Samui Wining & Dining
TRAVEL FARE
RockPool’s brand new chef, Lucas Varin, is rewarding diners with enticingly good food.

RockPool’s brand new chef, Lucas Varin, is rewarding diners with enticingly good food.The lure of large kitchens and the thought of getting creative with fine quality ingredients is something that’s irresistible for many an aspiring chef. Daunting as it may seem to reach top-notch status, such people enrol in cooking school, graduate and go on to realize their dreams. But it takes inordinate energy and skill to go beyond that. Relatively few chefs decide to go round the world, sink their teeth into as many different cuisines as possible – then start cooking them.

          

But that’s just what Lucas Varin has done. Rather than just honing his skills, he’s broadened them as well, and is now at proficient in a variety of different cuisines. Here’s his story.

          

Lucas was born in Brazil and grew up there. Early on he realized he loved cooking and studied at a prestigious culinary school. And almost as soon as he’d graduated, he started out on an epic journey that has taken him pretty much around the world. But he didn’t go as a tourist, but rather as a chef, with a professional eye on learning the next recipe.

Lucas worked in Brazil, the Caribbean, France, Corsica and Australia, before coming to Asia and seeing Vietnam and Japan. He’s visited 20 countries in all, and has emerged as someone who’s expert in cooking all manner of foods in different ways. He seems to know what tastes go together, and can put ingredients together that come from such farflung places that they seem like culinary paradoxes. For example, he particularly enjoys melding the tastes of South America with those of Japan. His love of trying new elements and flavours gives him a sort of relaxed curiosity – he’s hardly the person to settle for the usual. Yet he’s entirely professional.RockPool’s brand new chef, Lucas Varin, is rewarding diners with enticingly good food. He’s worked in Michelin-starred restaurants where, as he puts it, “You have to learn to not just do the very, very best, but also to be creative. Not just that, there are trends in cooking, just as there are fashions in clothing – and you have to keep up.”

          

If you haven’t been to RockPool for a while, you’ll find it now boasts a new and improved terrace, that’s perched above the impressive rocky coastline. Sitting watching the ocean, you have two separate views: north to Choeng Mon and all rocky bays, and south, to Chaweng, with a coastline that gently sweeps away into the distance with the white sandy beaches. It’s a beautiful and very romantic setting.

          

RockPool, incidentally, is located at Kanda Residences. You’ll find it three kilometres north of Chaweng. Simply drive along the beach road and keep on going northwards until you see Kanda Residences on your right. Once there, hop into a buggy and you’ll be driven to the restaurant itself.

          

Many guests come here just for a sundown tipple. They can also take advantage of the daily happy hour which actually starts at 2:00 pm and goes right the way through till 7:00 pm. During this time, it’s a buy-oneget- one-free system, which includes classic cocktails, beers, soft drinks and spirits – it could hardly be more generous. The setting’s superb and there’s plenty of shade, should you need it. But once you know about Lucas, you’ll probably want to stay and try the food. He’s managed to improve on the already excellent reputation that RockPool had.

          

Lucas has upgraded the all-day menu and divided it into two, so there’s one for lunch and one for dinner. The lunchtime menu is lighter and casual, though substantial. A lot of restaurants don’t really bother so much with their daytime menu, but this isn’t the case here. It’s truly delicious and brim-full of treats. You can always find traditional dishes, but you may well want to opt for some that are more creative. And they’re not just creative for the sake of it – this isn’t a case of a chef showing off his skills – these are tastes that are beautifully intricate and always highly tasty. RockPool’s brand new chef, Lucas Varin, is rewarding diners with enticingly good food.Some of the dishes may strike you as strange, but as soon as you tuck in, you’ll be seduced by the flavours and nuances. Take, just one example, Lucas’ version of risotto, Risotto Green Mango with Goji Berries. It comes as two dishes, firstly an oval plate of crudités with dips, and then the dish itself, which looks exactly like a risotto, but which tastes way more delicious than you’d imagine. The ingredients complement each other and don’t clash in the slightest. It’s the sort of thing you might end up wishing you could make at home, but of course to do so, you’d need to be the well-travelled chef that Lucas is. You can of course always opt for something more traditional, such as a seafood set, sandwiches, linguini or a steak – you’ll find much to tempt you.

          

Now that Lucas is here in Thailand, he’s experimenting with the abundance of foodstuffs that are to be found. “Perhaps one of the best things,” he says, “is that all the Thai food is very fresh. The herbs and spices are wonderful and always add to the dishes. In particular I love using lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves.”

          

Some of his favourite dishes that he recommends include a massaman curry using lamb, a Thai beef salad with Australian beef and tiger prawns and a real treat for any lover of meat, a confit of pork belly.

          

If you come to RockPool in the evening you’re in for something special. It’s time to enjoy some extraordinarily good dishes. Lucas says of the evening menu, “It’s contemporary fine dining, with plenty of raw, organic accompaniments, and above all, food that’s fresh.”

          

There’s plenty of space at RockPool, but if you want to sit on the terrace, closest to the sea, then it’s highly recommended that you book. The main dining room is a tented sala that lets in the breezes and gives a light and airy feeling to dining here. Seating and ambience are cosy whilst being contemporary. No matter where you choose to sit, this is a wonderfully romantic place to bring your partner.

          

A lot of love and thought has gone into everything here in order for guests to experience complete delight. With his mixture of classic techniques and global twists on the food he cooks, Lucas is definitely a chef who’s bringing new and vibrant tastes to the island. Highly appreciated by RockPool’s diners, you’d be hardpressed to improve on the dishes he’s offering.

          

Dimitri Waring

 

 


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