This trip is full of things I would have not done, like dining at the Luna restaurant in Thong Nai Pan, in the north east of Koh Pha Ngan.
For the ones of you not familiar with the Thailand geography and faunal situation, Koh Pha Ngan is better known for hosting the (in)famous Full Moon Party. Google it.
When we decided to point our compass to here, it was because we read that the other islands were either just a beach-cocktails-babes kind of (Koh Samui) or a mafia family run full resort ghetto (Koh Tao).
As far as we keep ourselves far from the Full Moon Party beach, we were safe. We also discovered that the island now also host a Half Moon Party, a Black Moon Party, and a Jungle Party just for the days when the moon has no relevant astrological positions.
You can reach the parties from everywhere on the island, thanks to a convenient taxi service, to and from the desired party (likely this also run in mafia family fashion).
But we are going to write about a restaurant today, and not about Koh Pha Ngan amenities; with these we will deal later.
When travelling, you rarely follow the classic pattern breakfast-lunch-dinner as at home, but you eat a) when you wake up, b) when you are aroused by some mouth-watering smell, c) when you are hungry.
As my travel companion is Bea, this means every two hours.
So we had our lunch/dinner at around 5 pm in a small garage near the beach, grilled chicken for me, the usual Tom Ka gai soup (3 every 4 meals is Tom Ka Gai soup for Bea, in Berlin as well), with some spring rolls as side dish*, washed by fruit shakes.
Then we took our way back to our bungalow, 2 km from there, and crossing a small mountain in the middle.
As soon as we reach our fan-fresh room, Bea started to google for a place to have dinner.
So we dressed up for the night, me proudly wearing my umpteenth new bought gray and red flip-flops.
I would have preferred another street wise restaurant, and I already had eyed a few places with huge bbq barrel on the outside, but reviews pointed out to the Luna restaurant.
My first words, on seeing the restaurant from the outside, were “Are you sure?”.
I was prepared for another street food hole in the wall kind of experience, I was not prepared for a real restaurant, but my sweet half’s appetite was already beyond the doors and in the hands of the waiter welcoming us, so I had to follow.
I do not regret.
First thing to get my attention was a ginger tuna carpaccio presented on the table menu as a speciality.
Before even to seat, I already had made my choice.
I have to admit, I am particularly fond of carpaccio, either meat or fish, but fish carpaccio I could live on (I will write one day about the baccalà carpaccio with olive ice cream in the Funicolar in Poble Sec).
I am also quite fond of ginger, very fond of, by virtue of taste and other properties I would not discuss at this moment.
So, once I decided what was the way the event were going that night, I open the menu.
Actually I opened the first page of the menu, and my attention was caught from the course sets in offer, a more basic explorer menu and a richer gourmet menu.
Choice were made, rien ne va plus, Bea would have gone for the explorer, I would have gone for the gourmet, that included, at an extra cost, my mouth watering ginger carpaccio.
Bea chose from her set mango quesadillas, and, to my great pleasure, pad thai.
The restaurant offers an international cousine, but one local plate must be taken in consideration, because, after all, we are in Thailand and Pad Thai is to Thailand what spaghetti is to Italy.
Of course, pub pad thai is to thailand what spaghetti bolognese is to Italy.
I chose my carpaccio and BBQ Red Snapper.
As dessert, we opted for the tris, and we had more than expected.
As for drink, I kept myself and ordered a Ginger Zinger, that is orange, carrot and ginger shake.
I know, it would have been better a white wine, maybe a Sauvignon Blanc (they had some good Argentinian choice) but I had a few beers too many the night before, while watching Italy being trashed 9-40 by England at the 6 Nations tournament, during an happy hour.
So I went for the healthy option. Twice.
So my ginger tuna carpaccio arrived, along with some simple boiled potatoes cubes.
I was wordless, mainly because my mouth was full of melting tuna meat. Tuna was fresh, and texture of the cut was faultless. The ginger sauce was then light enough to keep all the flavours in the right place at the right moment. I squeezed some lime on a part to get some more scent.
