Columns Restaurant, The Aspasia Phuket, Thailand


Hot Tables in Phuket

 Tapas and Belly-Dancing with Mediterranean Flair
 

By Marie Moon

We were just in-between delectable bites of vegetable croquettes and Spanish tortilla when the lights were dimmed and the shaking of bells took everyone by surprise. She breezed into the dining room, all exotic with a jewel-encrusted midriff bodice, flowing skirt, silk scarf draped about the shoulders and bells around her ankles. With dark looks and a bright face she danced circles with her belly, figure-eights with her hips to the mesmeric rhythms of Middle Eastern music. Everyone watched as the belly-dancer spoke with her body, the food, fine as it was, couldn’t compete with this captivating show.

"We are trying to be different within the general market in terms of entertainment, food and beverage." Mr. Alistair Why, Managing Director of the Aspasia Resort, explained. "We recently had a wine-making dinner at Columns Restaurant which was a huge success and I want to have more interesting events like that in the future. For example we have hired the belly-dancer to perform every Friday evening to add to the Mediterranean flair."

Columns Restaurant at the Aspasia Resort serves authentic Mediterranean cuisine that encompasses more than the usual Italian and Greek dishes. Resort Manager, Mr. Alistair Why described, "Our chef is a French-American and he has put together a Mediterranean menu that resurrects some old forgotten dishes from countries like Morocco and Israel.

On the evening that my fianc? and I dined at Columns, Chef Michel Cottabarren was trying out a new tapas menu. As the Aspasia Resort is a recent addition to the Phuket fold Chef, in his position of Director of Culinary Operations, has had to go through the process of setting up the new restaurants; Columns Mediterranean and Melina’s, a bistro style outlet. This being his fifth restaurant opening, Michel wasn’t fazed by the challenges posed, having gained many years experience working in exotic locations like Bali and China. "I am experienced at handling the challenges of opening a new restaurant, finding staff setting up the kitchen etc. I actually enjoy it."

We sampled upwards of twelve dishes; some old favourites and a few of Chef Michel’s twists. Escab?che is sardines lightly saut?ed with onions, black pepper corns, coriander seeds, bay leaf, saffron, thyme and vinegar; each herb adding to the subtle aroma of this dish. The croquettes contained a smooth, creamy medley of Mediterranean vegetables, smothered in velvety b?chamel sauce and lightly fried to a nice crisp finish. The Spanish tortilla was delightful and served in small enough portions so as not to fill you up too quickly. Chef blends onion, garlic and extra virgin olive oil to create a tasty salsa verde which he uses to accompany many of his dishes. The slightly spicy condiment tastes different with each main ingredient, ranging from champignons to chicken to river prawns.

The Spanish are famous for their seafood. Columns’ tapas menu includes a number of simple but flavoursome seafood items. Squid was served with lemon, garlic and dill, mussels were cooked with bell pepper, onion, sugar and vinegar and Chef created prawns covered with a paprika batter. Finely diced calamata olives and roasted bell peppers added a new dimension to a simple potato and tuna salad. The dishes were all delicious and subtle enough that the diner could switch between flavours without being overpowered by any one taste. To accompany our tapas menu Chef fixed us a long jug of sangria; the refreshingly fruity drink complimented everything.

The belly dancer made two appearances during the evening, each a welcome moratorium from the Spanish feast. As the restaurant is small, the dancer is able to wind her way through the tables to get up close and personal with all patrons. It was interesting to see people of all ages and nationalities enthralled by her and her undulating hips.

The dessert menu was too tempting to resist despite the distinct sense of our expanding waistlines. Columns offers English apple tart with stilton shortbread crust and port jelly which sounds like a treat. There is the obligatory tiramisu, this one flavoured with chocolate and Grand Marnier and espresso cr?me anglaise. However Chef Michel suggested the pan roasted strawberries. The fresh Chiang Mai strawberries were served in coconut jus drizzled with balsamic syrup. Chef enlightened, "You have to pan roast the strawberries quickly so as to make the berries soft but not to lose texture. The balsamic syrup is actually very sweet so it brings out the natural sugars in the fruit. The coconut milk adds another layer to the sweet dish." They were wonderful, the strawberries held their lovely tartness while the syrup and coconut jus added just the right amount of sweetness to offset the berries.

Columns tapas menu is available in addition to the regular menu of Mediterranean dishes. The menu also incorporates some Thai dishes. The belly dancing is performed every Friday night and groups can be accommodated in the private dining room. Columns Restaurant is open for lunch and dinner.

 

 

 From Benjarong Magazine – March 2005, Volume 8 Issue 3

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 Benjarong Magazine - October 2005, Volume 8 Issue 10

 

In Association with

Kinnaree Media Marketing
Tel: (66-76) 263737-8 Fax: (66-76) 224113
E-mail:
info@travel-phuket.com    Website: www.travel-phuket.com
Web design by Andaman Graphics Phuket