Being one of the most award-winning restaurants in Phuket and Thailand, Acqua Restaurant, led by Chef-Owner Alessandro Frau and his team has indeed come a long way from where it started off as being unknown. Chef Frau has shared quite a fair bit of his journey with me in the following. You will also be able to check out some of Acqua Signatures in his Red and Blue Degustation Menu on this article. Ala Carte Menu is also available in this restaurant.
A “Modernise” Philosophy
In the Acqua restaurant, the ingredients we use are from Italy (70%), Europe/Australia/America (20%) and about 10% from Thailand. The main focus is still Italy as we really want to create the same taste yet modernising it into a fine dining concept – the evolution of Italian cuisine.
Let’s hear from Alessandro Frau himself introducing a couple of bottles around in his wine cellar.
Tuna, Scallops and Red Prawns Tartar on Avocado Mash, Hokkaido Sea Urchin,
Salmon Eggs, Caviar, Burrata Cheese and Rice Crispy (Ala Carte Menu)
We take traditional grandma’s recipes; retain from 100 years of history and culture to today’s 2018, using new cooking techniques with a new type of presentation. One of the examples would be sou-viding an octopus instead of boiling them in a pot. Sou-vide is a much gentle way of cooking that uses a lower temperature with a control which allows the octopus to retain its juices, colour, protein properties and yet achieve almost the same kind of cooking results at the end.
Sous Vide Cooked Octopus Salad
Marinated in Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Lemon & Vinegar, Fennel Leaves, Celery and Taggiasche Olives DOP
It would be boring in this era if nothing has changed. As people evolutionalise with time, they expect something new; just like changing the old model car to the latest design which can be referenced in terms of “revitalising” our cuisine while we still keep the influence.
The quality of the ingredients is very important to us. Once you can find the best, the rest is easy as all we need is the technique, creativity, experience and so on to cook any dish.
Sardines like the Sardines festival in Emilia Romagna,
Lightly Breaded pan-fried Sardines,
Smoked Paprika, Lime Mayo, Spicy Green Pepper and Homemade Pickled Vegetables
Acqua Restaurant’s Food Concept
We always keep ourselves updated with the latest trends, knowing of what are the other chefs around are doing and we try to align ourselves to all with our own creations. The reason is that creating a dish for a chef is considered a very personal thing; everything comes from his/her experience since he/she was a kid or it can also be from family and country. At the end prior to the creation of the dish comes, it is all about memories.
Acquerello Saffron Risotto with Stracchino Cheese,
Caviar and Sardinian Sea Urchin
For hospitality, we train our staffs to be attentive and we aim to provide fantastic service according to the European standard. We also try to balance with the local Thai service culture by adjusting one’s body language and ways to approach different customers.
By next year February in 2019, it will be our 10th year of operation. It will be one of our biggest achievement. Coming so far to Phuket since we first started was really difficult. Phuket wasn’t ready for fine dining as ingredients are more expensive as the majority of the ingredients are imported.
Scallops Carpaccio served with Black Truffle,
Raw Asparagus in Olive Oil, Lemon Juice & Truffle Essence
We are a destination type of fine dining restaurant which located in an area where you don’t walk by along and see it; you have to take a vehicle to come over. The first 3 years was crucial and challenging. Back then there was absolutely no news about us on the internet when we first started while now it is easier as we have many reviews and along the years we build our reputation and achieved numerous awards which one of which is the Thailand Tatler’s 2018 Top 20 Best Restaurants. We hope to be in the Michelin Guide which is coming really soon and this will be the first time Phuket will be part of it.
Chef-Owner Alessandro Frau’s Story
I am married to a wife who is an Italian as well. We arrived together in Thailand 14 years ago. I was the executive chef in the previous Sheraton Grande Laguna running 12 outlets with a total of 130 chefs during the first 4 years in Phuket. This is the usual kind of operations which comprise mainly management with minimal cooking. I wanted to cook and create, therefore 4 years later I decided to open the Acqua restaurant.
