act for a dead animal, but nevertheless…) reddish gills and a marked bouncy touch to its body.
We launch into a suitably olive-oil-soaked Greek salad (250 baht) and tasty, but not piquant enough tom yam seafood (200 baht). It’s all agreeable with great service but the Euro-pop music in this undeniably attractive place grates and is sort of incongruous yet at least it covers up the constant swishing by of vehicles on this busy Nai Harn corner. A wok-fried assorted shellfish platter arrives with Russian sea snail, unique to Phuket, and is filling, but for some strange reason the menu doesn’t feature French fries, so we opt for rice in small portions.
For sure, Palau bills itself as a seafood joint, but in actual fact here you can order a juicy leg of lamb with garlic, marinated with honey (560 baht) or pork chops with demi-glace mushrooms and cranberry sauce (509 baht) and a host of other red-meat dishes, too. But hey, it’s Friday so we stick with the fish – a steamed whole sea bass in ginger. It’s fresh, it’s yielding, it’s toothsome, it’s got a firm bouncy body and it screams out for French fries!
The wine list at Palau is not the longest in the world, but the Chilean rosé we indulge in is full bodied and satisfying and a perfect tipple to go with the seafood dishes we had ordered.
Palau is certainly one heck of a good-looking restaurant and lounge bar; the waiting staff and management are admirably enthusiastic and with a little fine tuning this could be a very popular place too.
Palau Fish restaurant, 98/18, Moo 1, Viset Road, Nai Harn Village. Tel: 0850201602, Open from 5pm to Midnight. Last orders at 11pm. Closed on Tuesdays.
— Sam Wilko
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