Dining Out 2 minutes 22 June 2023

Where To Eat In Phuket’s Rawai & Chalong Areas?

Often overlooked because of their lack of big brand hotels, Rawai and Chalong are still worthy of a visit for these four restaurants alone.

Bib Gourmand Phuket Street Food Thai Thailand

There’s a lot to love about Phuket: postcard-perfect beaches; lush, jungly coastlines; and more fresh seafood than you can eat. But beyond the glossy beach clubs and luxe hotels of the north, and just outside the heritage hub of Phuket Town, we often find ourselves wandering back to Rawai, the mellow, jungly town on the island’s southernmost tip. Located far enough from the airport that it’s often overlooked by the large swaths of tourists (though, it’s getting much busier post-pandemic), and because the area is devoid of big hotel brands, Rawai and neighbouring Chalong maintain a local, somewhat grittier vibe that gives way to a decidedly true-to-its-roots culinary scene.

And when it comes to impossibly fresh seafood, you can do no better than this slice of island. With thriving fishing villages to the west and one of Phuket’s busiest piers to the east, Rawai does Thai seafood at its best.

If you find yourself on the south end of the island, we highly recommend you save a meal (or four) for these restaurants.

Lunch at Mook Manee, anyone? (© Michelin)
Lunch at Mook Manee, anyone? (© Michelin)

Mook Manee (Bib Gourmand, MICHELIN Guide Thailand 2023)
There are plenty of restaurants that line Rawai Beach, but none are as famous as Mook Manee, the sprawling 300 seater that is sandwiched between the pier and the local seafood market. Walking in, you’ll probably notice the tanks of live fish and seafood of all varieties. Yes, that fresh-off-the-boat haul is where your meal will come from, and, go ahead, pick what you’d like to eat and how you’d like it served. Steamed blue swimming crab? Can do. Clams in southern-style curry? Done! Hunky tiger prawns in tom yum soup? All yours.

Pro tip: Our most important tip for visiting Mook Manee is to come hungry and come with a group so you can order as much as possible.

Southern delicacies at Mor Mu Dong. (© Michelin, Mor Mu Dong)
Southern delicacies at Mor Mu Dong. (© Michelin, Mor Mu Dong)

Mor Mu Dong (Bib Gourmand, MICHELIN Guide Thailand 2023)
If you feel like you took a wrong turn, you’re going the right direction. This jungly restaurant down a side road in Chalong has made its name for its unusual Southern Thai dishes, like the island-renowned pla tu yat sai, or mackerel stuffed with spicy curry paste. Here, you’re dining surrounded by mangrove swamps in open-air bamboo huts. The setting is decidedly rustic, but the flavours are nothing but sophisticated. We love the stir-fried squid with black ink, the crispy fried smelt in turmeric, and the delightfully chunky crab rolls—but really, you can do no wrong here. The restaurant is spacious, but do not be surprised if you have to wait for a table. Phuket locals and food-motivated tourists swarm the place from as early as 11 am.

Samut means ocean in Thai. (© Samut)
Samut means ocean in Thai. (© Samut)

Samut (Recommended, MICHELIN Guide Thailand 2023)
Are you a fan of Chef Thitid “Ton” Tassanakajohn, founder-owner of Le Du (one MICHELIN Star), Nusara (MICHELIN-listed), and Baan (MICHELIN-listed)? Try his first restaurant in Phuket, Samut (MICHELIN-listed). Taking its name from mahasamut, the Thai word for ocean, the menu here is, not surprisingly, seafood focused. Unlike the other restaurants on this list, Samut presents local seafood in a modern, highly refined manner. The team here works closely with sustainably minded fishermen from along Phuket’s coastlines to dole out impressive dishes like local lobster with sea grapes, pickled vegetable and kale powder, and snails and betel leaf in a southern-style curry. The restaurant itself, which is housed in a pretty traditional Thai-Chinese building looking over Nai Harn Lake, is equally as elegant with the trappings of somewhere you would celebrate a special occasion or treat yourself to a nice dinner out.

The Bib Gourmand recipient Salaloy restaurant in Phuket. (© Michelin)
The Bib Gourmand recipient Salaloy restaurant in Phuket. (© Michelin)

Salaloy (Bib Gourmand, MICHELIN Guide Thailand 2023)
“Fast casual” is a familiar concept for sandwiches and noodles, and here—however improbable—you’ll find it with expertly cooked seafood. Located right in the thick of Rawai Beach road, Salaloy does all our Thai seafood favourites but with a flavour kick that would make any longtime local proud. The seafood is so fresh you’d think it swam up just to fill your order. In fact, take a seat outside along the bulkhead, and you’ll likely see some fisherman at work. Regulars come back for dishes like sillago fish with turmeric powder, soft-boiled wing shells, and shrimp paste dip with vegetables.

Pro tip: Come early before the best of the day’s haul is sold out!

RELATED: The Best MICHELIN-Recommended Breakfast Spots In Phuket Town

Illustration images: © Michelin, Mor Mu Dong, Samut

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