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Tres Tre at 'Tree

Sunday, November 18, 2007
PHUKET'S most exclusive restaurant is still a reasonably well-kept secret. But Phuketwan can reveal a little about it. The name is Tre, and it's a French Vietnamese restaurant at Banyan Tree Phuket.

It was the spot chosen for a winemaker's dinner recently that included about 30 executive chefs, nightclub owners, restaurant proprietors and a few of fortunate journalists.

The party was treated to a sumptuous repast, perhaps demonstrating the quality that applies at Tre.

However, unless you happen to be staying at the Banyan Tree Phuket, Tre remains out of bounds.

Only guests get to dine there.

This is a shame if you happen to be someone with a hankering for the finer things in life but without quite managing the income to achieve it, or if you happen to live on Phuket and don't need a holiday villa.

Just finding the restaurant involves a foray into the fairland that Banyan Tree Phuket becomes after dark. Golf carts scoot past what seems like miles of daintily lit villas, each with a name more oblique and starry than the next.

A double pool villa will set you back $US2500 a night, which is an indication of the scale of the appetites that are likely to be satisfied regularly at Tre.

Located on the shores of a lagoon, Tre seems to float into the night. Moored just a little way out into the shimmering blackness, a female Thai musician played a xylophone on a boat that shone brightly.

It's odd that, with the advent of the small digital camera, people preserve images by the hundreds of the places they have been. Fabulous food comes along as rarely as, say, a visit to the Grand Palace in Bangkok or the Big Buddha.

Why is it that people don't capture fabulous meals to retain permanently the way they delight in capturing places and people?

Perhaps it's because it would make the less fabulous meals that inevitably follow seem less palatable.

Yet some meals deserve to be photographed or even filmed in their entirety. That was certainly the case with the winemaker's dinner at Tre.

The menu for the dinner, styled as an Amuse Bouche, says more about the evening than other words can. Just imagine, as you read this, the tinkling xylophone, the waiters and waitresses in perfect Vietnamese uniforms, the hubub of diners awaiting each course:

Tre Foi Gras Trio followed by Seared Atlanrtic Scallop, Barley-Beetroot Risotto, Berry-Chili Sorbet, Sugar Cane Caramelized White Cod Pencil Asparagus Tip and Glass Noodle Edamame Beans and Mint Broth or Three Hours Oven Roasted Duck, Purple Potato Truffle Pure, Wok Fried Bok Choy, Coconut Panna Cotta, Chocolate Rice Pudding Apricot Sherbet, ending with Coffee or Tea and Lemon and Tamarind Truffles.

With each course came a New Zealand wine from the Gravitas brand, with energetic and expert winemaker Chris Young providing a running commentary. His enthusiasm seems to have permeated the grapes. They have New Zealand zing.

While Gravitas is a relatively new label from a country that remains relatively new to wine-growing, it seems to encapsulate the most exciting features of a new century in taste.

New Zealand's ability to deliver cold, crisp mornings as well as brilliant springs has intensified the raw materials that Young converts to fine young wines.

Just as Australian wines followed California wines in taking on around the world the best that France, Germany and Italy had to offer, so far-off New Zealand is now being perceived as a potential pace-setter.

Backed by a merchant-banker turned winery owner and supportive distributors, including Black Forest on Phuket, Young is helping to take Gravitas from the north island New Zealand winemaking centre of Marlborough to the world.

Whites are their specialty and a number of well-regarded trophies from European competitions have already been earned by the 2005 Saunignon Blanc, the Reserve Chardonnay, and the Late harvest Reisling.

Apart from a red that was served a fractionally too warm for a typically balmy Phuket night, the Gravitas truly carried the stature without the weight implied by the label.

What's surprising is that the prices are very reasonable - all under 2,000 baht, excluding VAT.

It was a memorably evening. And the photo album looks good enough to eat.


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