Crave Restaurant & Lounge – More Than Just A Great Burger in Koh Phangan
We initially passed it. Driving at night on our scooter we were distracted by the lights of the 711 across the street and missed the sign pointing the way to the restaurant and its entrance through the walkway between two buildings. Once we had backtracked and parked we made our way through the dim lit pathway that lead us up a set of stairs to the dining area and were struck with a feeling of home.
When travelling at length, there are times when we yearn for it, look for it and sometimes even forget exactly what it feels like. Fortunately there are those moments, whether it be a smell, the place we are in, a moment in time, where we get that feeling again. That comfortable, warm, embracing feeling of being somewhere familiar, somewhere that feels just a bit closer to home. That’s exactly how we felt as we sat down at Crave Restaurant in Koh Tao, Thailand and looked around. It probably looked anything but like someplace from home – The dark wood, dimlit decor with rice steamer light fixtures and bench-like seating surrounding the edge of the dining area was brightened with strings of dancing lights along the railing. The treehouse-like feel of the restaurant matched the hot tropical climate but it had that comfortable and inviting feel of being home.
What we especially loved about the interior was the bench seating where we each were able to recline against a triangle pillow beside the table rather than the traditional table and chairs that were present in the centre of the restaurant. We ordered a glass of their homemade iced tea and one of their homemade lemonade and settled back to peruse the menu. The sound of blocks crashing on a nearby table and the call of “Jenga!” alerted us to the games provided in the centre of the restaurant. Games such as Jenga and dominoes were up for grabs and added to the casual atmosphere of this otherwise trendy looking space.
The iced tea was, truly, homemade with a bold orange pekoe flavour and a hint of mint. The lemonade was refreshing and had a perfect sweet and sour balance even with the tartness of the added lime. The really interesting and surprising element was the subtle cinnamon that coloured each taste. These were two great drinks to start the meal. Although we opted for two non-alcoholic beverages, Crave has a happy hour from 5-7pm for select cocktails and their drink menu includes homemade Sangria and homemade marinated spirits.
With the rich, mouthwatering smells eminating from the kitchen, we were salivating before we could even decide what to order off the menu, and that decision proved harder than we expected. Each dish described sounded so good that we enlisted the help of one of their incredibly friendly waitresses. With her guidance and further explanations of each dish, we made our choices and anxiously awaited the first course.
We started with an appetizer of Yummy Hummus. The garlic-toasted slices of baguette with tomato, carrots, beans and cucumber were presented cleanly around a bowl of homeamde hummus. The hummus was smooth with flavours that were not overpowering but instead were well-blended. It also did not have that sour bite that one usually finds. It didn’t take us long to finish off the hummus with the veggies and bread and although the portion was a good size, it was so good we were still left wishing there was more.
As we waited for our meal to arrive, we were fortunate to have the owner, and head chef, join us at our table for a chat. Fellow Canadian, Valerie, hails from Quebec and while she’s lived in Thailand for several years, she retains her Canadian roots in some of the food she serves, such as poutine. Although not formally trained, Valerie has established a pretty impressive menu with a majority of the fare, down to mayo, being homemade. We chatted for quite some time, discussing her migration to Thailand, opening the restaurant and about her life back in Canada. It felt as though we were catching up with an old friend.
We were incredibly excited when our main dishes came. The deluxe burger looked and smelled amazing. In Thailand, the beef is relatively difficult to work with as it is pretty much tasteless. Typically, if you are getting a flavourful burger, it’s made with beef from New Zealand but this burger, made from Thai beef, was delicious and packed full of flavor between a fresh, toasted bun. The brie cheese, bacon and homemade mayo were a great combination and the side of poutine was a perfect complement. True, it’s difficult to get the proper tasting components for a good poutine in Thailand. The cheese is much different and the potatoes are often watery, but this Thai-style poutine worked incredibly well. The side of coleslaw was another delicious and welcome addition to the meal. This burger was so good we had to include it in our top places to find a burger on Koh Phangan!
Our other main was the beef kabob wrap with a side salad. Sliced beef, hummus, mayo, veggies and fresh coriander came together in this truly tasty wrap without one of the ingredients overpowering the other. The balsamic dressed salad was a nice zesty pairing and the dish was thoroughly enjoyable.
While we had two meat dishes, Crave definitely has vegetarian options and Valerie is working on a new menu incorporating more meat-free options! Check out Crave’s Facbook page for the new menu!
We do not have any photos of the carrot cake we had for dessert. As we took it back to the hotel with us to save for later, we had every intention of taking photos but as soon as we opened the lid, the smell of the cinnamon had us thinking only about tasting the sweet treat in front of us. We were told that if we liked carrot cake, we would like this one and we were definitely in agreement. Freshly baked, moist and with a slight taste of cinnamon, the cake with cream cheese frosting was probably the best carrot cake we have ever had.
Leaving Crave that night, we stepped onto the streets of Koh Phangan, Thailand and realized that for a short time we were transported from this country to a place that felt like home with an owner and chef that felt like an old friend. We were left feeling grateful for finding such a restaurant and regretful that we hadn’t found it sooner.
56/7 Moo 8
Haad Yao West, Koh Phangan
Surat Thani, Thailand
Tel: +66(0) 89 2116923
Crave is located across from the 7/11 and is open from 5pm-11pm everyday EXCEPT Tuesdays. Be sure to check their website for their annual closures which generally occur a few weeks in October and again in April.