Samui Wining & Dining
THAI FINE DINING
 Let Saffron at Banyan Tree Samui tempt you with the very best of Thai gourmet food.

Let Saffron at Banyan Tree Samui tempt you with the very best of Thai gourmet food.

Overlooking a gem of a bay, Saffron offers a unique dining experience that harkens back to the luxuries of old Siam. It’s a chance to indulge in an evening that’ll be unique while enjoying unparalleled food and drink. Welcome to the world of Saffron, a place apart, and one that’s filled with an unforgettable charm all of its own.

          

Part of the fun is the amazing approach to the restaurant. Hop into a buggy and you’ll be taken along paths that meander through the resort’s vast gardens, an oasis of immense and lush greenery, then finally ascend towards Saffron, with its view that commands both the sea and the headland that’s home to Banyan Tree. The resort by the way, is located one kilometre off the ring-road as you head into Lamai from Chaweng. Just take the small lane close by the IT Centre and head up until you see the entrance to the resort. Saffron is a chic and elegant stage for some very fine dining. Choose between the terrace with its cooling sea breezes or an air-con dining room that, while contemporary, also channels a traditional Chinese medicine shop, of the kind that you can still find today in Bangkok. It may sound off-kilter but it’s definitely a combination that works, and works well. In addition to the main dining area, you’ll also find three smaller private dining rooms just on the floor below, ideal for parties or for an intimate occasion. But no matter where you sit, sundown is spectacular, and a chance to gaze out over the sea, drink in hand. Even more spectacular is when the moon rises directly up over the horizon, a beautiful sight that’s awed many a guest.

          

When you arrive you’ll be warmly welcomed; women being presented with an orchid, just one of many small notes that grace an evening here.

          

Then you’ll be courteously seated. Soon you’ll be ready to have a look at the menu. But before that comes an important and poignant part of the evening. Your server appears and, in a custom going back hundreds of years, performs an ancient ritual, pouring water over your hands and allowing you to wash them. It’s something that you rarely see these days, and is one of the ways in which Saffron makes your dinner a pleasantly memorable one.

          

The menu, which is brought to you on an iPad, has been creatively put together to showcase some of Thailand’s culinary gems; some may be familiar, others not quite so. Thanks to everything being photographed and described, it’s easy to order exactly the kind of dishes that you will enjoy. Staff are extremely knowledgeable and can also help you make great choices.P66-4 It goes without saying that if you have any food allergies or special requirements, just have a word with your server. He or she will be happy to help. Request Halal food,vegetarian or vegan and your only concern will be to sit back, relax and enjoy what will be an amazing experience and a highlight of any holiday.

          

The dinner starts with a complimentary appetizer, a saffron crepe with a rice cracker and three different dipping sauces. It’s exquisite, and gives you an idea of the standards and quality that are to come. Everything has been well thought out here, and from start to finish, you’ll be enjoying a gourmet experience that’s hard to find these days.

          

The appetizers at Saffron are complex treats in themselves, rather than just being preludes to the main act. Take Kong Wang Ruam, for example. It’s a selection of freshly-prepared Thai appetizers for two and features crisp rice noodle-wrapped prawns, grilled tender chicken breast satay, fried floppy sea bass rice noodle rolls along with a banana blossom-prawn salad.

          

Main courses combine nuances, flavours and textures in traditional ways that call for an immense amount of devotion on the part of the chef. Most of the dishes are well-known, but thanks to the deft use of herbs and spices are far tastier than standard fare. Try Gai Yang Khreuang Gaeng, a beautiful rendering of chicken, which has been curried and then barbecued Thai-style and accompanied by an authentic papaya salad. Or the excellent Goong Phad Nham Prik Makroot, a dish of stir-fried king prawns, homemade fresh chilli sauce, kaffir lime leaves and crispy sticky rice.

          

You’ll find Saffron is equally expert when it comes to desserts. Don’t leave without enjoying one. Try Thaow Paeb Nahm Khing, for example. A wooden platter arrives and your server presents a traditional delight consisting of a mung bean puff, young coconut and candy. It comes along with hot ginger tea, which only adds to the superb tastes.P66-5

          

During the meal, you’ll find that a server will approach you and request to take a photo of you and your party. If you agree, then just before you leave you’ll be given a beautiful keepsake, your picture printed on paper, a definite memento of what will have been a very happy time.

          

Between courses sorbets arrive as palate cleansers. These are all tropical Thai fruits and are excellent. As you finish your meal – be prepared to linger – you’ll be presented with some Khanom Boran or traditional candy, wrapped in paper, again a grace note from Thailand’s history.

          

Wines are from Monsoon Valley – and what surprises some guests is that the vineyards aren’t somewhere abroad, but in Hua Hin, a coastal part of Thailand that enjoys an almost Mediterranean climate. And with the region’s loamy soil, it’s a perfect combination for sophisticated wines that are becoming better known world-wide. Naturally, you’ll also find a wellchosen selection of international wines, ideal for pairing with the food at Saffron.

          

An event simply called Chef’s Table awaits the curious every Monday evening. It’s a four-course dinner with or without wine pairing. It’s a convivial time and typically several couples or families take part, though it can just be for two people; it all depends how many reservations there are for the occasion. The chef tells you about the ingredients to be used and you can even have a go preparing the food and cooking it. As such it’s a fun time and quite different from a normal night out. Guests are highly appreciative and the food, of course, is excellent.

          

Tuesday features live entertainment with traditional Thai dancing from 8:00 pm until 9:00 pm, and is a chance to see the ornate and delicate choreography of the past, accompanied by traditional instruments.

          

choreography of the past, accompanied by traditional instruments. One of the surprises about Saffron is that the unique experiences it offers have been re-created in other Banyan Tree locations, both inside and outside Thailand. You’ll find eleven other Saffron venues in the world ready to delight diners with Thai cuisine.

          

Saffron offers a brilliant evening out, allowing you to partake in a fine dining experience that’s all too rare. Whether you’ve eaten Thai food a thousand times before or if this is your first foray, you’ll be delighted; Saffron offers excellence throughout and is highly recommended.

          

                   

Dimitri Waring

 


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