During our stay at Akyra Beach Club, we attended their White Party and met Valerio Pachetti, the Executive Chef for Akaryn Hotel Group, which includes, amongst others, Akyra and the Aleenta Resort and Spa five minutes down the road. After a nice chat with Chef Pachetti, we were invited to have dinner at The Edge at Aleenta Resort and Spa on the following evening, to experience a unique meal such as he might design for the romantic dinners that the Aleenta Resort arranges for couples on the beach. This was to be a combination of Colombian and Italian food, which sounded very exciting, and we jumped at the chance to try it.
The Edge is a sleek, dark establishment once the sun has gone down, although in the day it is mere metres from the beach and the sea. This is, however, perfect for romantic dining and staring longingly into your loved one’s eyes. Being with your best friend, rather than on a romantic date, only means that you have more time to pay attention to the amazing food.
Chef Pachetti clearly relished the opportunity to showcase his dishes for us, so he came over before the meal to make sure that we were settled and to explain some of the ideas behind what he was preparing. We didn’t see a food menu and a lot was still left to the imagination, but we selected a smooth Chilean red from the wine list that we hoped would compliment a variety of rich flavours.
With no menu in sight, each course was a journey of discovery. The amuse bouche comprised salty dried ham, wrapped around melted cheese, with a rich tomato sauce. This gooey mouthful was the kind of flavour that makes you think of winter nights and log fires, but it wasn’t out of place on a Thai beach, perhaps performing some magic when combined with the lingering saltiness of the sea spray in the air.
The first course was a trio of starters, presented on a plank. The first was a mini brochette of scallop, cooked to perfection, with a little chunk of silky foie gras and a smoky aubergine puree. In the centre, the vibrant green stack of snapper ceviche was incredibly tangy, cutting through the mellow flavours of the first morsel, and was presented on top of thinly sliced starfruit and topped with a sprig of tiny yellow flowers. The final starter was a timbale of layers of purple and orange sweet potato with spiced shredded chicken, avocado and a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds. The texture was smooth and comforting, with a complex combination the warm spices of South America.
As we continued to quaff our wine, very pleased with the versatility of our choice, the pasta course arrived. Black mezzi paccheri cylinders were topped with a combination of clams and mussels, with a drizzling of spicy tomato sauce and crunchy breadcrumbs. The pasta was al dente – as one would expect from a part-Italian chef – and the sauce was flavoursome, but light enough not to overpower the incredibly fresh seafood. After two weeks of Thai food – which I love – and attempting to scoop up leftover sauce with a spoon, it was a lovely treat to have a bread basket on hand to mop up every last drop of this dish!
We were treated to two different mains which, as friends inevitably do. One plate held a divinely moist fillet of barracuda was stuffed with eggplant and mint, served on quinoa salad. The fish melted in the mouth and the herbs brought a brightness to the dish that was incredibly moreish! The other plate was a festival of colour; two charred beef skewers with red pepper were served on a mint-green yoghurt sauce and a bright yellow tangy sauce, each swirled artfully across the plate and combining in an explosion of exotic flavours in the mouth. Providing texture, there were also some squid ink flavoured puffed rice crisps which, had it been possible, I would have purchased in the kind of bulk that would have raised questions at customs…
To finish this incredible culinary tour, there was a trio of desserts. Recalling the presentation of the starters was a nice way to complete the meal, but we were also very excited that it gave us the opportunity to sample more of Chef Pachetti’s remarkable creations. The eye was first drawn to a mound of coconut foam, dotted with mango gel and hiding beneath it a scoop of mango ice cream with a few grains of puffed rice. As a nod to the ubiquitous Thai pudding of sticky mango rice, this was a showstopper, the light, slightly salty coconut much more suited to our Western palates, which often struggled with the incredibly sweet Thai desserts. The centre treat was pistachio ice cream, which was flavoured more strongly than any I have come across before, capturing both the creaminess and the unique nuttiness of the pistachio. Finally, a chocolate-ricotta stuffed cannoli finished the threesome with a delightful crunch.
Chef Pachetti was an excellent host, visiting the diners when he could and personally ensuring that their dining experience was meeting his own high standards. The menu is a truly unique take on a host of cuisines, with a good helping of character thrown in and there is definitely something that will appeal to everyone. Since we were not staying at the Aleenta Resort, and having dressed up for dinner, we were happy to accept the free shuttle back to Akyra Beach Club, but guests on a romantic holiday could just as easily walk along the beach for ten minutes, even after dark. Chef Pachetti has managed to create fusion flavours that are truly unique, as well as taking advantage of the best ingredients and ideas that Thailand has to offer. The perfect white sands and palm trees between Akyra Beach Club and Aleenta Resort would be sure to inspire many paintings and drawings, but if you want to feast your stomach as well as your eyes, the real masterpieces will be coming out of the kitchen.
Aleenta Resort & Spa
33 Moo 5, Takua Thung, Khok Kloi
Phang Nga, Phuket