Winning Awards, Awing Diners – Kiree at Vana Belle, a Luxury Collection Resort provides a deluxe southern Thai dining experience.

Vana Belle

For those who love undisputed luxury and a personal touch, Vana Belle is a hideaway resort that offers complete privacy in a beautifully landscaped garden. It’s a green and verdant idyll, but it’s more than just a wonderful place to spend a couple of days or weeks kicking back. It also boasts an exceptionally good Thai restaurant, simply called Kiree. All are welcome here, and you’ll find that it lives up to expectations entirely. In fact, few other resorts can match when it comes to luxury, setting and the sheer delight of its food.

Vana BelleBefore you enter the restaurant, it’s a good idea to sample a cocktail or two at the impressive Lobby Lounge bar situated above. From the luxurious, open-sided pavilion, you can look out over the sea and let the cares of the day slip away. The cocktail menu includes several inspiring options that are completely original. Have you ever drunk a cocktail where one of the ingredients is gold? Maybe not. But you certainly can here. Gold leaf is all part and parcel of Thai culture, and the resort as a whole, seeks to infuse as many Thai traditions as possible within the experiences it offers its guests.

With its hillside setting, overlooking the sea down below, Kiree is a light and summery venue for fine dining. You can choose to dine on a fan-cooled terrace outside, or sit inside the quietly opulent dining room, which is air-conditioned.
Either way, you’ll enjoy a wide panoramic view that’s comprised simply of trees and sea. It’s extremely restful.

The staff here are both professional and friendly. You’ll be extremely well looked after, and they’ll do their utmost to make your dinner a wonderful one. In charge of everything is an extremely talented Chef de Cuisine, Khun Nattanan Deeruang. He specializes in central and southern-style Thai dishes, and is one of the few and far between self-taught chefs. As a child, too young to go to cooking school, his answer was to immerse himself in the world of TV cooking, watching how cooks made dishes and picking up English as he did so. Thanks to his rapid learning skills, innate creativity and sheer dedication to his vocation, he rose quickly through the ranks, has worked in prestigious restaurants in Thailand, and is now in charge at Kiree.

Vana BelleChef Nattanan loves searching out the best ingredients, and if you’re an early riser you’ll often catch him at various island markets checking out the local produce. He knows exactly where to find ingredients that dovetail with the food he’s going to be making that day. A top priority is to ensure that everything’s totally fresh. Once everything is ready in the kitchens,
all preparation and cooking is done in an exemplary way: no corners are cut, and everyone aims to re-create the true tastes of Siam, albeit in a contemporary setting. The chef brings thoughtfulness, passion and humility to his cooking.

Increasingly, island diners have begun to hear about Kiree’s excellence. And as more people enjoyed the mostly southern-style Thai food, the restaurant has morphed into a sought-after destination in its own right. Much of this has come about through word of mouth, but now Kiree’s reputation has become more formally established. In March, Kiree and its staff
celebrated being included in ‘Thailand Tatler Best Restaurants Guide 2017’. The guide is already well established as one of the most credible dining recommendation platforms in the country. A special dinner event was held in Bangkok to mark the occasion, with Chef Nattanan showcasing some of Kiree’s signature dishes to an invited audience from the press. Many of the guests (though they were of course thoroughly used to eating Thai food), were thoroughly surprised at just how authentic the offerings were, with some tasting certain hard-to-find southern herbs for the very first time.

Vana BelleIf Chef Nattanan managed to make these dishes in Bangkok, you can imagine how good they are in Kiree itself. Here are just three examples of dishes that were eaten at that memorable evening which you can enjoy here in Koh Samui. Moo Pa
Pad Phed, in Chef Nattanan’s hands, remains a dish that’s resolutely traditional, but he goes further to keep it truly local. It’s stir-fried boar, sourced in Samui itself, with southern Thai herbs and curry paste. The rich flavour of the dish comes not just from the meat itself but from the exquisite combination of herbs – again local – and a spicy curry paste indigenous to the south of the country.

Gaeng Boo Bai Cha Ploo, meanwhile, is a crab curry with betel leaves, a dish that’s quite hard to find in most restaurants, and is popular among discerning aficionados of Thai cuisine. Thanks to the chef’s touches, it’s lifted to new levels. He
infuses the dish with betel leaves that have been picked in the tropical gardens at Vana Belle. The crab comes from Samui’s waters but Chef Nattanan additionally enhances it with Alaskan crab.

Vana BelleAs a dessert, Kanom Kho Krati is one of Thailand’s favourites. Though it’s a fairly simple recipe (rice dumplings stuffed with caramelized coconut in coconut milk), this sweet dish is difficult to make exceptionally well. The chef and his team do it justice exactly balancing the recipe’s sweetness and saltiness, making it utterly delicious.

Vana BelleChef Nattanan had this to say at the soirée, “Southern Thai food is known for its powerful spices; but it is significantly more complex than this. Southern cuisine has countless subtle layers that can be carefully amplified or reduced to create spectacular results.” That’s his approach to the myriad ways of cooking food here in Thailand, and none of it is routine for him. He went on to say, “I find it very exciting to introduce guests to dishes and flavours they may never had an opportunity to experience before. This inspires me to track down the most authentic recipes and ingredients to create new levels of
culinary heights at Kiree.”

Chef Nattanan and his team have certainly succeeded and now their hard work has been recognized in public, thanks to the recent recognition from Thailand Tatler. With Vana Belle promising to introduce its guests to rare and indigenous experiences unique to Koh Samui, Kiree is certainly doing its utmost to promote some of the finest locally-inspired cuisine to be had on the island.

Dimitri Waring

For reservations or further information, telephone 0 7791 5555.
www.vanabellekohsamui.com