If we're being totally honest, most of the food in Ao Nang is pretty awful. If you find somewhere you like, just stick with that, don't make our mistake and keep trying different places. Part of me kind of wished we had just spent our whole week down here on the beach but the other part of me is really happy we went to Bangkok and had some excellent meals first.
The one exception to the general "you're going to be disappointed by every meal in Ao Nang" rule is Kruathara in Hat Nappharat Thara. I'm pretty picky about my fish, which is to say, I'm actually so picky I usually just tell people that I don't eat seafood. My grandpa still gives me guff for being the only child he'd ever known who would eat sushi but turned up their nose at cooked fish. As an adult, I haven't changed much, I prefer my fish raw and while I will eat more cooked fish that I used to, unless it's come from the ocean, to the kitchen and then to my plate in say the last forty eight hours, I'm still usually not interested. Also, shrimp is disgusting, always. I'm sorry, it just is. Now that we've gotten that disclaimer out of the way, let's talk about how the fish at Kruathara is HEAVENLY.
Dan calls Kruathara a fish hangar because it is just a giant, hangar like building with some fish tanks, a kitchen and a pretty cool orchid wall. It was decorated for Lunar New Year while we were there but I'd still describe is as a pretty "no frills" environment. We went twice and regretted eating anywhere else.
The first time we went I had red snapper fried with pepper and garlic. Yes, that fish really is covered in that much fried garlic. It's fantastic. The fish was very lightly battered and beautifully fried crisp on the outside and was perfectly cooked inside. I mistakenly thought that "pepper" mean hot peppers but it was actually bunches of fresh peppercorn which may have added to the overall taste but shouldn't be eaten on their own. They're not the best. It was very lightly sauced in something a little bit sweet that complimented the fried garlic and fish without in any way overwhelming. I devoured this fish. I made sure Dan got to try some but I'm pretty sure he would've like more. He got a blue crab dish which he like but found difficult to eat. We also got some sort of glass noodles salad which was better than most of the Thai food we had in Ao Nang but not anywhere near as good as the seafood dishes.
The second time we went, we resisted the urge to get the exact same fish as the first time but we loved the garlic and pepper preparation so much that we couldn't abandon it entirely and got it with fried soft shell crab. For our fish we went with the grilled snapper with herbs. The soft shell crab was good but I think the red snapper with garlic and pepper was better. The grilled snapper was lovely. I didn't really think about what the herbs would be beforehand but of course my silly western minded brain was unconsciously thinking western herbs. I was very happy to be proven wrong. The fish was grilled with lemongrass, onions, galangal and Thai basil. All the herbs had permeated throughout the fish so even bites without them were still delicately flavored. It was a lovely preparation.
Kruathara may not be as fancy as the other places I've reviewed on this trip, but the food speaks for itself. If you find yourself in Ao Nang or Krabi Town, Kruathara is well worth the walk or tuk tuk ride to visit.