Morocco meets Asia
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Should you be celebrating a special occasion, or need to impress someone while on Ko Samui, the restaurant at Zazen Boutique Resort & Spa, will be sure to meet the mark. Having been there on several occasions with overseas visitors, each time we have been completely blown away by the experience.
Zazen is at its most spectacular in the evening, where the attention to detail is evident the moment you park in the parking lot surrounded by fairy lights and smartly dressed attendants. Walking to the restaurant takes about 20 minutes; although it’s only a 50 metre walk, there’s just so much to see and to oooh and to aaah along the way. Walk down the clay brick pathway lit up by candles, cross a wooden bridge over a pond accessorised with floating candles and a flute-playing statue. Pass a tree strung with yet more fairy lights and a stone Buddha statue that seems to form part of the tree trunk, as vines have intertwined around it. Pass the swimming pool illuminated by lanterns and head to the Rouge Lounge for pre-dinner drinks.
The Rouge Lounge looks more Moroccan than Thai, a feel that extends to the rest of the resort. Plush couches, ornate glass hanging lanterns, yet more candles and draped fabric make for a great chill area overlooking longtail fishing boats on a quiet part of Bophut beach.
The restaurant, located next to the bar and pool, also overlooks the beach, so book to get a front table. At the entrance to the restaurant, near a couch seating area, is a section of glass floor – be nosy and have a look down to view the restaurant’s vast wine cellar. Zazen apparently offers the largest selection of wines on the island, with bottles from 17 countries, and a sommelier on hand to help those who don’t know their shiraz from their gewürztraminer. A word of warning: If there is a budget allocated to this special evening, watch your wine ordering. Here bottles can go for thousands of baht, but reasonably priced varieties are available too.
A meal at Zazen does not come cheap by Thailand standards, but prices are comparable to any decent restaurant in the West. Starters average 300 to 400 baht; try the goats cheese and aubergine stack with rocket and a parmesan crisp. Mains vary a lot depending on whether one selects from the Thai or international menu. Thai main courses average 500 baht, while international dishes range from 500 to 1,000 baht, excluding the lobster dishes, which smash that ceiling. The beef massaman curry is rich and flavoursome, although its taste is not authentic Thai, but almost a Moroccan tagine flavour. A good option is the ‘Thai discovery menu’ where a selection of dishes is brought to the table for about 1,200 baht per person. This includes appetisers, soup and main dishes and there is a choice of meat or seafood menus.
Ending a meal on a high note, desserts here appear more as pieces of art. Now we’re all for pretty puddings, but taste is what matters — and these pretty puds are tasty treats too. The ice cream selection arrives in an edible bowl, crafted out of hard caramel candy, and decorated with twists and spirals of more candy. The tiramisu is moist, rich, laden with coffee and accompanied by meringues, shortbread and a 30-centimetre high candy twist that resembles deer antlers. Desserts average 300 to 400 baht.
Traditional Thai dancing and music is performed Thursday and Sunday nights; if you’re not a fan, you may want to avoid these nights, but we found the musicians to be talented and when the dancers couldn’t stop giggling (evidently a private joke), it made what could have been stuffy entertainment light-hearted.
Although we haven’t yet tried Zazen’s high tea at their Salon De Ti, we’ve heard raving reviews. Again, this is not for budget diners, with the pastries and teas selection going for 590++ baht, and the pastries, savouries and teas selection a hefty 950++ baht.
It is hard to fault Zazen, though not for want of trying. The only downfall is simply the high prices, but to be fair, it’s worth every baht spent. That’s not to say one can’t have just as much fun on a totally different level at a tiny beach bar, for only a couple of hundred baht. Zazen out of your food budget? Here’s how to eat on Samui for only 150 baht per day.
By Rosanne Turner
Last updated on 3rd February, 2016.