Before Phuket, I always work and travel as a chef from London, Paris, Mexico… Italy which I met my wife. After the season in Sardinia (Italy), we went for a month of holiday in Phuket and we love it. Upon return we decided on an even longer trip after another round of season back in Sardinia; we looked for opportunities at the same time and the rest became history.
Phuket’s F&B Growth
In my opinion, Phuket is still behind Bangkok, Singapore and Hong Kong. But it is growing. Well, one of the downsides is that the time frame here is very seasonal. You can hit a 4 month high of 100 customers with very good business and down with a few of about 10 to 15 customers in the non-peak period. This is what many chefs and owners face.
Raw Sicilian Red Prawn with Smoked Avruga Caviar
There are people who choose other local places or overseas cities to open their business where there are much more stable traffic instead of Phuket. So if I want to do a business here, I have to see all aspects that will affect my business. For me, I didn’t really feel it when I was working in the hotel. It was only when I started mine then I understood how it works. People tend to invest mainly in Phuket if it is a casual concept instead of high end.
How Do You Overcome Challenges?
During the low season, we have to reduce the quantity of our ingredients intake so that we will be able to maintain and control the quality freshness. Using the meat as an example, instead of the usual standard portion sized, we have a bigger steak cut which we will be able to cut for the moment and do everything while keeping the rest in whole. This way of handling meat reduces the chance of oxidation.
Wood-fired Roasted Suckling Pig, Saffron and Violette Potatoes,
Broad Beans and it’s Own Sauce
Do You Intend To Open Any Other Restaurants?
Currently, I have a partnership in Bangkok and the restaurant is La Casa Nostra; a causal Italian wine bar concept. The food here is simple but high quality and the ambience is also casual but with class. We have an amazing wine list as because my partner is a wine importer. Therefore our portfolio is mainly med to high range of wines from Italy, France, Argentina, and California.
We only mark up to 500 baht per bottle which also means we earn only that amount each. Every markup is double in Asia but as for us, we want to push our wines which is why we set it this way. This is working really well and perhaps we will look into bringing Acqua Restaurant to Bangkok in the future.
All Slices of Bread are Freshly Baked Daily
What Are The Requirements For A Chef To Move Out To Somewhere New And Away?
1) They must be patience.
2) Determination. For the down moments and challenges which you need to face, you need that follow by patience and vision to be strong. Owning your restaurant is tougher than working for others. It is psychological as you need to keep going with your idea. Other than the money, you are the engine of your restaurant. If you stop, everything else stops. If you don’t do something, no one else will even if you have staffs working for you.
55 Minutes Slow-cooked Egg on a Parmesan Cheese Fondue,
Fresh Black Truffle and Crispy Pancetta Powder
Is It Easy To Find Chefs In A Foreign Environment?
For us, it is easier because we offer a special and fine concept using quality ingredients with creative design. The people in Thailand have patience. Not everyone works solely for a salary or just having an easy going life. We attract them is also because of their interest in fine cuisine, prestige and our restaurant concept. We are also indeed lucky to attract people with passion.
Pan Fried USA Scallops with Foie Gras, Chilly Jam and Truffle Pumpkin Sauce
For the hiring quota in Thailand, you need to have at least 3 locals in order to have 1 foreigner. We have many staffs, however, for each foreigner, we will need to increase the capital of the company by about 2 million baht. The only limitation, for now, is that you cannot increase the number of foreign talents as and when you like.
Homemade Trenette Pasta with Vongole, Maine Lobster and Bottarga
Sicilian “Cannoli” stuffed with Sweet Ricotta Cheese,
Candid Orange Chocolate Shavings in the Marsala flavored Cannolo
Petit Four (Childhood Style)
This is one of the dining places in Phuket which you definitely will not want to miss out if you are finding something refine and exquisite yet reasonably priced especially for the set menu. You will probably not burn a big hole in your pocket (*Base on SGD rate).
324/15 Prabaramee Road – Kalim Bay
Patong – Kathu – 83150 Phuket
Every day from 5.00 pm until 11.00 pm
Contact No: 076 618127