Our honeymoon took us to the beautiful island of Phuket, Thailand. We stayed at the Banyan Tree Phuket in a gorgeous double pool villa where we actually had our own kitchen but really didn’t use it because there were so many incredible options in town and at the resort. I actually have to give the Banyan Tree major props. The restaurants on their property were some of the best I’ve experienced anywhere in the world and I would highly recommend them to anyone traveling to Phuket.
During our week-long stay at Banyan Tree, we dined at Tre, the Spa Cafe; and Tamarind. Each restaurant featured a completely different culinary point of view and each was incredible in its own way. Every option on these menus could easily be made gluten-free if it wasn’t already in its natural form.
Tre’s menu is based on contemporary French Vietnamese influences and the restaurant is set right on the resort’s main lagoon. The signature dishes include scallops and green apple tartar with pan fried foi gras, beef pho soup with truffle infusion, smoked salmon fillets with lotus seeds and fried rice with ginger-red wine sauce. My personal favorite dishes were the rice cake appetizer, which was served with a delicious tamarind sauce and for my entrée, the banana lemongrass risotto with pan-seared black cod. These two dishes were the most memorable dining moments of the entire trip and I’m working now to replicate them in my own kitchen.
The Banyan Tree Spa Café provided us with a unique gastronomic presentation of options that are inspired by the tri-dosha concept of Ayurveda. The philosophy is based on the “science of life” and works by first asking diners to take a quiz about their body type. After the quiz an expert tell you your body type and helps you pick the dishes on the menu that are best suited for your personal needs. There are 12 warm dishes and 12 cold dishes, all of which utilize the freshest quality ingredients and healthy cooking techniques including baking, grilling, searing, poaching, roasting and steaming. The only oils used are premium extra virgin olive oil. The appetizer brought to each table was a duo of dips served with carrots, celery and yellow peppers. It’s a light and tasty start to any meal. Our favorite entrees were the salad of steamed chicken which was served with fresh arugula, grilled mushrooms, fresh pomegranate seeds and a zingy Thai vinaigrette dressing. We also loved the roasted duck and pan seared noodles. Each dish was light and left us with plenty of energy after the meal.
Tamarind offered us fresh fish, seafood delicacies and “Asian wellness cuisine” that are seasoned with exotic herbs, roots and spices that are native to Thailand. Our favorites included roasted tofu with grilled Asian vegetables and feta, and the fish soufflés. They were light, airy and perfectly seasoned.
Perhaps our favorite experience in Thailand was the culinary experience day we spent with one of Banyan Tree’s executive chefs. We started the day at 7:00am by visiting the local fresh market where the resort purchases ingredients for their restaurants. I’ve never experienced anything like it and it likely wouldn’t be legal in the United States. The market was a two-story open-air facility. On the ground floor were produce, noodles, chilies, rice and dried products. There were the most beautiful eggplants, limes, and pretty much any fruit or vegetable you could think of. There were more than 30 varieties of rice and beautiful rainbow displays of curry pastes.
On the second floor were the butchers where you could find every type of meat, seafood, poultry and well, insect, you could dream up. Men were filleting fish wearing nothing but boxer shorts and aprons and women were hacking off chicken heads faster than I could blink. The skinned frogs gave me a moment of feeling nauseous, but I quickly overcame that as we moved on to the seafood counters with fresh squid, clams, mussels and rows of my favorite fish, cod. I was tempted to jump in and help the workers, but my husband convinced me to buy things instead!
Our trip to Banyan Tree was truly an incredible experience and we can't wait to go back!