Prestige Gourmet: Review of Jampa Restaurant, at Tri Vananda (Phuket) – Prestige Online

Jampa’s focus on sustainability makes it a perfect example of how committed chefs can be more environmentally and health conscious without having to sacrifice an iota on taste. Prestige made a lunchtime visit to the on-site Pru Jampa restaurant and farm

Chef Rick Dingen visits the chicken coop at Pru Jampa Farm

If you really want to be taken seriously as a farm-to-table restaurant, you should probably have your own farm, preferably within walking distance of the kitchen. This is certainly the case at Jampa, the flagship restaurant of the soon-to-open Tri Vananda wellness resort in Phuket. Heck, the restaurant even takes it a step further by eliminating “table” and opting to refer to itself by the more alliterative term “farm-to-fork”, emphasizing the fact that what you consume makes extensive use of vegetables, herbs, flowers, fruits and mushrooms grown at the on-site Pru Jampa farm.

Jampa’s welcoming Nordic-inspired interiors

This farm, by the way, is also shared by PRU, the Michelin-starred restaurant that’s part of Trisara – one of Phuket’s most exclusive resorts – and Trisara and Tri Vananda are properties under the Montara Hospitality umbrella. Group. Coincidentally, PRU and Jampa also have lovely Dutch chefs, both of whom have a focus on sustainability, but in many other ways they offer very different dining experiences, as I discovered during a recent lunchtime visit to Jampa on a sunny Friday afternoon.

Juice bar and cocktails at Jampa restaurant

The beautifully designed, high-ceilinged interior is warm and inviting, with seating for 30-35 people. Abundance of blond wood and earth tones give the whole thing a slightly Nordic feel, while floor-to-ceiling windows let in plenty of natural light and offer views of the nearby green wooded hills. There is also a small terrace with outdoor seating, should you desire an even closer communion with nature.

Outdoor seating area on the terrace of the Jampa restaurant

Jampa officially opened last November, but 30-year-old executive chef Rick Dingen has been with the project since its inception (June 2021). Originally from Eindhoven, a city in the south of the Netherlands, Rick entered the profession of chef at the age of 14, attended culinary school in his hometown before moving to Amsterdam two years later. At 25, he moved to Southeast Asia to join fellow Dutchman Henk Savelberg at his namesake restaurant in Bangkok. He spent two years at Savelberg before moving to Haoma – one of Bangkok’s top locavore-focused restaurants – and later to Anantara Siam Bangkok Hotel.

Cassava crisps and sourdough crostini topped with creamy fish pate and Hua Hin caviar

A delicious distillation of Rick’s cumulative training, knowledge and enthusiasm for ‘zero waste cooking’ can be found in Jampa’s wonderful ‘Experience Menu’ – a six-course introduction to a food philosophy in which dishes are nutrients and natural sweeteners are used. instead of sugar whenever possible. Things start with a two-part off-menu entrée featuring lightly spiced fries made from farm-grown cassava and a sourdough crostini topped with a creamy fish patty and a salty dollop of Hua Hin caviar. The pâté, Rick points out, is made from salvaged kitchen scraps, adding “We keep everything and try to use it again.”

Smoked king mackerel served with a spicy green chili and pineapple sauce

The first course on the menu is the melt-in-your-mouth, salted and smoked king mackerel – locally caught – smothered in a tangy green chilli and pineapple sauce, and brightly decorated with beautiful edible flowers. “They also come from our farm,” says Rick, “but they change every day. They are colorful and also tasty.

Wood-fire roasted zucchini (front) with slices of sourdough bread topped with barbecued jalapeños

This fabulous dish is followed by a salad-type dish, the main ingredients of which are wood-fire roasted zucchini – from Chiang Mai – and a creamy stracciatella made with Thai buffalo and cow’s milk burrata. The dish also includes garlic scape, sun-dried tomato, basil and a green oil made from various pieces of plants. “All the big leaves on our farm, which are used for veneer, we don’t throw away. We keep all the greenery, and the herbs from the day before, to make pesto, oil, marinades, all sorts of things.

