Perched on the shore of its own private bay, By the Beach serves up breathtaking views with a commitment to sustainability and mouth-watering fresh seafood. David Mann reports.
Once a colonial prison outpost, Con Dao is now one of Viet Nam’s greatest national treasures. With around 80 per cent belonging to a protected national park, this archipelago of 16 islands is home to some of Southeast Asia’s most isolated beaches, incredible diving spots and unspoiled forest.
The largest island, Con Son, has long appealed to weary urbanites in search of some sun, sand and that sometimes-elusive fresh air. But, by virtue of its isolation, there is also a lack of options for tourists wanting to indulge in gourmet cuisine.
Thankfully then, there is By the Beach, which would shine anywhere, but even more so in Con Dao.
A modern, architectural pavilion nestled on the shore of its own secluded bay; By the Beach is located in the heart of one of Viet Nam’s most luxurious 5-star resorts, the Six Senses Con Dao.
|Sustainable focus: The menu is a cohesive mixture of international fare, but with a respectful nod to local flavours and eco-friendly practices.|
True to the luxury chain’s philosophy, the location is remote, with Con Son town around 15 minutes away by car. Such seclusion doesn’t come cheap but it has long catered to Six Senses’ upper crust clientele, including but not limited to Hollywood powerhouse Angelina Jolie, who stayed here back in 2011.
However, if you can’t stump the US$500+ a night price tag for a villa, a reservation at By the Beach will offer a rare glimpse inside this extravagant oasis. The resort’s 50 ultra-luxurious villas are clustered together in a seemingly modern take of the humble fishing village. Each villa also offers access to the private beach, surely the most beautiful in the archipelago, meaning most of the restaurant’s diners choose to arrive via a sunset stroll on the beach (instead of chauffeur-driven buggy).
The restaurant itself is located at the northern end of the complex, hugging the lush Con Son peninsular. Commanding sweeping views of the bay, the resort and nearby Bay Canh Island, By the Beach is undoubtedly destination dining at its best. Indeed, you’ll find it hard not to spend the first 15 minutes gawking from the verandah.
But make no mistake, By the Beach is no ordinary hotel restaurant.
The menu is a cohesive mixture of international fare, but with a respectful nod to local flavours and eco-friendly practices. All vegetables and spices are organically produced at the resort’s own Key Nine vegetable garden. The fresh seafood, including native prawns, slipper lobster and coral trout, are carefully sourced from the surrounding waters using sustainable methods designed to protect the delicate ecosystem. Even the bottled water is produced onsite, using the restaurant’s own Crystal Water plant (one of two; the other was installed at a local Con Dao school), to cut down on transport emissions.
|Coco nuts: The gluten-free (and sugar-free) chocolate and nut tartlet comes with a scoop of tangy raspberry, pomegranate and ginger sorbet.|
But where other hotel eateries fail in delivering tasty food, By the Beach’s carefully conceived menu packs a punch. This was clear even from the get-go, with our starting Thai beef salad, a zesty combination of wok-fried beef tenderloin and fresh watercress, seasoned with plenty of local herbs (VND410,000).
In the crab and prawn cocktail (VND 410,000), generous hunks of freshly-caught Con Dao crab underpinned a delicious tomato and avocado salad, paired with fragrant, barbecued prawns. The generous dollops of fiery Marie Rose sauce also gave a nice kick to each mouthful.
Our favourite appetizer, the charred spiced Angus beef fillet (VND490,000) made use of similarly fresh flavours, served on a bed of watercress, cumin, roasted carrots, shallots, garlic, chickpeas and tahini, and bolstered by a lively chili, coriander and lemon dressing.
But if you really want to embrace the local specialties, you must go for the piece de resistance: the lobster and seafood platter (VND2,100,000). Combining 500 grams of native lobster and a Con Dao specialty – the Con Dao slipper lobster – this impressive feast will comfortably food 2-3 people and comes complete with herb-grilled prawns, seared scallops and barbequed calamari.
Expertly grilled, the smoky taste of the lobster was impeccable, only to be made even better by a pot of delicious, buttery Bearnaise sauce that melted in the mouth.
Heeding our friendly waiter’s advice, we had opted for sides that would compliment the salty flavours of fresh seafood; roasted Mediterranean vegetables (VND120,000) and a Parmesan and rocket salad (VND120,000).
But arguably the restaurant’s most inventive culinary creation is its gluten-free (and sugar free) chocolate and nut tartlet (VND230,000), derived from 100 per cent pure coco. Topped with a scoop of tangy raspberry, pomegranate and ginger sorbet, this made for a fitting end to the meal.
If you’re lucky, you’ll have eaten so much that you won’t have to leave, at least right away. If you’re even luckier, you’ll only have to waddle to a nearby villa and concentrate on not accidentally falling into your infinity pool.
But while the prices aren’t for the faint hearted, the stunning location, tasty fare and unrivalled service make By the Beach an obvious choice for visitors looking for that something special.