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Help us make our choice on Phuket dining, good or bad

Phuket Restaurant of the Year: Help Us Choose

Tuesday, November 25, 2008
EATING and writing can both bring on choking sensations, and nothing seems to produces a choking spasm quite as often as writing a restaurant review.

Or sometimes, reading one.

As a reviewer, it is much, much easier to say pleasant things about the food than to criticise, especially on Phuket where most so-called ''reviewers'' are paid promoters.

They receive free meals in exchange for puffery. If you want to find out whether a review is genuine, ask who paid for the meal.

At Phuketwan we try to tell it like it is, and the hunt is now on in earnest for the Phuketwan Restaurant of the Year 2008.

We could actually use your help.

While we have visited an assortment of restaurants this year, our selection is dictated by what we see and hear. We'd hate to think that there is a brilliant contender out there that we have somehow overlooked.

The criteria is good food at good prices. An emphasis on value actually means some of the island's fine dining establishments will never come into contention.

But perhaps they should, in a segment of their own. We are looking at changes to the 2009 competition that may well broaden the field, and the judging process.

The winner in 2007 of the Phuketwan Restaurant of the Year title was Dibuk, an establishment in the old part of Phuket City that serves French and Thai food. Consistency is what Dibuk has in abundance.

We have never had a bad meal or a bad dining experience there. One of the pleasures in living in Phuket City is to take friends to Dibuk and share the food, whether Thai or the selection of French appetisers, or a mixture of both.

And the prices make it all worthwhile.

Dibuk is not in contention for the 2008 award because we figure it is fairer to have the previous year's winner stand aside for the following year.

That way, another restaurant has the chance to pick up the 2008 accolade before we broaden the competition in 2009.

If you are a foodie without any connection to an existing restaurant and you are prepared to act as a critic in 2009, tell us how to make contact through the Comment box below.

As for 2008, we hope to sample a few more restaurants as selected by readers, then make a judgement around the end of the year.

We have had some interesting experiences, and some great meals.

More than once, we have walked out of restaurants. This is not usually a reflection on the food, but the service.

Oddly enough, the problem arises at restaurants that have too many staff, rather than too few.

We have actually been left to sit and wait, and wait, and wait . . . and been looked at by perhaps four or five wait staff.

Each, presumably, is waiting for one of the others to wait . . . until the customers cannot wait any longer, and leave.

We can only guess what has happened at these places after our departure. We hope the answer is that the problem is quickly addressed and resolved.

But somehow, we doubt it.

One recurring problem is the way trainee staff are allowed to run free. Some experiences with rookie wait staff this year have been truly appalling.

We don't think it's sensible to expect a diner to pay a hefty baht price for a meal if the service is performed by a first-nighter.

That's a point often overlooked, even by expensive restaurants.

It may be a rare treat for the couple to dine out. They may have scrimped and saved for a big occasion (and that is certainly likely to be the case in 2009).

Unless the staff treat every meal and every customer with suitable professionalism, a special occasion can easily be ruined.

We rate restaurants on: quality, value, and consistency. Taste, ambience and the general experience are all in the mix, too.

But we think many restaurants suffer from poor service, often because of a lack of training or a rookie on the loose.

If someone is being trained, the trainer should always be at their elbow, ready to help. Always.

Our worst experience, though, had nothing to do with the food.

The owner of a Thai restaurant, while carrying food from the market through the restaurant (something that also should not happen) made an offensive remark to my companion about the color of her skin.

There was no reason for it. She must just be that kind of person.

Racism in a restaurant is not acceptable, even if you do happen to be the owner. This woman clearly has no idea.

We will never go back.

Yet this particular restaurant has somehow garnered a mention in one of the less well-known tourist guide books, a point they advertise at every opportunity.

Meanwhile, if you have any suggestion about good restaurants or ways we can improve our reviews in 2009, please send a Comment through the box below.

Last year's other winners of the annual Phuketwan awards were:

Phuketwan Person of the Year 2007 Promchote Traivate, area representative for the Tourism and Sport Department

Business of the Year 2007 Destination Air

Innovation of the Year 2007 Red Mountain Golf Course

Comments

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Try Black Cat restaurant in Cherng Thalay for good prices, excellent food and they deliver to your door. I propose them as nominees for Restaurant of the Year 2008.

Posted by Graham on December 2, 2008 09:27

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May I suggest a visit to the Red Onion in Karon. The duck there is great.

Posted by Fritz Pinguin on December 2, 2008 23:43

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Try Flavors, a private restaurant inside the Ban Thai Hotel Complex, All the food is fantastic, however the chocolate mousse is to die for!!!! Editor: Thanks, will do. More suggestions welcome.

