I love surprises. We were heading out to a relatively new resort on the northern side of Hua Hin. The resort was impressive as we wandered through it’s clipped gardens and lawns. Three story high accommodation buildings sit on either side of resort’s pools – pools that seemed to go on forever. All the guest rooms are east facing with pool views. Our walk takes us further and further into the resort heading for our destination “Brezza” to taste their soon to be launched new menu.
The location that “Brezza” sits in is a surprise in itself. The waters of the Gulf of Thailand lapping against an expansive 50 meter wide sea wall set the scene. Generous expanses of manicured lawns. An abundance of relaxing seating all facing the water and a line comfortable tables and chairs right on the ocean front with candles twinkling as the last of the afternoon light faded.
Steps lead up to an open air cocktail bar off to one side of the lawn. Should we perch there for pre-dinner drinks or at one of the comfortable tables beside the water? Water side it is, enjoying the brezza (Italian for breeze) as a gentle sunset happens behind us!
Avani Hua Hin’s Executive Chef John Ranaudo joins us to introduce himself and explain a little of the food journey he will take us on this evening. Canadian by birth, and Italian by heritage, John parents relocated the family back to Italy when he was 14. On leaving school he completed his culinary training in Tuscany before travelling the world as a Chef.
Italy and Tuscany are places he returns to whenever life permits – to see family and reacquaint himself with the traditional food of his home region. Honest food focused on tradition – not the latest food trend!
This style of food could be called ‘cucina povera’ when translated literally, means “poor kitchen.” It indeed refers to the frugal genius of Italian home cooks who made the most of the produce they gathered from their gardens, forests, oceans, and backyard coops. Cooking that has simple, fresh seasonal ingredients as the hero. Cooking focused on taste and simplicity. Food for the family to enjoy while sharing time together!
Under Chef John’s guidance “Brezza” is changing from it’s current more traditional Italian style restaurant that can be found most anywhere, to one focused on something that Hua Hin and Thailand have in abundance – seafood – in all its glory but with that unique Italian influence!
Our first taste of this new food styling was a crispy Endive and Apple Salad, topped with toasted almonds, shallots and capers, dressed in balsamic and olive oil. The slight bitterness of the endive countered by the sweetness of the apple. And to top the salad off – small deep fried Taleggio cheese croquettes. A soft washed rind cheese, traditionally from Lombardy, with an exciting, pungent and aromatic taste. A salad of simplicity with the perfect balance of flavors and textures.
Other starters and appetizers our group dived into included a perfectly tasty and authentic deep fried Calamari and Vegetables with garlic mayo, and a Seafood casserole. This dish is from the coastal regions of Tuscany and Liguria called ‘Cacciucco’ which traditionally used the fish left at the bottom of the boat after the fishermen had sold their days catch. Chef John’s seafood casserole has been elevated and included sautéed mussels, prawns, and scallops – all siting in rich tomato based sauce with chili, garlic and white wine and presented with thin slices of toasted garlic focaccia bread. The underlying richly flavoured seafood stock in the sauce with just the right amount of chilli heat brought this dish together.
Next up was a Seafood Risotto made with Italian Carnaroli rice infused with saffron and topped with small twirls of grilled vegetables. The lobster and crab stock used to cook the rice adds an extra layer of depth to this scrumptious seafood rich risotto.
Not in the mood for seafood – no problems!
Grilled meats will also be available, or you could try the Tuscan Pici Pasta. Homemade ‘Pici’ pasta with braised beef tenderloin in red wine and tomato sauce. Originating from the Tuscan province of Siena, pici or pinci pasta are thick strands of pasta made with a simple dough of flour and water that is cut into strips and then hand-rolled. It is like a thick spaghetti and slightly uneven in thickness due to the hand rolling. Perfect with this rich, meaty sauce.
Flame grilled food, and especially local seafood, will star on the new menu. To showcase this we were presented with a platter containing a whole grilled sea bass, jumbo prawns butterflied and cooked in their shell, melt in your mouth squid, and New Zealand mussels. Barbecue heaven!
Given our food journey had taken us this far, how could we not try desserts?
Grand Marnier Semifreddo – a light parfait style dessert flavoured with Grand Marnier sitting on a dark chocolate sauce and sprinkled with pieces of fine almond croquant. Or my favourite, Pineapple flambés. Thin slices of fresh local pineapple, flambé with local rum and topped with coconut ice cream.
Brezza is an evolving story taking the abundance of our local seafood that both Thai and Italian cuisines hold in a place of honour, and serving it with an authentic Italian twist. In my mind, a marriage made in heaven. Brezza’s new menu will be available from the first week of August.
Brezza can be found on the ocean side of Avani Hua Hin Resort & Villas. The restaurant can be contacted +66 32 898 989, or firstname.lastname@example.org Weekdays the restaurant opens for dinner only 6:00 pm – 10:30 pm. On Saturday & Sundays Brezza operates from 12:00 noon – 10:30 pm. There is parking at the Phetkasem Rd end of the resort with additional parking adjacent to Brezza which can be accessed if you come down the small Soi just before Avani, with the sign ‘Devasom Hua Hin Resort’.
Come be tantalised and surprised at “Brezza”!
By Michael Cullen