Achara Restaurant has made quite a name for itself here in Sayulita in just the short time it has been open. Due to its use of immaculate, traditional Thai ingredients, the fair prices, and quality service, it has gained a stellar reputation, along with the fact that it is unique in being the only restaurant in town serving this type of cuisine. I speak with owner and head chef Samuel Frances about Achara Restaurant, and what has made it such a hit.
Sam, can you tell readers a little bit about yourself, your background, and why you decided to open Achara Restaurant?
I was born in Brisbane and grew up in New York City, where I attended culinary school at the French Culinary Institute. I spent nine years after I graduated from the Culinary Institute working in different restaurants in the city. I moved to Sayulita in February of 2017. I couldn’t escape the feeling that life would be better by the ocean, and I wasn’t wrong! I knew I wanted to open up a restaurant when I came, but was unsure of what kind of restaurant I wanted it to be at first. I opened Achara in January of 2018, so between then and February of 2017, I had time to experience what Sayulita needed or was missing, food wise, and asked many locals what they thought would be nice to have in town. I remember someone literally telling me “noodles and stuff”, and it was then that I realized Sayulita was lacking a quality Asian restaurant.
What is your background experience in the restaurant industry in general, but also in Thai cuisine? How did you learn about the food, and why are you so passionate about it?
The first half of my career in New York was spent working in farm to table, rustic American style restaurants. The second half, I spent chasing specific skill sets, ie: pizza making, hand made bagels, tacos, etc. Believe it or not, I had never worked in any kind of Asian restaurant before Achara. Thus, when I decided to open Achara, I embarked on the first of many journeys, (five in total now), to Thailand to study the history and techniques of Thai cuisine. These experiences have provided me with a lot of knowledge about not only the history of the food, but as well as the authentic ingredients needed, the unique flavor profiles used, as well as the techniques in cooking.
In my conversations with you and in the times I have eaten at Achara, it is very obvious that you are incredibly knowledgeable about the history of Thai cuisine; however it is most evident in the delicious, authentic food itself. I love everything on the menu! Besides the stellar food, what would you say are some of the things that Achara Restaurant does that you are most proud of?
I’m proud that we strive every day to eliminate single-use plastics from our restaurant. All of our takeout bags, containers, and utensils are biodegradable. This season we also started carbonating our own soda water which keeps, on average, about 20 plastic bottles per week out of landfills/the ocean. Furthermore, we also grow lots of our own vegetables, and we buy organic and locally grown ingredients whenever possible.
Can you talk more about the concept of the menu, what kinds of ingredients you use often in your dishes, and where they come from?
The goal at Achara is to recreate authentic Thai food here in Mexico. We think that means asking ourselves how a Thai chef would cook with what’s available here. No knock to fusion food, but that’s not our goal at Achara; our goal is to produce a dish that at its core, is authentically Thai, both with its flavor and style. Lemongrass, kefir lime, chili, and Thai basil are native Thai ingredients that we use a lot, and grow ourselves!
What dishes would you say are the most popular, and why?
Hands down, the Pad Thai. Personally, I think it’s because it is approachable and comforting! The veggie green curry is popular too; I think because it is just as satisfying for a vegetarian as it is for someone who eats meat.
Do you have any specials (happy hour, take out, etc.), and what are your hours of operation going to be for the upcoming "slow season"?
We have different drink specials every day; you can check our Instagram Page, Achara_Sayulita, to see them; we have them all posted on our stories! We also do have take-out as an option; you can order takeout via our Facebook Page, or by calling the restaurant. Additionally, everything on our menu is gluten free (except the crispy spring rolls), and we have tons of vegetarian and vegan options too! Our hours of operation are from 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., Wednesdays through Sundays. We are closing for the slow season on July 20th, and we will re-open in October.
How do you want guests to feel after their experience in your restaurant?
We want people to leave with a full belly and a smile on their face!
To find out more about Achara Restaurant in Sayulita, please visit their Facebook Page or Sayulita Life Web Page.
*Written by: Aanya Sheikh-Taheri