Posted by Sarah on December 3, 2008 14:47

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I'd like to suggest Sizzler restaurant in Central Festival, and the nearby foodcourt as well. Sizzler, if one sticks to the salad bar and avoids silly US$10 hamburgers and thousand-baht steaks, is a good value and one of the few places on island to get a wide variety of fresh fruits and veg.

The nearby foodcourt is a bit assembly-line and basic in its offerings, but has outstanding staff who feel free to "be people, not just uniformed automatons": they remember and befriend customers.

If I were to create a list of worst restaurants and their worst habits, I'd say that the restaurants catering to tourists and Farang tastes are too frequently out to rape the customers' wallets while underpaying staff. Too many restaurants seem to want to "make a killing" rather than "make a living with repeat customers".

Also, restaurants in tourist areas have two phenomenally bad habits: 1) upselling-- forcing customers into paying more than they'd planned-- and 2) not protecting customers from walk-in salesmen. A dining experience can't be relaxed and fun if the customer is constantly feeling that his wallet and peace are under attack.

One of the worst offenders in both categories is, funnily enough, "Friendship Beach". The sole time I dined there, I found that the waitress and menu combined to push purchases that my companion and I had thought included in the basic price, and we were assaulted by two salesmen while we dined-- one of them an elderly Farang who was selling massages! I'll never go back, and never forgive'em.

Posted by A nonny Mouse on December 4, 2008 15:10

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Before giving my nominations - some feedback to A nonny Mouse.
As a hotel GM and F&B manager of many years, I can assure you that all professional wait staff are trained to upsell. This is to both keep the venue in business and to improve the client experience. A waitress cannot force you to order what you don't want - to blame a waitress for "pushing purchases" is pathetic. Read the menu, you idiot, and remember that you are in Thailand and your wait staff are generally communicating with you in their second or third language. Unless someone held a gun to your head, you made a free choice to spend more than you had planned. If someone offered you a massage, simply say yes or no. Take responsibility for yourself and stop blaming others who are simply offering service. I guess there is no pleasing some people.

Both my nominations for great dining out are located in Sai Yuan Road. Not far from Friendship Beach Resort, the only reason I'm not nominating Friendship Beach is because it's already so popular and I don't want any nonny mouses to spoil the atmosphere when I dine there. These other two places that deserve the same level of success because of the effort they put in to serving great food consistently. L'Orfeo and Rum Jungle - try them both, you'll be glad you did. Unless, of course, you are worried about someone suggesting something more than you planned to spend . . .

Posted by MM on December 5, 2008 16:38

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MM comments are right on! A nonny Mouse should go back to his country and not spoil the Thai dining experience for others.

Posted by JS on December 6, 2008 09:13

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Hey, I went and tried the Black Cat Restaurant in Cherng Thalay / Laguna and found it to be just as friendly and great, just as A suggested. The owner Philliepe is good humoured, the staff are wonderful and the service fast. Now the cruncher. The food is a delight, both Thai and falang dishes. Well presented and very tasty. Very well priced and I would certainly suggest you try them and see or taste for yourself. Have fun.

Posted by mouse on December 6, 2008 10:19

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We have been dining at Sweets Restaurant in Patong since 2001. The menu caters for Thai and Western dishes and when my wife and I return to Thailand each year our first meal is here. The mixed Massaman curry is fantastic and highly recommended.

Posted by Scott Shallcross on December 6, 2008 11:33

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The Farang restaurant has great food and prices, try their seafood soup. just past the Laguna turnoff on the left.

Posted by terence plunkett on December 12, 2008 19:14

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I would like to vote for Riverside Restaurant on the corner of the road from Lersuang to the Surin road which brings you up to the Chedi. The family run restaurant is fantastic, the prices are reasonable, portions big, food is delicious consistently and they treat their local customers very well. The best Massaman chicken in Phuket! Khun Boom and her family certainly deserve to win this vote. I eat there possibly 4 times a week, the restaurants in Surin Beach have recently brought their prices right up to the price that Taste Restaurant and even some dishes in catch are, this is ridiculous - I would like to applaud Riverside Restaurant for not being greedy and understanding that the people who live here will eat all year round and not just in 'high' season, especially if the price is right.

Posted by Nat on December 16, 2008 15:13

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I would like to recommend Nikita's bar on Rawai beach. This bar come restaurant is just what i dream about when i am away from Phuket, a thatched roof sala on the beach. Have people forgotten what Phuket and tropical islands are all about? Sitting under a tree with your feet in the sand, drinking a cold beer or sipping a coconut. I am fed up with concrete. Is no one else ????

Posted by Russell Jones on December 18, 2008 19:39


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