Since its establishment in 2009, Acqua has become the go-to restaurant in Phuket for Italian and the reason is chiefly the chef-owner, Alessandro Frau’s commitment to imparting his native Italian experiences to customers through his cooking. Thailand Tatler gets in touch with the head chef, who has worked everywhere from London, Paris and Sweden to Mexico and, of course, Italy, to talk about the qualities that have led to Acqua’s achievement of our Best Upcountry Restaurant award in our Best Restaurants Guide this year.
How does it feel to win the Best Upcountry Restaurant 2017 award?
Winning this award means a lot to us. It is such an honour to be selected by an institution like Thailand Tatler. Being in Phuket, it is not easy because we are not in a main city like Bangkok, under the eyes of media and of a city of more than 12 million inhabitants who are, moreover, well-educated on food and wine. So, the value feels double for us.
Tell us about the cuisine you serve here.
Our cuisine concept is 100 per cent authentic Italian food, focusing on the best ingredients from mainly Italy. We import 90 per cent of our ingredients. Fresh products and fish are delivered from Europe twice a week. My personal cooking style centres on ingredients. I like to express the quality of an ingredient, which includes the story behind it. Another important aspect of my cooking are my experiences from my childhood in Sardinia until today. We keep the Italian philosophy and culture but innovate with modern cooking techniques and trends. Nevertheless, we always maintain the link to our Italian roots.
Where does the name Acqua come from?
Acqua means water in Italian. Water has been always part of my life. I was born on an island, Sardinia, surrounded by one of the best waters of the world - the Mediterranean Sea. When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time by the sea, fishing all year around, surfing in the winter and relaxing on a beautiful beach in the summer. I really had a life around the sea and when I think about water, I think about something positive, something fresh, clear and clean. This is what I have transferred to the ambience and interiors of Acqua restaurant. It is fresh, clear and clean with a touch of elegance.
What should people definitely order at Acqua and why are these dishes so outstanding?
In the eight years we’ve been open, we have created so many signature dishes. For instance, an icon we’ve had since the beginning which we can’t remove due to its popularity is the Pan-fried US scallops with Rougie foie gras, peperoncino jam and truffle pumpkin sauce. More recent but very popular entries would be the Sous-vide cooked octopus salad with Taggiasche olives and micro herbs and the 45-minute slow-cooked eggs on a Parmigiano Reggiano fondue, crispy pancetta powder and Italian fresh black truffle. We also can’t fail to mention our Wood-fired suckling pig served with violet and saffron mash potato, broad beans and a suckling pig sauce. I must stop here because the list would go on and on! I think what makes them special are the four fundamentals of our cuisine: ingredients, cooking technique, story and presentation. All four have to be perfection and click together.
What are the biggest challenges you face everyday as a restaurant?
One is the low season in Phuket but thanks to our residents and the special events we organize, we manage to keep going. Another challenge we face everyday is reminding the staff on how our cuisine and restaurant hospitality should be executed to our customers. As we offer an Italian experience but most of our staff are Thai, we have to teach them the Italian experience, from cooking to serving. But I am very proud of what they’ve accomplished. We get compliments from customers saying that not even some restaurants in Italy provide as quality of an experience!
If you had to give this award to another restaurant in Phuket, who would you give it to?
To deserve an award like this, you have to be passionate. You have to love what you do. You have to invest both your personal life and money to achieve top-level gourmet experience for your customers. In Phuket, I can see the chef-owner of Suay restaurant, chef Tammasak, holding this award. His approach is very passionate and he is very dedicated to his work. He is also a very humble person and for me, this completes a good chef.
(Also read: Best Interior Design: The Dining Room)
Now that you’ve achieved this award from us, what’s next?
We will continue to work in the same way we have done in all the past years: with lots of love, passion and curiosity and always looking into the evolution of cooking and restaurant service.