This review of Dining by Design at the Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp is part of a trip report including Asiana First Class and luxury resorts and dining in northern Thailand and Cambodia. For the previous posts, please see:
SWISS Lounge JFK Terminal 4 Review
Review: Asiana First Class Suite NYC JFK to Seoul ICN
Park Hyatt Seoul Review
Review: Cornerstone Restaurant, Park Hyatt Seoul
Lounge Review: Asiana Business Class Lounge Seoul Incheon
Asiana Business Class A330 Review
Review: Novotel Bangkok Airport Hotel Suite
Review: Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp and Resort
Anantara Golden Triangle Sala Mae Nam Restaurant Review and Menu
Mahout Experience at Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp
The Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp and Resort is a Virtuoso hotel, so TravelSort Clients receive these benefits when booking a qualifying rate:
- Upgrade at time of booking, subject to availability (During peak holiday period Dec. 16 – Jan. 6, Upgrade at time of arrival, subject to availability applies)
- $100 USD Resort or Hotel credit, to be utilized during stay (not combinable, not valid on room rate, no cash value if not redeemed in full)
- Daily Buffet breakfast, for up to two in room guests (included in all-inclusive rates)
- Early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability
Even if you're not sure you're ready for elephant mahout training, one of the experiences you should definitely not miss at the Anantara Golden Triangle is Dining by Design. As a special experience, it is at extra cost, but it's magical to be close up, feeding “your” elephants, and also be able to enjoy a delicious dinner while watching the elephants socialize. Sometimes it almost looked as though they were telling each other jokes:
Dining by Design, as a private dining experience, can be set in different locations within the resort, such as the lower terrace overlooking the Mekong River or near the rice paddies, but the most popular location is at the baby elephant camp. We opted for an early dinner, so our son wouldn't be up too late past his bedtime, and were taken in a hardy jeep up to the pavilion. The elephants were ready for us!
You're able to choose your menu beforehand, either Western or Thai. There were actually 9 different menus to choose from, and certainly delicious sounding Western menu options, such as Bouillabaisse, Pan-fried Sea Bass with Chardonnay Cream Sauce, Grilled Australian Beef Tenderloin with Port Wine Reduction and others, but since we were at the Anantara only two nights and love Thai food, I selected the Galangal Menu. I asked to modify the appetizer and the dessert, and this was no problem.
When we arrived, we found a beautifully set up pavilion, with flowers and candlelight. While we wanted our experience to be a family dinner so our son could enjoy it as well (it's not every day you get to feed elephants!), it would be very romantic for a couple.
Our friendly host had even created a welcome leaf for us:
First up, before we dined, was feeding the elephants…the first of several feedings that evening–elephants eat a LOT 🙂
Since the munchkin was a bit cold and pretty hungry himself, I fed them first:
Then it was my husband's turn:
Next we washed up (there's a little washroom down the steps from the pavilion) and sat down to dinner. Our appetizer, for which I'd specifically requested Sai Oua, was delicious. It's Laotian sausage also popular in Northern Thai sausage, redolent with lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime, chilis and garlic. Even our son enjoyed some of it, although after a few pieces he said it was too spicy for him.
While my photo doesn't do it justice, the Tom Yum Goong was the best I'd ever had. This is a northern Thai soup with prawns, roasted dry chili, fresh herbs and lime juice–no coconut milk since coconut milk is used in southern Thai cooking. Again, not exactly munchkin food, but my husband and I were thrilled with the authenticity of the flavors and spice levels. I'd arranged for sticky rice and barbecued chicken for our son, so he was happy as a clam as well.
There were three main dishes, including my husband's favorite of green curry (Southern Thai, but executed very well) and also Phad Kra Praow, Thai wok-fried prawn with fresh hot basil, garlic and chili. The prawns were succulent, and again, plenty of fresh chili to keep our mouths tingling, plus nice textural contrast from the crispy fried hot basil leaves:
The only dish that we didn't particularly care for was the Num Prig Long Ruea, described as an old style mince pork and shrimp chili dip accompanied by salted egg and crunch green leaves. It was a bit too salty for us, but I was still glad that we tried it. I'd rather taste some things that are prepared authentically and flavored the way locals would eat them, even if I only eat it once and don't care for it, rather than have some kind of bland and watered down version only made for tourists. And in any case, given how much we enjoyed everything else, it wasn't as if we were going hungry–this was a feast.
Before our dessert we got to feed the elephants one of their favorite desserts–sugar cane. The munchkin, no longer cranky from hunger and warmed by the little shawl our host improvised for him (note to self–the Golden Triangle area does get chilly in the evenings, at least for kids) was ready to feed the elephants their sweet treat:
Then it was time for our own dessert. Again, it doesn't look like much in the photo, but the Young Coconut Pie with Vanilla Ice Cream was fantastic–a must order, if you enjoy coconut. In fact, I plan to write the resort to request the recipe, it was that good.
A final special touch was writing our wishes on a lantern–our host had already drawn some cute elephants on it–and releasing it into the night sky. Then it was time to thank our host, the mahouts, and the chef and return to the resort, after a magical evening.