Sitting elegantly on the shore of Hua Hin’s beautiful long beach, Big Fish and Bar has long established itself as a restaurant that may be part of a hotel, yet floats above the rest and still manages to swim in its own league on Thailand’s western coast Riviera. From 12-20 January, the Hua Hin Marriott Resort & Spa welcomes a special guest to its stylish seafront restaurant, and between Michelin stars, rare local ingredients, and sustainable cooking practices, here are five reasons why you should check it out.
Chef Jan Hoffmann brings his culinary creativity to Asia for the first time
Jan Hoffmann hails from many of Europe’s leading restaurants, having worked alongside some of the industry’s most influential chefs and at three Michelin-starred destinations, from the legendary Hotel Adlon in Berlin and the Villa Merton in Frankfurt to the Seehotel Überfahrt. Yet what sets Jan apart from many others in his field are his innovative and downright pioneering bold vegetarian menus. The German chef is one of the very few who has managed to gain and attain the prestigious award through a menu that was entirely meat-less at Frankfurt’s infamous Seven Swans restaurant.
This January, Jan brings his bold and contemporary vegetarian cooking style to Thailand, combining rare and local ingredients to create dishes even meat-lovers will enjoy. It’s a true skill to attract and maintain the attention of non-vegetarians with vegetarian dishes, yet upon sampling a few of Jan’s courses it becomes apparent that meat-less need not translate to ‘boring’. The young chef (who bears a tattoo for his grandmother’s rösti recipe on his arm, no less) is truly committed to celebrating natural and organic produce, and watching him cook at Big Fish’s open-plan kitchen, it really shows.
Chef Xavier and Chef Mario Hofmann bring the Big Fish energy
For the exclusive dinner series, guests will not only get to try Jan’s creations, but also those of Big Fish’s chef Xavier and the resort’s executive chef, Mario Hofmann. And whilst the latter’s surname is similar to that of the guest chef, we have been reassured that they are in fact not related. Nevertheless, their cooking styles blend well, in either a 4-course or 6-course menu, combining Chef Jan’s vegetarian dishes with fresh local seafood and meats. It’s understandable, considering that many guests may quiver and question whether an entirely vegetarian menu may be ‘filling’ enough, and that fine dining can often equate to small portions. Rest assured, particularly the 6-course menu is of the heavily indulgent kind, and we left unable to even finish the macarons (!) by the end of it.
Wine pairing extends to vegetables
Wine pairing dinners are not a rare occurrence, yet some pairings come more commonly than others. For their week-long extravaganza, Big Fish and Bar surprises even the avid connoisseur with its combinations. For us, we particularly loved the 2016 New Zealand Mansion House Pinot Gris Marlborough with chef Jan’s carrot and local goat’s cheese starter. The final course was also a popular pairing, combining a 2017 Australian Moscato Garfish with dessert. Often overdone and at times overwhelming, Jan’s rendition sees a perfect pairing, as the slight bitterness of the chickweed and sugar beet dessert blend well with the sweetness of the wine. Furthermore, whilst the lamb and the Shiraz were a predictable pairing, the tastebuds are truly teased with the Hokkaido pumpkin and blue cheese main course, combined with an Italian 2016 Valpolicella Classico Brunelli. Truly, you may have experienced a wine pairing dinner before but you’ll learn something new for sure. (Like that walnut and dill pairs excellently with a white Loire Valley wine — amazing).
Curious, rare, and sustainable ingredients make up the menu
Big Fish and Bar follows a ‘catch of the day’ concept, sourcing local ingredients and seafood to create interesting dishes. For the dinner series this week too, the chefs have incorporated many natural and organic ingredients, some of which are sure to raise a curious eyebrow upon reading and tasting. From local Thai goat’s cheese alongside blueberries in the starter, to Thai chakram leaves with sea grapes (yup) and river prawns, the combinations perfectly capture the restaurant’s “East meets West” concept in an intriguing way. The ingredients themselves often became conversation pieces at the table, and whilst chef Jan claims “the cauliflower here is not quite like the one in Germany”, offer something new for a local Thai audience. We often found ourselves wondering, ‘wow, who knew you could do this to a cucumber/carrot/Thai potato?’
The location is the only of its kind
It’s easy for a seafront seafood restaurant in a beach location to bag in setting and Instagrammable cool points. But get this: Big Fish and Bar is actually the only restaurant in Hua Hin that provides indoor seating directly on the beach. Whilst there is outdoor seating available (making for a great lunch or cocktail location) the indoor floor-to-ceiling windows offer a panorama view of the sea incomparable to many spots in Hua Hin. It’s a sundowner with the comforts of air conditioning, and a good backdrop for the Michelin-starred meal. After all, many haunts in the capital provide stellar fine dining dinners, yet none can do it with a serenely undisturbed view of the beach. We may have entered expecting a wine pairing dinner like many of its kind in Bangkok, but we left pleasantly surprised, and, uncommon to a night out in city, without a minute of traffic on the ride home. It’s a long meal, but it’s a worthy one. And if you can combine it into a weekend trip to the coast and an overnight stay, definitely go for it.
Chef Jan’s four-course dinner menu will be available Monday-Thursday at THB 1900++ (without wine) and THB 3900++ (with wine pairing). His six-course dinner menu will be served from Friday-Sunday and is priced at THB 2500++ (without wine) and THB 5500++ (with wine pairing). Head to the Hua Hin Marriott website for more information.
Big Fish and Bar, 107/1 Phetkasem Rd., Hua Hin, +6632 904 666, open daily 11am to 11pm