This stunning salad also comes with thick slices of homemade sourdough bread topped with barbecued green jalapeños that turn out surprisingly sweet. “If you put them on the barbecue, it reduces the spiciness. It won’t burn your mouth,” Rick laughs.

Grilled octopus with chakram (sea blite) and homemade piccalilli.

While the first courses were perfectly enjoyable, the next course provides a bit more of the “wow” factor. Here, octopus from Racha Island – about 25km from the southern tip of Phuket – is grilled and served draped in a delicate sheet of lardo (pork fat), with white elderflowers and pea shoots sprinkled on top. Beneath the smoky, tender tentacles lies a layer of deep green chakram (sea blite), which itself rests on a bright yellow bed of homemade piccalilli.

“We keep all the vegetable scraps, then on Sundays we make a piccalilli,” Rick explains, “with cauliflower, or cucumber, or whatever we have.”

Fillet of red mullet with slices of barley and radish

Then arrives at the table the red mullet fillet which has been wrapped in a banana leaf and cooked over a wood fire to give it a nice smoky flavor. Plus there’s barley, a surprise ingredient from northeast Thailand, which has been dried and then quickly fried (resembling mini popcorn). Rounding out the dish are thin slices of watermelon radish, green radish and red radish, along with mashed broccoli, while the final step is a drizzle of fish bone and head sauce.

Smoked BBQ spring chicken with mushrooms, spunta potatoes, kale, black garlic gel and house BBQ sauce.

Perhaps it’s obvious by now that barbecue-style cuisine features prominently on this menu, and that’s because ‘high heat’ is one of the main pillars of Jampa’s culinary philosophy. In fact, the only mention of “frying” I’ve heard so far was only barley in the previous dish. For health-conscious diners, it’s a welcome change from the excessive use of cooking oil in so many kitchens.

Pineapple from Phuket, chocolate shavings from Chumpon and pineapple ginger ice cream

This emphasis on fire reaches its zenith in the next dish, the utterly addictive BBQ Smoked Spring Chicken. Sourced from Khao Yai, these organically raised birds are hot-smoked – over pine wood – for 40 minutes to an hour, before being placed on an earthenware plate alongside farm-fresh mushrooms, apples Chiang Mai spunta, kale, black garlic gel, and a dollop of homemade BBQ sauce. But everything ultimately revolves around the chicken, and from the first bite, the deep, almost primordial wood-fired taste of this free-range poultry pierces me completely. Yes, food is supposed to taste that good.

Figs from Thailand served with goat’s milk ice cream and lemon basil

Things end sweetly with the pre-dessert – a mix of Phuket pineapple, Chumpon chocolate shavings and pineapple ginger ice cream – before wrapping it up with Thai-grown figs served with honeycomb ice cream with goat’s milk and lemon basil. The desserts are sweet but never too much, and the same goes for the two fruit-based drinks we tasted: starting with the G-rated ‘Watermelon Sugar’ (watermelon juice, coconut shrub, mint and Thai chili on the glass rim); and “Summer of 69” from the low-ABV cocktail menu (sherry, gin, peach liqueur, cucumber juice, pineapple juice, lime, and mint stem honey).

‘Summer of 69’ (left) and ‘Watermelon Sugar’

Although the meal is over, we are not leaving yet, as Chef Rick has promised us a quick tour of the Pru Jampa farm. Two other guests join us who have just finished lunch, one of whom turns out to be the chef of a chic hotel in Phuket. As our group wanders through the neatly organized rows of produce – a young papaya tree there, a patch of lemongrass there – our friendly host is happy to answer any of our horticultural questions. Our tour also passes the chicken coop and the duck pond (both a source of fresh eggs), before arriving at the edge of one of the many small lakes that dot the property.

Chef Rick amid the long stalks of lemongrass at Pru Jampa Farm

In the distance, Chief Rick points to a small structure across the water. “On Saturdays, at lunch, we present ‘Hideaway by Jampa’. We’re closing the main restaurant and moving everything here on the farm. There is seating for 16-18 people and people love to dine between these two lakes.

It doesn’t get more “farm to fork” than that!

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