Then I also had some mango quesadilla bite from Bea’s plate. And it was another surprise. The quesadilla was absolute perfect, and the meat inside had that slightly spiced flavour that was a good match with the sweet mango.
I am not a conservative in the kitchen, and this dish actually strengthen my point.
The cook, up to now, knew what he/she was doing.
In the meanwhile, what we thought was just another patron of the restaurant, came to our table to ask if everything was ok, likely attracted by our “mmm ooh aaahh” of appreciation.
After we assured him that we were in good shape and perfect harmony with the meals, he replied with a foreign accented grazie, that prompted Bea to comment on me being recognized as Italian.
Then the plates were taken away, to be replaced by a small lime sorbet, to prepare for the next round.
This was a little refinement I was amused to find in this latitude, so I started to suspect that the accented grazie was not an hint and homage to my nationality but the actual thing. The restaurant could have been run by an Italian, after all.
The sorbet rite completed, we had our main course.
Pisci cottu e carne cruda. Fish well done and raw meat. This is a rule of thumb no one should get away from when in the kitchen, unless you are preparing sushi o raw shell fish or, again, carpaccio.
But this was BBQ Red Snapper, and, to meet my taste, I would have preferred the fish to have been some more time on the charcoal.
I use to put nothing on my fish, not even lemon, or salt, so I can get what I call the sea flavour more intense.
The meat was sea flavoured enough, and it came out easily from the bones. As I wrote, I was a little puzzled by the red still keeping into the very core of the bone. Red snapper it was, but I would have expected the red to be just on the scales.
Nonetheless, it was a naked fishbone what was left on the plate, and also the sauteed potatoes and the fried vegetables were not left over.
On the other side of the table, Bea was dissecting a Pad Thai, arrived wrapped in an omelette.
Also this time, there was nothing to object. I had a few forks of it, and I noticed a different smokey flavour, other than the usual spicy sweet fish sauce used.
Maybe it was the omelette wrap, not allowing the flavour to fly away while was served, to maintain that bit extra. If this was done on purpose, that cook is a genius.
If not, I want patent rights for discovered it.
I gulped down my second Ginger Zinger, and we both prepared ourselves for the last task of the dinner: dessert. Or better desserts, the three we ordered plus an extra on the house.
And a bottle of water, and I mean a real bottle of water, a glass bottle, chilled and sweating with brine.
Water tastes completely different when served from glass. It does what it is called to do: refresh and clean your mouth.
Plastic bottle water is just for mere physiologic needs.
Tris of desserts: chocolate mousse with whipped cream, creme brulèe at the table (the waitress arrived with a huge torch) and coconut pannacotta with fruit compote.
As I do not really like the chocolate mousse, I attacked that first, so to keep it in the background. Then I approached the pannacotta, and made justice of it. The compote was mango kiwi and I suspect watermelon, the fruit most easily found here, and I took small bites of pannacotta to make it last longer.
Same treatment was not reserved for the creme brulèe. I ate it with the voracity deserved for a long lost taste. Just for the sake of precision, creme brulèe is not crema catalana.
Bea followed her own order of preference, from time to time sending me imploring looks for help. She eat often, but not in such quantity.
I was cruel enough to ignore her prays for help. I did not help myself with her helpings.
Finally we were given an extra dessert, on the house.
Fruit compote in fruit juice.
This was the line when Bea said stop. I had her serving too.
Later the night, we were more than walking, rolling to our room, we recounted what we were able actually to eat that night, while Bea drumming on her belly. “Touch it, touch it”
Likely I will dream tuna carpaccio when back in Berlin, and I will press Bea to move to a more sea friendly location.
On the mere ground of money, we pay around 1600 baht for this, more or less 40 Euro, plus a good tip (service was not included) but we would have spent more, well knowing that in Berlin the most we can find is again another bowl of Tom Ka Gai.
* it works like that: she orders whatever she like, she eats half of it, I gain weight.