Raya Restaurant is simply the Thai restaurant in Phuket Town. Set in a renovated Sino-Thai mansion originally built at the beginning of the 20th century, this venue literally takes its patrons back to the past, and serves them such a delicious genuine local cuisine that movie stars, prime ministers, and royalty frequent this establishment while they are in Phuket.
Located on New Dibuk Road, on the side of Phuket Old Town, Raya Restaurant is certainly the best venue to discover Thai cuisine at its best; especially their crab curry, which is often ordered even from Bangkok and delivered by plane!
Where Is It?
Raya is on the continuation of Dibuk Road heading east – on New Dibuk Road. The 90-year-old converted two-storey house is somewhat overshadowed by the newly built, next-door Shintaro Japanese restaurant but use the bright-red Shintaro signage as your landmark. Raya is located to the back at the side.
Think Sino-Thai with a generous splash of Portuguese colonial thrown in and you'll get the picture. Raya may be old but she has aged gracefully and the zig-zag stairways in the centre of the restaurant are the original ones.
The mosaic tiled flooring is also original (and impossible to replace these days) as are 50's-era tea and coffee poster-girl ads and pictures of Thai monarchs. It's all the Real McCoy and tulip-shaped wall light shades add to the olde worlde effect.
Over by the bar, four signature-and-message-splattered whiteboards hang and an ancient windup gramophone graces the door area.
Totally unlike Phuket's other top restaurants, Raya exudes a Sino-Thai atmosphere with no hint whatsoever of tourist-related compromise.
Local businessmen, families and just plain locals make up the clientele. With sotto voce Thai ballads complete with lots of tinkling piano and florid orchestral arrangements, brighter-than-normal lighting (but thankfully no neon) and a no-nonsense attitude, no one can claim that Raya is a romantic hotspot – at least in the western sense.
But if good food in a retro-Asian atmosphere is your thing, you'll be in seventh heaven at Raya.
The menu has an eight-label list featuring two French, one Chilean and five Australian wines with none over 850 baht.
You can choose a hearty Chateau Beyran Bordeaux or maybe a lighter Hardy's Sauvignon Blanc to complement the spicy food.
We opt for a Chilean Augustinos Cabernet Sauvignon that slides down well with the multi-flavoured dishes. Beer, also good with Thai food, is also available.
The owner, Khun Kulab, is a keen restaurateur and is in great demand with orders coming in even from as far away as Bangkok.
She has trained several prominent Thai-food chefs on the island and her signature dishes include a sensational crabmeat curry served with rice vermicelli, caramelized and braised pork belly, spicy Phuket prawns, deep-fried sea bass with shallots and red chillies in tamarind and lemongrass sauce.
The crabmeat curry is especially noteworthy as the chunks of flesh are enormous – reputed to be the largest on the island. Phuket prawns pack a spicy punch while the braised pork is sinfully sweet and juicy.
It's no wonder that the list of people who have eaten here reads like an A-list of movie stars, Prime Ministers, Royalty and TV personalities, although this restaurant does not even advertise. The beauty of it all is that most prices remain low and almost laughably so for those used to shelling out at tourist prices. With an upstairs section, there's room enough for 150 covers so if you're looking for a banqueting destination Raya admirably fits the bill, only phone ahead first.
- crabmeat curry served with rice vermicelli
- spicy Phuket prawns
- deep-fried sea bass with shallots and red chillies in tamarind and lemongrass sauce
- caramelized and braised pork belly
Unobtrusive, discreet and obliging, the service is efficient and brisk while Khun Kulab and her witty sister keep everything personal and warm.
Finally, Si-tong – the 'real owner' – a well-fed tabby cat adds more of a personal touch as he does his rounds.
Cooking classes available – phone for information.
- Opening Hours: 10:00 - 22:00
- Location: 48 New Dibuk Road, Phuket Old Town
- Tel: +66 (0)7 621 8155, +66(0)7 623 2236
- Cuisine: Thai