The premise of the Phuket Epic Food series is simple – we focus on the remarkable. Which is why the food we present here is often anything but simple. Only the most extraordinary, noteworthy, delightful, or in other words, epic dishes served at Phuket restaurants make it onto our list. This isn’t your daily bread, but meals for a special occasion.
Have you ever tried diving? It’s an exhilarating experience; one of making an intimate connection with the ocean through all five senses. For many seasoned drivers, it’s under the sea that they feel right at home; after all, it’s where we crawled out from, all those millions of years ago.
But why am I talking about diving in a story about food? It’s because the dish I’m here to describe, has a parallel, oceanic connection. It’s the sea…on your plate.
Literally. It’s called Il Mare, the Italian word for sea. Italian, because Acqua Restaurant where I try it is one of the best Italian restaurants in Phuket and chef Alessandro Frau, who created it, comes from the second largest island of the Mediterranean – Sardinia. Having grown up on the coast and spent most of his youth skin-diving, catching octopuses and getting exposed to the island’s culinary traditions, chef Frau, like all of us, has the ocean in his DNA – it’s just that he has a little bit more of it. “Those childhood memories of Sardinia and the sea stay with me forever, and I wanted to represent them in this dish,” he tells me.
When we sit down to a chat, I have already emptied my plate of Il Mare (and had enough of strong will not to lick it clean). But despite the fact that I enjoyed every bite of the dish a good few minutes earlier, I still feel the lingering taste of the ocean on my palette. It’s because Il Mare is not some feeble impression of the sea, the flavours that chef Frau combines in his creation are bold and intense, yet somehow, he manages to keep them in perfect harmony. Il Mare is an oceanic wave…that crosses your senses with the softest of touches.
Ok, but what exactly is Il Mare? Seafood, right? Well, not exactly. Sure, it combines plenty of ingredients sourced directly from the ocean, but in its essence it’s…. stuffed pasta. Though it does sound better when called by its Italian name – tortelli. To make it, chef Frau fills paper-thin pieces of homemade dough with silky burrata cheese to form small dumplings, which he then lightly boils and douses in a sauce of vongole juice, Sardinian squid ink and sea urchin. A sprinkle of Spanish marine plankton crowns the creation.
So, what does the ocean taste like? In Chef’s Frau’s expression, the aquatic saltiness is balanced by the delicate sweetness of burrata, the bite of the pasta is followed by the softness of the feeling and then it’s all served on a beautiful plate with a pattern reminiscent of what divers see as they ascend to the surface. It’s a delight from the first bite to the last glimpse of an empty platter.
Ingredients? Epic. Skills level? Epic. The resulting dish? You guessed.
Learn more on acquarestaurantphuket.com
See the dishes previously featured in out Phuket Epic Food Series:
- Tagliatelle with Grilled Octopus at Rustic Eatery and Bar
- Manzetta Prussiana at Cape Sienna