Joe’s Downstairs – this entrance is hiding something stunning
Joe’s Downstairs, Kalim Beach, Patong
Words by Kirsten DurwardPhotos by The Yum List (Monica Tindall)
As soon as you step foot on the stairs leading down to Joe’s your senses are assaulted. First the ears; a funky acoustic beat immediately lifts my mood. Then a smoky waft from the grill drifts to my nostrils, mmmmh. Turning the corner, I pause to take in the sweeping vista that greets me. The whitewashed wood and light structure serves as a framing point for the best view I have seen yet on Phuket. I challenge anyone to come here without snapping a photo to take home and savour.
The Sun is Fading – Time for a CocktailJoe’s Downstairs Outdoor PatioSunset DrinksIt’s just nudging cocktail hour, so that’s where we start. A Martini (THB295) seems a great suggestion for a breezy late afternoon. The Pomegranate style makes a classic dramatic outline against the rocky shore. It’s a visually pleasing drink that is a fine clear mix of Katel One Vodka with Peach Schnapps and pomegranate juice. The Mango is a fuller bodied cocktail that features muddled fresh mango and is a little tropical treat. It’s very smooth on the tongue with great strains of the lime vodka coming through.
Mango MartiniPomegranate MartiniFor something a little different, I’m tempted by a Raspberry Mojito (THB325). And I’m so glad I did. It’s the prettiest drink I’ve seen in a while. I love that it is stuffed with fresh red berries, contrasting splendidly with the mint leaves and limes. It’s refreshing to taste and as always with a good Mojito, gets better as you suck deeper into the rum and brown sugar base.
Raspberry MojitoWith our cocktails we tuck into a few treats from the Tapas Menu, while our lively host Sue keeps us entertained with tales from her many years on the island. White Snapper and Leek Tempura Rolls (THB325), have a good crispy crunch and I’m always a fan of wasabi. But it’s the thick citrus soy syrup that makes this dish and will keep your hand going back for another one.
White Snapper and Leek Tempura Rolls Monica of course is happy to see a full plate of greens. Schezwan Long Beans with a sweet sticky sauce (THB275) are topped with toasted almonds to give a little extra crunch.
French Beans with AlmondsFoie Gras Shu Mei (THB495), served in a bamboo steamer is something totally different. This definitively merges two very different cultures; European and Chinese tastes blend in this original dish. The dumpling outer is very fine and slender, the stuffing very soft and tasty. The tamarind plum sauce of course enhances this moreish dish.
Foie Gras Shu Mei Our last tapas taster is slim slice of Miso Glazed Black Cod (THB385) that’s moist and fresh. We both adore the bed of sesame cabbage and linger over the fresh mango salad with coriander and a hint of chili. It’s fresh and perfectly balanced and I could eat more spoonfuls of that.
Miso Glazed Black CodBefore we dig into our mains, Sue opens a bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (THB2150), which, she says, will match the crab cake treat to come. At this point we are game for anything, but everyone knows how much we love our Sauvignon Blanc, so we’re happy! The Manu proves to be a fresh and fragrant wine that has our tongues buzzing from the first sip. It’s subtly imbued with passion fruit, gooseberry and lime notes. The crisp dryness is indeed perfect for our fish dishes.
Manu Sauvignon BlancSue tells us that she loves to share the Premium Crab Cake (THB685) with guests, as it’s something special. And, despite her marketing background, she’s not overselling this one. Sue smiles widely as the crab cake is served, ‘I like to share this with people,’ she states simply and allows us to dive in, watching for a reaction. Which she gets! This crab cake is spectacular. We’ve never had one like it and I’m willing to bet, neither have you. The crispiest crumb coating breaks apart to reveal layers and layers of flaky Blue Crab, flavoured with just a tickle of spice to tantalise, the texture is amazing teamed with the creamy avocado salsa and sharp lemon vinaigrette. Definitely the best crab cake I’ve tasted in Phuket, in Thailand, and beyond. It’s worth a visit just to eat this.
Crab CakeThe fish of the day is lightly curry dusted sea bass filet (THB725), which sounds so good we just have to try it. It comes crispy fried, and white and flaky inside. As the knife goes in, the fish separates easily into meaty looking chunks. I simply love the taste of unadulterated fresh fish, and I’m so glad that this piece has not been sauced over. It’s perfectly seasoned and the slippery white flesh is just divine with its light dusting of curry. It’s a perfect teaming with a forkful of the fresh mint and green apple salad and nam gim emulsion. Simple, but delightful!
