Most people, chefs especially, do not appreciate overuse of the 'F' word. It's considered low class, facile and insulting. Even though the 'F' word was all the rage several years back, nowadays most diners have experienced both good and bad fusion cooking and can discern the difference.
One of the best fusion setups in Phuket is Tatonka restaurant, run by well-travelled über-chef Harold Schwarz. Open since 1996, Tatonka has a dedicated following of both locals and regular visitors from overseas.
'Tatonka' is the North American Indian word for a buffalo and the restaurant follows through this theme with tepee-like textile ceiling hangings, Indian wall leitmotifs, pastel shades, soft lighting and natural stone flooring.
To the side, a vine-covered alfresco dining space provides a breezy alternative while the inside is fan-cooled.
The 50-cover restaurant makes clever use of space and features an open kitchen.
As befitting a chef who has travelled and worked far and wide, the atmosphere at Tatonka is quietly cosmopolitan. And as the restaurant has many repeat clients, it buzzes with life later on, yet is never over rushed or frenetic.
Tatonka sits back, away from the road so there is no unwanted noise and this allows country-tinged background music to complement table conversation.
A 20-label wine list derived from several suppliers handles things nicely while a very reasonably priced Italian house wine served by glass and carafe goes well with the fusion dishes.
We sample a Spanish Syrera Rosados 2007 which, despite being full bodied, does not take over in the same way as a full red would.
Several countries are represented on the list, even Austria, with an interesting Grüner Veltliner and the list is divided not by nationality but by grape type.
Chef Harold's menu is totally based on local produce with the exception of imported Australian beef. With a strong Cajun (southwest USA) influence as well as fusion between Asian and Western tastes and preparation it's a safe bet to say that Tatonka is an absolute one-off, unique culinary experience.
Seared-blackened tuna with honey-based wasabi with crispy Vietnamese-style rolls along with crab cakes start the evening off impressively while pomello-and-prawn salad is light and refreshing.
A plate of Saigon beef, green mango and bacon packs an explosive taste and is followed by spiced gazpacho with an eggplant cookie served with creamy goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes.
Next up is a barramundi, a giant sea perch, served filleted on a bed of hydroponic Thai water cress and this recently popularised fish is perfectly presented and prepared. All this varied food is excellent and certainly tasty so we decide to return another time to check out Tatonka's well-recognised dessert menu.
• Blackened bonito (tuna) with cucumber seaweed salad
• Sashimi springrolls in Saigon paper with honey wasabi dip
• Sechan duck breast with crispy wonton noodles
• Spiced gazpacho with crispy eggplant cookies and goat cheese
Like other top-range restaurants in Phuket, Tatonka is not only about the food – which is excellent – it's about a memorable dining experience.
From the owner down, staff members at this restaurant and unfailingly courteous, efficient and friendly and this makes for an agreeable and memorable, feel-good evening out.
Where Is It?
Tatonka is situated in stylish Tinlay Place, just outside the Laguna Complex, near Bang Tao Beach. Technically speaking, Tatonka is in Cherng Talay, some three kilometres from Surin Beach.
If you are staying at one of the Laguna Hotels either catch a shuttle bus to complex's gates or call Tatonka for a free lift. If coming from the other direction, turn at the traffic lights by the police station in Cherng Talay.
- Opening Hours: 18:00 – late. Closed Sundays
- Location: Tinlay Place, Cherng Talay
- Tel: 076 324 349