I had never been to the Centra by Centara Maris Resort before, let alone dined there, but we were welcomed by the guard as we pulled up. Walking into the lobby, we were greeted by the smiling face of the PR lady Khun Doungjai Kuhar (Pook). The kind of smile that says nothing will go wrong.
We had arrived early to make it either a late Friday lunch or early dinner. Pook had advised us to come early as she was expecting some tour buses late afternoon. She did not need to worry, the mixture of Koreans and Thai regulars down for the weekend were easily catered for. The dining area is large and called the Mix Bistro and can seat 160 diners, plus another 50 al fresco outside. Orange T-shirted staff were only too happy to assist and they really did make Mix Bistro the place to see the famous Thai smiles.
I indicated to Pook that I did not like taking the heads and tails off the tiger prawns and then the shell and legs. Too much work for too little return has always been my catch cry. However, two minutes later, a plate of legless, headless, shelless prawns were delivered to the table.
Getting there is a little tortuous and can be reached from the new Beach Road Sai 2 and make a U-turn after the road bends to the left, then first left. Look out for the signs, or from Sukhumvit road where you do a U turn at the traffic lights after the Floating Market, go past the elephant corral and continue on down Chaiyapruek 3 till you come to the Centra by Centara. It is a little further than you think.
Going through the lobby and along the left side, there are many live cooking stations. These are not just the tiger prawns and rock lobsters but steamed chicken, squid and Spanish paella, all cooked before you. There are some Thai curries and a pasta station and pizza as well.
The live cooking stations seem to go on forever, with the deep-fried chicken seeming to be the last, so take your time before going into the very high ceiling of the air-conditioned section where there are many more international dishes, plus salads and breads.
The house wines are eminently drinkable coming from Chile or Australia, with both the whites and the reds available by the glass B. 180. However, we chose a bottle of the wonderfully entitled The Very Sexy Shiraz from South Africa. If you order this one, let it sit for 10 minutes to come up to room temperature, not a bad drop.
The Seafood BBQ turned out to be far more than just a few prawns and the odd squid, but was one of the most comprehensive you will see anywhere, and all cooked on the spot. The dishes on offer were not limited to seafood but had items such as Spanish paella, steamed chicken, grilled lamb chops, satays, deep-fried chicken and salads to add to items such as tiger prawns, squid and rock lobster. Truly something for everyone and at B. 895 and all you can eat, not expensive. Kids are half price years 6-12 and under 6 they eat free. And as an added incentive to make the trip out to Na Jomtien, let the restaurant manager know that you are visiting after reading about it in the Pattaya Mail and you can have a 20 percent discount on your food items.