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Leo Beer took Phanganist down to Haad Rin for an adventure, we were to go and meet Chef Ta and her partner Wip at their charming restaurant ‘Ladino’.
We were greeted with a raucous hello from a table of locals and regulars and Wip insisted that we chill out after our drive with one of her virgin strawberry daquiri shakes, which we did.
Wip who works as front of house has been on Koh Phangan for over twenty years and Ta has been here for seven.
The restaurant has been open since 2010 and Ta is a qualified chef who learnt her skills at one of Bangkok's cooking schools. Her food caters for people who have allergies and also for vegans and vegetarians, Wip stressed that whenever someone comes in she always checks for any special diets.
We sat down inside, away from the friendly locals to learn more about this lovely duo, we spoke with Wip as Ta was already busy cooking us up a selection of food to try...
So what is your Koh Phangan story Ta?
I came accidently with a friend, we fell asleep on the ferry and didn’t get off at Samui!
So we were here, on Koh Phangan but thought that it was nice as there was not that many people around.
I then came again with another friend who was coming to run a bar, since then I have never left, I’ve popped back to Bangkok occasionally but I decided to put my feet here and live my life.
What do you love about it?
Because it’s a hippy life to be honest, I used to be a hippy baby, I hung around with hippies so this is why I won’t leave the island.
Where did the idea for Ladino come from?
I have been traveling a lot since 1993 until when I met Ta nearly nine years ago in 2007.
I am a food lover and I would try different foods and if I liked it then I would ask for the recipe or go to the library and look it up along with the history of the food.
This is how I began to select recipes so I could have a restaurant. But my dream did not come true until I met Ta as she is a qualified Chef.
How did you two meet?
A friend introduced us, we had never met in real life before, it’s quite a funny story...
It was on the phone (breaks into a fit of laughter), we talked and got to know each other, the more we talked the more we synchronised and in less than one week we decided to live together.
I think we have a good connection as we’re both food lovers, our date wouldn’t be in a fancy restaurant or nightclub but in a supermarket to buy ingredients!
Why the name Ladino?
Firstly, I lived in Spain, not for long but every couple of months and I like spanish cuisine it’s one of my favourites.
So second is that because there are many Israeli people here on the island and ‘Ladino’ means Jewish in Spanish.
Israelis have a high rule of eating, it is similar cuisine to Europe but middle eastern and they have the rule of Kosher. So it’s a Spanish name but friendly to Israel.
What do you offer and what is your style?
We have a very varied menu which we change frequently, breakfasts with coffee, kobe steak that Ta goes to choose herself at a butchers in Samui and thai food as well.
Every door is open here at Ladino.
Do you have any specialities?
We have homemade bread, homemade yogurt with no sugar and lots of healthy juices.
We grow all of our own herbs and all of the sauces are homemade
We see and have heard that you have lots of regulars, why do you think that is?
I think the taste of food firstly and the way we serve, we really try our best and give the customer what they want.
I’m out front so can see people's reactions and get feedback.
What are your hopes for the future of Ladino?
I want to bring homemade delicacies, sweet and savoury but again it depends on the customers.
I would like to expand if I can and make the restaurant bigger.
I just want people to eat healthy and this is because I got cancer three years ago and it changed my mind on how people should be eating.
What is good for the body, I can control the freshness and everything in my diet and now I am recovered.
What would you say to the people and visitors of Koh Phangan?
Have a look at what you’re eating and be open for new kinds of food.
Most regulars know and trust us and we like them to share their opinion.
We asked Ta and Wip what their personal favourites from the menu were, Ta likes the mixed seafood salad and the kobe steak and Wip likes everything!
We tried one of Ta’s favourites, the mixed seafood salad which consisted of big mussels, prawns and squid and a very generous salad with a balsamic reduction.
The roasted curry was a new experience for us, the duck was soft and sweet with chunks of pineapple and tomatoes which compliment the earthy yet light sauce.
This curry is from central south Thailand which means that it is similar to the South but with more aroma and less spice.
We also tried the chicken quesadilla, served with fresh salsa and sour cream which is part of one of Ladino’s promotions where it is 199 Baht including a soft drink.
Ladino has an amazing homemade mayo made with dill which was described by one of the group as ‘an army of flavours marching across your tastebuds’.
The beef kebabs were soft and juicy and hugging a cinnamon stick which it is cooked on.
This gives it that really nice middle eastern warmth along with the roughly textured homemade hummus and mini falafel that it is served with as well as pitta.
We asked the group of regulars who were enjoying food and beers why they liked to come to Ladino…
‘I have been eating here for six years and it’s the best food in Haad Rin easily’.
‘They have amazing healthy shakes, they have put years on my life and they are uber friendly owners!
A lot of people who come here for a week will eat here at least four times, we always tell people to eat here, a guy I told has now eaten here every day since.
If you eat here once then you will eat here more than once!’
The dishes are all made fresh with those popular mediterranean colours and simply yet artfully presented.
Ta and Wip will make you feel at home and nothing is too much to ask for them, they just want to spread their healthy good food to all of the people of Koh Phangan.
It’s obviously working what with the amount of people stopping by and greeting these two fabulous ladies so we wish for their continued success!