by Mick & Di, The Food Lovers
Soaring over Central Festival Pattaya Beach leisure complex, ascending 34 levels into the heavens is sited the luxurious Hilton Pattaya. Italian minimalist interior design has contributed to impart a neutral zen-type interior which astonishes and astounds as each unique design feature is encountered. Take the lift to the 16th floor and the lobby that is revealed is as beautiful in its simplicity as it is luxurious. Lots of muted natural fabrics and avant-garde light fixtures reflect the organic fluid feel of sand, wood and rock. The vibe is serene, sensuous and gorgeous.
There are two bars and three restaurants in the hotel each offering its own distinctive appeal. Drift is a stylish bar/lounge serving, tapas-style snacks, pastries and cocktails complemented by sweeping views of Pattaya Bay. Edge is a contemporary inside/outside all-day dining outlet offering a full week of speciality buffets culminating in their exceptional Sunday Brunch for discerning brunchophiles (B.1,500 for food only with the wine buffet an extra B.1,300). Horizon is an uber-swanky rooftop restaurant and bar with DJs on the terrace, cocktail nibbles with Champagne and a fine dining interior restaurant.
Flare, their flagship Asian restaurant, provides the third gastro-experience and it was here that Mick and I were invited to sample the cuisine. A meandering walk through handblown glass orbs and artisan designed cages replaying back the idea of shrimp nets, LED lighting and floating lattice works of acrylic diamonds spectacularly leads into this stylish sophisticated restaurant. The lighting is soft and flattering, the vibe opulent with its plush regal décor and the mood smooth.
On entry a glacial assembly of four of the world’s best oysters greets the eye. They languish on their icy mound inviting selection adjacent to a chilled cabinet displaying premium sashimi glistening with ocean freshness. These gastronomic delights are presented bordering the restaurant’s magnificent wall of wine containing first-class labels from the new and old worlds.
Chef Visarus “Bo” Faikronburi had chosen our appetizers to launch the proceedings and first to appear in its icy box were six perfectly shucked bivalves: three from France (Fine de Claire) and the other trio from Washington USA (Skookum Inlet). Quality is of the utmost importance when consuming raw oysters and these were top-notch giving off the most delectable taste of the ocean followed by an almost buttery aftertaste further harmonized by the accoutrements of crispy onion and fresh lemon. Ooh – so good, my mouth is watering reliving the taste! (6 or 12 cost B.950 or B.1,800 respectively). All prices in Flare are inclusive.
Our next dishes came from the salads and ceviche section. Yellowfin tuna had been precision cut into baby cubes and deftly tossed with red onion, mango and a shiso dressing. What an elegant combination, the mango mingling sweetly with the tart red onion and the sashimi quality tuna melting into the perilla herb and plum dressing; another sensational gastro-combination (B.350). The accompanying dish was the famous Thai prawn and pomelo salad. The big juicy pomelo is a close relative of the grapefruit and lends itself so well to the inclusion in this constructed salad bursting with chilli, crispy coconut and tangy tamarind dressing. One of our all-time favourites and this recipe danced and zinged with a natural vitality.
To accompany all these gastronomic treats we were drinking a bottle of Babich Black Label Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand. A well-balanced crisp, light wine it effortlessly made friends with the briny seafood.
Fried rice was then presented in a half pineapple boat pitched with prawns, cashew nuts, and pork floss (finely shredded pork jerky with a sweet/savoury flavour) to be enjoyed with our two chosen main courses, blue crab yellow curry and seared scallops from the grill menu served in a black pepper sauce (B.600).
Two spectacular desserts completed our dinner, mango sticky rice and the house speciality, homemade mochi which uses red bean paste, black sesame and mandarin segments and delicious ice cream to produce a Japanese confection of exciting textures and flavours.
Prices here reflect the sophistication of the ingredients and cuisine but, having said that, the experience rewards accordingly and the dishes are amazingly good. For a luxury overload culinary event it would be hard to beat Flare at the Hilton Pattaya.