Wining and dining on Koh Samui

By Chris Billingsley

Fine restaurants and exceptional Italian wine

Fine restaurants and exceptional Italian wine

Southern Thailand is home to some of the world’s finest cuisines, evidenced by the huge number of Thai restaurants which have appeared throughout the world in recent decades.

Koh Samui is no different; the people here are highly imaginative when it comes to selection and presentation of food. Whether it is a local street vendor or a top—end restaurant cooking it, you can be sure it will be delicious, with something to suit any palate and budget.

To continually improve the quality and standard of food and service on the island, the Samui Culinary Circle (SCC) was set up, thus ensuring Samui has become renowned for its culinary excellence over the last couple of years, in addition to already being well—known for its picturesque beaches and friendly people.

There are three main areas on Samui for restaurants and bars, and a further four more secluded areas to explore. The first and most popular area is Chaweng Beach. Here you can find a huge range of restaurants to choose from, including French, Japanese, Italian and Thai, just to name a few. All of these cuisines can be enjoyed on the beach under the stars, beneath a thatched roof or in cool air—conditioned comfort.

On the northern part of Chaweng Beach road, you will find one of the island’s finest Italian restaurants, Prego. Situated opposite the Amari Palm Reef Resort, this establishment is really easy to find and very reasonably priced. Prego boasts an impressive authentic menu, including fantastic pizzas from a wood fired oven, delicious salads, risottos and various forms of pasta cooked with anything from lobster to mushrooms.

The menu does justice to the fresh, locally caught fish and blended with imported Italian herbs, takes you to gastronomic heaven! All meals can be enjoyed in an al fresco atmosphere and as you would expect, the restaurant has an exceptional Italian wine list.

If it is southern Thai food at its best you are after then look no farther than Eat Sense. Situated in the middle of Chaweng Beach, Eat Sense has a 40—metre long beach frontage with a romantic candlelit setting. The menu has an extensive range of Thai cuisine including all the usual favourites alongside signature dishes such as kang pet phed yang, roasted duck in red curry stuffed with rambutans, which is not to be missed.

In the south on the island, you’ll find Samui’s second largest beach — Lamai Beach. In general, dining here is cheaper than at Chaweng Beach. You will find a plethora of small, family—run Thai eateries, although there is still an eclectic mix of restaurants ensuring all tastes are catered for, from European to Japanese.

At the top end of Lamai dining, there is the Tawann restaurant, situated on route 4169 at the Renaissance Koh Samui Rosort and Spa. Here you can enjoy an uninterrupted view of the sunset from the wonderfully located terrace while sipping on pre-dinner drinks.

Thai food is as cheap or pricey as you can handle

Thai food is as cheap or pricey as you can handle

The location and the drinks menu alone are reason enough to come here, but the vast menu, which includes Thai, French, Italian and Spanish classics, will lure you even quicker. Dishes such as vichyssoise soup, tortilla Espanola, croque madame and asparagus and Parma ham salad are house favourites and there’s also an impressive array seafood and meat, with treats such as roasted fillet of red snapper and baby fennel and Provencal beef tenderloin.

As far as family—run restaurants go, Sri Nuan is the place to try Thai food at ridiculously low prices. The restaurant can be found on the main road at the Lamai food centre and was the first of three locations that the family own.

The menu is simply massive and seems to have every Thai dish under the sun along with a small selection of European food. Sri Nuan has a great range of fish dishes and their spicy tom yum soup and Massaman curry is locally famous. The setting and décor are typically Thai and simple (plastic tables and chairs), with the focus here being on the food.

Situated near the famous Big Budda in the north of the island is Bophut Beach. This once predominately fishing area has given way to a range of restaurants and is now the culinary heart of Koh Samui. The quiet and picturesque setting makes it an ideal place for a romantic night out.

The fisherman’s village, which is considered by most to be one of the oldest areas on the island, is littered with wooden houses reminiscent of a by gone era which have been lovingly restored and now serve as shops and restaurants. Here you’ll find French, Indian, Thai, Italian and seafood restaurants, all of which are a stone’s throw from the waterfront.

At the quiet northern end of the village, lies one of the newest restaurants to join the Bophut culinary scene — Shades. This small beachside eatery offers diners a relaxed atmosphere with a scattering of candles, chilled out music and private areas for couples to enjoy a romantic supper. All the Thai favourites can be found on the menu, but the restaurant prides itself on seafood.

House specialties include char—broiled tiger prawns served with a lightly creamed seafood sauce and stove grilled peppered tuna steak with sautéed leek and fried butter rice, a personal favourite of mine. If you are in the area, a visit to Shades is a must and if you’re not, you won’t be disappointed if you go to some effort to come here.

L’Orienteek in the centre of the fisherman’s village is a great place to unwind after a hard day’s sightseeing and can be found in one of the old teak houses on the main strip. The décor is distinctively oriental and the atmosphere relaxed. With an impressive drinks menu, L’Orienteek is sure to quench any thirst. As far as food goes, they serve light meals and on Wednesdays they offer a free buffet to patrons between 20:00 and 22:00. Drinks happy hour is daily from 17:00 to 19:00.

One of Samui’s quietest and most picturesque beaches is Maenam. The restaurants here cater to every budget and offer food from around the world. The area is packed with street stalls where you can purchase a portion of pad thai and eat it on the beach for an inexpensive but memorable dining experience.

Big Buddha Beach has plenty of excellent Thai restaurants to choose from alongside international cuisine. Exceptional and inventive pub grub is available from funky cafés which are scattered throughout the area.

If you are adventurous and enjoy heading off the well trodden tourist trail then make for the southeast and west coasts. These areas are a seafood lover’s paradise as most of the island's fresh fish is caught just off these coastlines. Some of the restaurants here are so small they don’t even have names, but you are nearly always guaranteed a delicious meal and a warm Thai welcome. However, it’s not only the welcome that is warm; some dishes are spicy enough to blow your socks off!

Whatever your culinary taste, you are sure to find it on Koh Samui and not only will you leave feeling satisfied and relaxed, you may also be a few pounds heavier!

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