Duck dish presentation on dark plate at pru restaurant

Farm to Fork

Written by Joe Cummings

June issue ‘Dessert’, 2023 

Share this post

On the northwest coast of Phuket, the legendary Trisara welcomed its first guests in 2004, and through consistently committed management and continual upgrading, the resort never looks or feels dated. All 39 cliff-side villas and suites boast private pools—legitimate lap pools with expansive sea views—plus exceptional interior design where every detail reveals focused intention. Separate wooden gates lead into the landscaped grounds of each villa, adding a layer of privacy. The resort meanders through a dense jungle terrain before reaching a secluded, sandy cove with rustic benches, hammocks, and swings that make for a deeply relaxing escape from the outside world.

pru-entrance-gastronomer-lifestyle

A few kilometres east of the resort lies Tri Vanananda, an ambitious residential eco-community encompassing 96 hectares of forests and lakes. Still in the early phases of development, the biophilic-designed homes and a holistic wellness centre will occupy only 15 per cent of the land. The remaining 85 per cent is dedicated to natural forest and wetlands, along with Pru Jampa Farm, a network of organic permaculture gardens that provide vegetables, herbs, flowers, fruits, and eggs from free-range ducks, geese, and chickens for Pru and Jampa, the fine dining venues at Trisara and Tri Vanananda, respectively. Both restaurants remarkably boast Michelin Green Stars for demonstrating a strong commitment to eco-conscious dining and food preparation.

According to the restaurant’s website, Pru stands for “Plant. Raise. Understand.” In the Thai language, pru also refers to tropical swamp forest, usually one with an accumulation of rich peat. Such wetlands are found only in the southern provinces of the country, such as Phuket, hence a name that fittingly suggests a strong bond with the natural environment of the region. Dutch chef James “Jimmy” Ophorst opened the innovative dining venue at Trisara in 2016, and three years later it became the first restaurant outside Bangkok to earn a Michelin star and later a Green Star. Ingredients used at the restaurant are 100 per cent sourced from within Thailand, with much of the organic produce grown at the Pru Jampa farm.

“Sustainability is the heart of our business,” says Ophorst. “It’s integral to our restaurants and to our lives, and there’s a huge interest among the public in dining experiences that support local communities and showcase amazing Thai produce.”

Pru-Jampa-Farm-gastronomer-lifestyle

This year, Pru moved into a larger space perched higher up in the Trisara compound, with a design concept that includes a theatre kitchen and large windows with views. Opened on the 1st of November, the elegant eatery boasts 36 place settings—five tables plus 10 seats directly in front of the kitchen to allow diners to admire the culinary expertise of Chef Jimmy and team.
Of the theater kitchen, the chef says “We always perform better when people are watching us. There’s no hiding, no secrets. Guests have come to dine in our kitchen.”

Our evening at Pru started with four amuse-bouches: Eggplant and Ginger Flower, Cauliflower and Kaffir Lime, Kimchi and Cashew Nut, and Baby Corn with Passionfruit. The bites were served in a cosy lounge with upholstered chairs where guests are welcomed before heading into the main dining room.

The nine-course meal that followed more than lived up to Pru’s reputation as one of the most exceptional restaurants in Thailand. Chef Jimmy and other members of his team present each artfully plated course along with a concise explanation of the techniques and ingredients employed. Standouts included the first course, King of Fruit, for which a whole durian is smoked over a wood fire for five to six hours to reduce some of the fruit’s infamous funk as it caramelises. A delicate durian mousse is then paired with caviar harvested at Alexey Tuytin’s beluga and amur sturgeon farm in Hua Hin and dressed with marinated mulberries, organic melon vinegar, shiso leaf oil, and basil flowers. The dish qualifies as a genuine masterpiece, one that Chef Jimmy says took him six years to create.

Beetroot-Sour-Dough-gastronomer-lifestyle

The second, Giant Trevally & Ceylon Oak, starts with drying the aforementioned fish for five to seven days to achieve a balance of flavour and texture. The fillet is then marinated in a brine of Cyprus fruit and satoh (Thai rice wine) and served with a vinaigrette made with berries from Ceylon oak (ta-kop farang in Thai, also known as strawberry tree) grown in Prachuap Khiri Khan and marigold leaf oil.

Black Crab & Fermented Tea features black crab harvested in Phang-Nga caves, blended with chickpea crème, fermented tea leaf oil, lime skin, and chives, and then topped with charcoaled snap pea, a refined green curry sauce, and smoked crab roe. The fennel from Fennel & Vanilla is grown at Thailand’s Royal Project farms and marinates the stalks in vanilla butter before salt-baking in a vanilla leaf. The baked fennel is then glazed with a passionfruit reduction and served with a sauce of fermented fennel, vanilla, calamansi juice and oil extracted from wan sao long, an aromatic leaf popular in southern Thailand for both magical and medicinal properties.

The remaining six courses, Goby Fish & Turmeric, Squid & Blue Cheese, Aged Duck & Siam Tulip, Pink Guava & Celebes Pepper, and Banana & Umebushi, were equally impressive. The unique latter dish consisted of bananas glazed in tua nao (fermented soybeans, a popular ingredient in northern Thai cooking), accompanied by a sorbet of black bananas and brown butter, and banana vinegar and topped with umeboshi, calamansi, and fermented shitake powder.

Pink-Guava-gastronomer-lifestyle

Six kilometres away, next to Pru Jampa Farm in Tri Vananda, Jampa Restaurant follows a philosophy of “local ingredients, live fire, and zero waste cuisine” under the stewardship of Netherlands-born Chef Rick Dingen. A winner of Iron Chef Thailand 2020 and former chef de partie at three-Michelin-starred Inter Scaldes in Amsterdam, Dingen established Jampa as a place where he can “work on a daily plan, not a yearly plan.”

“I like to see what’s in the farm and what the boats bring from the sea,” he says, “and then plan a menu. Our chefs visit the organic farm twice a day on their bicycles or with the electric buggy to harvest herbs and vegetables. Serving only vegetables and seafood sourced from the island fishermen, we use ingredients that are nutritious and balanced, and we also try to educate our guests on the benefits of eating fresh and local.”

Unlike at Pru, an à la carte menu is available all day, along with multi-course lunch and dinner menus. Gastronomer Lifestyle enjoyed a five-course feast of Local Hamachi with Finger Lime, Jumpooling, and Seaweed; Farm Egg with Green Pea, Goat Cheese, and Mushroom Dashi; Beetroot and Jicama with Black Garlic and Fish Bone Sauce; Cauliflower with Chorizo and Lardo; Black Grouper with Macadamia, Mizuna and Taling Pling, and Chempedak with Mulberry, Aloe Vera, Thai Cherry, Stingless Bee Honey, Sunchoke, and Quince Pear.

With their strong connection to local produce and environmentally sustainable kitchens, Pru and Jampa have transformed Phuket into an example for other locales in Thailand and around the region to follow.

Pru
60/1 Moo 6, Srisoonthorn Road, Cherngtalay, Thalang, Phuket 83110
prurestaurant.com, 076-683-344

Lunch: Friday–Saturday noon–3pm
Dinner: Tuesday–Saturday 6–10:30pm

Jampa
The Community House, Tri Vananda, 46/6 Moo 3, Thep Krasatti, Thalang, Phuket 83110
jamparestaurant.com, 076-342-122

Lunch: Wednesday–Sunday noon–3pm
Dinner: Wednesday–Sunday 6–10pm

Receive the latest news
Subscribe To Our Monthly Newsletter

Get notified about all our bite-sized food and drink content.