“Set in a stunning traditional Northern Thai house, Black Ginger offers diners a unique and enchanting experience. Upon arrival, a raft transports guests across a blue-lit lagoon, retracing a journey back in time to Ayutthaya, to the cocktail bar for a welcome drink,” reads the Michelin guide. describes this modern Thai fine dining restaurant.
To get a feel for this restaurant, I booked the last dinner of my Phuket trip there. As I approach it, Black Ginger seems to float above the tropical lagoon that surrounds it.
Housed under an all-black vaulted roof, its wooden structure on stilts is done up in the traditional royal-style sala architecture of Ayutthaya in Thailand. As the guidebook indicates, it can only be reached by an ornate wooden raft, pulled by a boatman from the main entrance hall, which features a stone path flanked on either side by backlit warrior shields.
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Part of The Slate hotel, which stands along Phuket’s Nai Yang Lagoon beach, Black Ginger with its 3,000 THB (approx. ₹7,500) per person, the dinner-only tasting menu is clearly a “second-hand restaurant”. In fact, it was recently voted one of the top 10 restaurants for special occasions in Thailand in the first-ever Asia’s Best Awards 2022 by Travel+Leisure magazine. It has also been certified by the Michelin Guide in 2021 and 2022. Cocktails are not part of the tasting menu and must be ordered separately.
I am greeted in the main restaurant by the hostess and her army of ever-smiling waiters. I am informed that the black silk peddler and halter top uniforms worn by the ladies were inspired by the outfits of Lady Chan and Lady Mook of Phuket, who led the fight against the Burmese intruders more than two centuries. These subtle nuances are revealed when I am offered a cold towel scented with champaka and ginger oils in a conical-topped wooden container called a pa-op, which was used in ancient times to store trinkets.
The Black Ginger Bridge at Dusk
The restaurant takes its name from a particular type of black ginger that has been used as both food and medicine for over a thousand years in Thailand. It is run by Chef Anongrat ‘Piak’ Meklai, a Phuket native with almost three decades of cooking experience. Each of the three dishes reflects the little-known Thai cuisine of its Andaman coast. These regional culinary genres are often overshadowed by the more popular and touristy ones in central and southern Thailand.
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I sip a signature cocktail called The Hidden Petals. Dispatched from the equally dark and self-contained “mansion bar” that sits on deck next to the raft’s docking station, this libation is the delicious sum of its parts of Phraya rum, passion fruit juice and of jasmine syrup.
It goes perfectly with my appetizer platter – one that sees a duo of bua tod and por pia sod Phuket jostling for space. While the former is a savory, if a bit greasy, dish of fried cha-plu or betel leaf and tiger prawns with a sweet and spicy sauce (served in the hollow of an upside-down rose petal), the second is a derivative of a fresh Fujian-style spring roll stuffed with minced pork and mushrooms, brought to Phuket by immigrants from China’s Fujian province.
I notice more foreign influences in my main dishes, like the moo hong braised pork with star anise and cinnamon. This one is a lookalike of Nyonya pork stew called tau you bak from Penang in Malaysia and also hong shao rou from Shanghai. But what’s uniquely Thai and more so in Phuket is the full-bodied, rustic jungle crab curry with a tangy betel leaf, called gaeng pou bai cha-plu, which I get served with a side of rice fragrant pandan.
Providing a final dramatic ending to an almost symphonic evening is my three-way dessert course, which is a sight to behold. Turquoise blue rice flour dumplings (derived from butterfly pea) with coconut flesh and coconut milk whips are the signature dessert of bua loy ma praow onn restaurant. Pink oh aeiw banana jelly blushing on crushed ice and drizzled with magnolia champaka blossom syrup is served with a side of history. Apparently, this refreshing dessert was introduced by Chinese Hokkien settlers who made Phuket their home during the boom in the tin mining industry, which lasted from the mid-19th century to the early 20th century.
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The last bites before I raft back to reality are the luk chup gub foi thong, served with a steaming pot of smoked and fermented pu-erh tea. These exquisite miniature fruits and vegetables are made from soft, malleable mung bean paste, then dipped in an agar-agar mirror glaze for a shiny finish. These tiny bits of perfection expertly reference the same crazy attention to detail that seems to be a hallmark of this place.