Samui Wining & Dining
BEACHSIDE GETAWAYS
Essence Restaurant at Avani+ Samui offers casual fine dining with a difference.

Essence Restaurant at Avani+ Samui offers casual fine dining with a difference.

Take a beautiful south Samui coastline where jungle slopes frame a perfect little bay that dreamily gazes out to sea, add in some mangrove trees and a deserted stretch of sand and you have the ideal setting for one of the island’s most exciting hotels, Avani+ Samui, along with topdining spot, Essence Restaurant. Stay and dine far from the crowds and kick back in the placid world that is the south of the island.

          

Avani+ Samui is brand new, opening just last year, but has already made a name for itself. Very professionally run, it really goes the extra mile to please its guests. Just recently General Manager, Cindy Delhomel, has done away with check-in/check-out times – no more irritating waiting around for a room to be cleaned when you arrive. Guests also enjoy having a free shuttle service that takes them into Lamai and, for many the most exciting of all, Avani+ has a long-tail boat that runs trips out to Koh Matsum, a very enigmatic and barely visited off-island. Accommodation is first class, and it’s a wonderful experience staying here. But you don’t need to be a staying guest to enjoy Essence, which is highly recommended for breakfast, lunch, dinner or anything in-between. Just turn up; everyone’s welcome.

          

The name of the restaurant is certainly appropriate; the team here recreates the essence of what makes great cuisine. Chef Kien Wagner uses a simple formula: excellent products, local wherever possible, and integrating local flavours to craft special dishes for his diners.Essence Restaurant at Avani+ Samui offers casual fine dining with a difference. Open daily from 6:30 am till late, with last food orders at 10.30 pm, Essence will lull you with its chic appeal, and then wow you with the sublime tastes of its food.

          

Chef Kien takes an eclectic approach to cooking. An expert in Asian and international cuisine alike, he focusses on freshness and great tasting combinations. At the root of all he does is a love of simplicity – you’re most likely to find him browsing the local food markets anywhere where he travels, and he draws much inspiration from how locals use the ingredients that grow in their region. The twists that he uses come from some very diverse backgrounds, however, and you’re likely to see Japanese touches as well as Middle-East ones. But whatever he makes, it’s lovingly done, using exactly the right balance of tastes that’ll please the palate. This is gourmet dining at its best – but minus the hefty price tag.

          

He’s also a great believer in offering new dishes, and the menu tends to change every few months, with some new dishes being added on. This makes Essence a vibrant place to be; each time you return, you’ll find something different to entice you.

          

Recently Chef Kien has added some new international treats to the menu. Try his Grilled Sweet Potato. It’s deceptively simple, but richer in tastes than it might appear. A generous portion of seared potato comes with roasted chickpeas, fermented chilli sauce, lime and coriander. Textures compete with a medley of tastes; this is vegan food at its pinnacle.Essence Restaurant at Avani+ Samui offers casual fine dining with a difference. It has a rustic feel about it – yet comes from no one particular country and is solely Chef Kien’s invention.

          

Pan-fried Tasmanian Salmon with teriyaki shiitake mushrooms, spring onions and a rich potato purée certainly harkens back to Japanese origins but, again, joins international food as the kind of dish that’s cosmopolitan enough to turn up in chic restaurants, anywhere in the world.

          

For desserts enjoy homemade sorbets and ice-creams – just ask what flavours there are – but highly recommended is another new dish, Grilled Pineapple. It comes with coconut ice-cream, along with mint and cashew nut pesto. Probably you might be wondering what on earth pesto is doing in an ice-cream, but just wait until you taste it. It’s a culinary winner and the tastes are so good you’ll wonder why no-one came up with the combination before.

          

Essence also offers a great line-up of Thai food, steaks and sandwiches, and has its own Italian pizza oven turning out mouth-watering pizzas, crisped to exactly the right degree. Ask about the catch of the day specials, too.

          

A visit to Essence is always a treat and the restaurant is highly recommended. If you have the chance, take things a step further and book your holiday at Avani+ as it offers such a superb setting and the service and amenities to go with it.

          

Dimitri Waring


 


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