Four Seasons Resort Koh Samui Presents ZA A’TAR

Celebrating the vibrant flavours and special menus from the Levant region
December 7, 2023,
Koh Samui, Thailand

Long-loved tales from the Levant are being told in the kitchens of Four Seasons Resort Koh Samui by Executive Chef Ruslan Shipunov and his culinary brigade, as they conjure up Middle-Eastern magic at the Beach House. Here in the serenity of a private cove setting, with expansive views of the irresistible Gulf of Thailand, this pop-up promotional menu features an exotic array of mezzes and salads, as well as juicy kebabs – fresh from the grill and served with a sizzle. “Expect a riot of flavours and fresh produce that pay homage to the people of the Levant and their fondness for food,” says Shipunov.

The unobstructed views of the glistening sea at night set the tone for a celebratory mood with an open-air ambience and rousing sounds of Arabian tunes. “The open kitchen and expansive outdoor deck pair well to create a friendly and family-oriented ambience where groups and celebrations can be easily accommodated,” smiles Branka Novakovic, Director of Restaurants and Bar.

Lasting Connection

At the ocean's edge here in Koh Samui, Novakovic is reminded of her youth, growing up along another stretch of the Mediterranean coast, with Greek, Italian, and Turkish flavours all around her. “There is much diversity across the Mediterranean,” she insists. “And the people of the region are especially known for their hospitality and generosity when it comes to food.”

The history and culture of the Levantine region traces back thousands of years with the most recent influences being that of the Ottoman Turks, under whom the cuisine took on a variety of accents including that of Egyptian and North African flavours. “As a more romantic concept today, Levantine food has come to represent a celebration of the rich heritage of Syria and Lebanon in particular, one that is synonymous with finesse and feasting,” shares Shipunov.

Sustainable Plates

The name ZA A’TAR itself conjures up images of the Levant, representing an exotic blend of spices including sumac, oregano, thyme, marjoram and sesame seeds that together produce an irresistible aroma. “While the spices and other special ingredients for the pop-up are sourced directly from the Middle East and suppliers in Bangkok, much of the core of this menu is harvested right here in Thailand,” says the Executive Chef. From Chiang Mai heirloom tomatoes and prawns from Surat Thani, to avocados and eggplants from the Royal Project in Northern Thailand and freshly caught sea bass from local fisherman, this is a sustainable menu that champions local produce like no other. “I recommend the locally sourced seabass in harra sauce for a fresh taste of the Gulf of Thailand,” he smiles.

Curated Passion

The depth of knowledge about the cuisine comes from Shipunov’s experience of working with exotic spices and herbs through his career. “Eating together and eating heartily is very much in the DNA of the people from the Levant – our mezze and kebab platters are a reflection of this culture and guests can sample a variety of dishes while sharing the meal with the family,” he adds. Rich in olive oil, fresh herbs and seafood, the food from the region is recognised for its positive impact on cholesterol, blood sugar, and overall heart health. “One important aspect of Levantine food that is often overlooked is that it is one of the most robust and healthy cuisines in the world,” he suggests. The recipes on the menu at ZA A’TAR showcase this wonderful balance, with a wealth of healthy salads, vegan and seafood options. Classics such as the watermelon and halloumi salad are elevated here to deliver a mouth-watering punch of flavour, while packed with anti-oxidants and vitamins.

Sip and Savour

“There is a special focus on the beverage concept here too,” explains Bar Manager I Made Dwiki Pragoya. The menu showcases influences from various parts of the region, highlighted by non-alcoholic and low-alcoholic cocktails. Competing for complexity, a Moroccan tea-infused Casablanca and a cloudy, caramelised pineapple-flavoured Hidden Madinat headline the menu. “Levantine food is never complete without something sweet to round things off,” Novakovic reminds. At ZA A’ TAR, the selection of rice puddings, baklava, and kanafeh – all richly draped in toasted pistachio and honey - make for a fulfilling meal experience.