While Thailand’s Phuket has long been a go-to destination for sun-seekers and the party crowd, it's now foodies that are flocking to the island.
Phuket has been famed for decades as a premier holiday destination, for fleeing the Australian cold, or weekend breaks from Singapore or China. This tropical island boasts vast stretches of serene sand, spectacular resorts, offshore islands to explore, plus a lively party scene. The latest buzz is Phuket’s tasty new travel attraction – fine dining.
Thailand is no stranger to the global food scene – Bangkok is on all the global food lists, with star chef Thitid “Ton” Tassanakajohn topping Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants List with Le Du at Number 1, and taking out third place with Nusara in Bangkok. Don’t be surprised if he appears again on the next list with Samut, his first Phuket restaurant.
“Phuket wasn’t known as a fine-dining destination,” says Ton, noting that the scene has been defined by its tourist market, so pizza and pasta, European and Thai food. Fine, but nobody flew to Phuket to dine until Ton and a new wave of creative chefs began upping offerings on Thailand’s largest island. Ton hired chef Chatchawan “Banky” Varahajeera at Samut (meaning ocean) to showcase Phuket’s seafood.
Samut also uses local ingredients like island flowers and southern specialties – the mud crab comes drenched in rich yellow curry, while the Phuket lobster is dressed in coriander, served with sea grape and kale. It’s part of a localisation trend celebrating southern cuisine, savoured at venues like Royd and Laad. The latter features Steve Doucakis, a young American chef who worked at Quince in Bangkok. He raves about the unlimited potential in the wide-open spaces
“It’s really exciting here,” says Steve, who moved to Phuket to open Laad in May 2023. “Bangkok is so established, with so many great restaurants. Everyone knows Phuket, but now they are exploring the food and flavours more,” he says. “It’s geographically huge, with all these great influences.” He lists Malay, Muslim, Chinese and Portuguese flavours. “It’s just so diverse, and not really well known.
This is an abridged version of the original article written by Ron Gluckman. Read the rest of this article on page 73 in the first issue of Dream by Luxury Escapes magazine. Get your copy here or see the digital edition here.
Hero image: Trisara Resort.