Pan Seared Sea Bass Dusted with CurryThe white wine is going down a treat, but the double order of duck and beef means that a red is called for by my taste buds. I decide to try out one of the several organic wines by the glass: an Australian Pinot Noir seems like a good bet at this point in time. The ‘Splash’ 2010 (THB435 glass) from Yarra fills the mouth wonderfully with a slight spiciness and definite references to soft red fruit. It balances nicely not too dry and lingers well with the meaty dishes.
Organic RedI had my eye on the Duck 2 Ways (THB1195) pan seared breast and confit leg, sounds just yummy. And it is! We’re falling a little bit in love with the ‘New World’ style food at Joe’s. The breast is firm and dense with a little mustardy kick to the sauce. The confit leg is falling beautifully off the bone; you don’t actually need a knife for this as it just falls apart to the touch. A blackcurrant reduction is sweet and dark, giving a beautiful densely flavoured boost to the tender meatiness of this duck dish. Pureed potato is perfectly smooth and soaks up the mingling sauces beautifully.
Duck 2 WaysWe’re not big steak eaters but restaurant manager Tonino, when pressed, suggests the Ultimate Steak (THB 2695) as his recommended dish. I have to say the description does sound good.
The Ultimate SteakImmediately we cut in and the knife slides through like butter. Oh this is sensational! Soft, scrummy, perfectly seasoned 400 day aged Wagyu beef with a crispy caramelized chargrilling. Just what is that taste? A black truffle demi glaze? Well that explains why Monica is scraping it off her knife. ‘I think this might be the best steak I’ve tasted,’ sighs Sue, and I have to concur that it’s pretty special. The leek, potato and bacon base is dense and a little greasy, but it’s good grease, the kind you want to soak up from the grill. Dripping with satisfaction, I have to say, ‘Thank you Tonino for the suggestion!’ Be warned that this denizen of deliciousness was a daily special, but I’m sure if you mentioned it when booking, something could be arranged. The Ultimate Steak is dish of the day for both of us, which is something coming from our veggie loving Yum girl! I said it once I will say it again – simply sensational!
Slice of WagyuAfter all of that I’m really enjoying a cold pressed towel imbued with the signature scent of lemongrass. It’s so delightful. As we take pause to enjoy the pinks and purples streaking into the sky, we remark on the beauty of this unique location. Sue comments that it is very popular for weddings and we can see why, with the white sands of tiny Kalim Beach, the dramatic rocks and the foaming sea.
Gorgeous ViewsFor once I am almost reluctant for dessert, the mains have been so filling and so tasty. But Sue twists our arms to try one, ‘just one between us’ with a digestif. To complement our chocolate pot, Monica selects Ron Zacapa 23 years (THB450) over ice. A new find on this trip, we have both loved the mellow caramel tones of this aged Guatemalan rum. I’m happy with a balloon of my beloved Armagnac, not something I find a lot of in Asia, but Phuket has been good to me. This one is a fruity Chateau De Labache XO (THB595), and its simply delightful sipping overlooking the dipping sun.
Digestives – Rum and ArmangacI cannot believe that I am eating chocolate dessert for the 4th day in a row. I’m going to have to up the exercise programme for sure. This one is served with a creamy vanilla ice cream to the side. At first I think it is a white chocolate mousse but then realize that is just a light cream topping. The first spoonful reveals a silky light texture and an intriguing double taste that has us all musing, Caramel? Coffee? Butterscotch? We settle on butterscotch-coffee chocolate, and all agree that it’s delightful, and not too filling, thankfully!
Chocolate DessertWe’ve had a wonderful afternoon at Joe’s and it’s testament to the quality of the restaurant that we’ve eaten food of this standard while the head chef is out of the country. Everyone in the kitchen must be superbly trained and en pointe. Impressive. I’m already planning how to bring my girlfriends over for the weekend. I know they are all going to love it. It’s not too extravagant to fly from Kuala Lumpur for dinner is it?
Pretty Sunset Viewed from Joe’s DownstairsReasons to visit: I don’t think I’ve said this before: Everything! All of it! Divine location. Amazing views. Delicious food. Blissful beef. The best Crab Cake in Thailand. Wonderful wine list. Colourful Cocktails. Superb service. Seriously. Anyone planning a trip to Phuket? Go. To. Joe’s.
Joe’s Downstairs 223/3 Prabaramee RoadPatong BeachPhuket, Thailand+66 76 344 354http://firstname.lastname@example.org
Food Blog by: THe Yum List