The news last week that Bangkok’s neophyte Michelin Guide will enjoy an unexpected growth spurt next year when it expands to include the vacation destinations of Phuket and Phang Nga came as a surprise to some. Foodies around Thailand weighed in with opinions, both positive and negative.
We spoke to Bangkok Foodies founder Samantha Proyrungtong, who also heads Phuket Foodies and spends a lot of time on the island since her family has a business there.
“Honestly if this were ten years ago, I would have choked on the news that Michelin Guide was coming to Phuket. It had only two extremes: acutely obnoxious, pricey, and equally tasteless restaurants or great street food. But Phuket is slowly but surely improving,” she said.
Unsurprisingly, those living in the vacation destinations tend to see it as a positive thing, since Michelin provides great visibility to moneyed travelers.
We spoke to a few insiders on the food scene within Phuket to hear what they thought of the announcement — and who they speculate will land a spot in the book.
Anongrat Meklai, also known as “Chef Piak,” is the Executive Sous Chef at The Slate’s Black Ginger, a destination Thai restaurant that guests must take a raft across a torch-lit lagoon to reach.
When she heard that Michelin was expanding to include her area, she was excited at the recognition of the region’s food. She noted that “the historical immigration over the last 200 years has resulted in a unique identity to the food. There are dishes found in the south not found anywhere else in Thailand.”
She also dished on who she expected to be named in the guide (unsurprisingly, Black Ginger, her own restaurant, is at the top of her list): “We really do believe it’s a strong contender given the unique Phuket-style Thai food,” she said. She also guessed that Chef Alessandro Frau’s Acqua and the Phuket Town location of Suay (a restaurant with two outlets on the island), thanks to the creativeness of Chef Tammasak Chootong, would make the list.
When asked who she thinks might grab a Bib Gourmand mention, she guessed Ko Benz, a street food spot with just seven simple dishes on its menu.
Proyrungtong agreed on at least one of those guesses. In addition, she listed Joe’s Downstairs, Acqua, and the fairly recently opened Bampot Kitchen and Bar as possible contenders, further specifying that Acqua and Pru Restaurant may be closest to the fine dining standard of Michelin, and that those two, as well as Bampot, have been raising the bar in the south.
Proyrungtong elaborated on her expectations, explaining: “I would be surprised if anyone bags a red and white macaron in the first year. but I’m definitely expecting some Plates, plenty of Bibs, and some stars thereafter.”
Cathy Masson, the food and beverage manager for Phuket’s Speakeasy Yacht Club, also thinks Bampot and Suay will show up on the list, though the latter is her top pick for the guide (as well as, she says, her personal favorite on the island). “I really hope to see them named,” she said, mentioning that the chef is highly respected and adds great personality to the restaurant and its menu.