Perhaps it’s the spacious yet cosy armchair dining or the entire submenu devoted to impossibly delicious-sounding Havana Club mojitos: whatever it is, it is easy to spot that Jenna’s Bistro & Wine is not your average Ao Nang restaurant.
For starters, it is a chef-owned bistro, founded by Mikko Kataja, a Finn whose distinguished culinary career has taken him from Michelin-starred London restaurants to head chef at a 5-star hotel in Bangkok, before arriving in Krabi just over two years ago to open his own restaurant.
Jenna’s menu is large and varied, but well put-together, reflecting Mikko’s international journey. Featuring classics from America, Scandinavia and even the UK – it is the only place in Krabi serving “proper” fish and chips with imported Norwegian cod – the core menu is focused on modern French and Mediterranean cuisine, with a few Asian twists. Flavours range from delightfully subtle to punchy and powerful: think truffle oil, passion fruit or rocket pesto (not all together, of course!).
There is also a small selection of Thai dishes which, for the loyal expat clientele, is probably the least appealing section of the menu, though it does offer some out of the ordinary options – lamb Massaman, or crab curry with betel leaves, for example – that would definitely pique the interest of visitors looking for contemporary Thai food.
Ingredients, as can be expected with a perfectionist chef at the helm, are sourced from the best available – even the coffee is flown in fresh from Bangkok every week – and technique is apparent in every dish: from the painstakingly smoked pulled pork (fait maison) to the perfectly semi-liquid interior of the dark chocolate fondant.
Equal care has been taken with the wine menu, which boasts more than 60 labels, including champagne, rosé and dessert wines; as well as a choice of seven wines by the glass.
In the many meals we have eaten over the years at Jenna’s, there has of course been the odd dish that was not up to par, but overall, it is a relaxed, reliable and fabulous place to dine with friends; as a couple; or even alone. Presentation is thoughtful; service is attentive, but not over-attentive; and the personable Chef Mikko is usually present to make the rounds and ensure everyone is content. In short, Jenna’s is the whole package and easily makes our list of the top 3 restaurants in Ao Nang (the others being Umberto’s and Carnivore).
So, what is the catch? Well, the most common complaint about Jenna’s on TripAdvisor is that it’s expensive. And, yes, it is! Whether this can be justified by the quality of ingredients used; the skills involved; the superior service; the government taxes on imported food and wine; or by comparing with much higher prices in Singapore (or just down the road in Phuket!), the fact remains that your wallet WILL be considerably lighter than if you dine at one of the generic pizza-pasta-curry places that line the rest of the beachfront. It is up to you to decide if that extra (and the experience that it buys) is worth it.
As “expensive” is a relative term, perhaps it is best to put a figure on it: an average, à la carte, three course meal with a cocktail and a glass of wine at Jenna’s will set you back around 1600 baht per head, including service. It’s a lot for Krabi; and it’s a lot for those who are used to eating comparable meals more cheaply back home. But if you’re staying in a 4 – 5 star hotel, you won’t blink an eyelid (it’s the same or less as eating in-house). It is worth noting that Jenna’s is very open about its pricing, with all menu items listed with cost on its website and Facebook page, so no one need be surprised on arrival.
For less extravagant diners who would still like to sample some food here, there are always the options of the set menu, one of our favourites, and better value at 760 baht including service for three courses (no drinks); single dish mains from 350 baht; and Happy Hour from 4-7pm. Jenna’s also caters for upscale breakfast-brunch, and has tapas-style “small bites” or an excellent selection of cold cuts and cheeses for those who just want some nibbles with their cocktails.
If you’re looking for a nice evening out, for a special occasion or otherwise; or are the kind of person who cares that their beef comes from happy, grass-fed cows, don’t hesitate: Jenna’s is the best of its kind in Ao Nang. If the budget can’t or won’t stretch, there are any number of alternatives within the vicinity.
- Jenna’s Bistro & Wine is open daily from 08.30 – 23.00, on Ao Nang Beach Road, next to Starbucks. Reservations +66 75 695152 or via Facebook.