Samui has some of the finest food anywhere, but there’s no need to dress up for it !
What’s your style? I mean, is your idea of a perfect meal sitting on the beach at a BBQ, or are you happier with silver service and fine-dining? Well, this is Samui. And even the finest of diners don’t wear a necktie. For sure, everyone likes to dress up to go out, but on our island paradise a clean pair of shorts and a T-shirt is fine! Plus, happily, something more elegant for the ladies, maybe?
But keep it in mind that the best restaurants are hidden from view – which is of course where Samui Wining & Dining comes in. We’ll pick out some of the finest for you, especially those where you can enjoy a quality meal right on the beach, with a sky full of stars and the sea whispering nearby. But if you’re more at home with the cool ambiance of low lights and air-con, have a look inside our pages, and then take your pick!
But we’re not just a tropical paradise; we’re a gourmet’s paradise too. So it’s not really surprising that just about everyone here likes to pick ’n’ mix. Maybe a degustation menu with wine pairing one night. Then a local Thai meal the next. Then out for an Italian spread or an Indian curry. It’s all very affordable here. And that includes all the beach clubs and the brunches, too – in which case just swimwear and a couple of dry towels will do nicely. And that’s about as laid-back as it gets!
Individuality and Creativity
RockPool Restaurant’s dishes have been crafted by a dynamic young chef to bring you amazingly good tastes.
A love of different foods and cultures, a passion for cooking and a desire to bring his guests exceptional tastes hallmarks Lucas Leonardi Varin’s quest as a chef who’s totally committed to bringing dining pleasures to all. Step through the doors of Kanda Residences Samui, where RockPool is located, and you're in for treats that meld the traditional with flavours from all round the globe.
An urban wanderer of epic proportions, after studying cooking in his native Brazil, Lucas worked in Brazil, the Caribbean, France, Corsica and Australia, before coming to Asia and seeing Vietnam and Japan. He’s visited no less than 20 countries in all, and knows what tastes go together, and can put ingredients together that come from such far-flung places that they might appear to be culinary mismatches. But when you try his dishes, you'll be seduced by flavours that are always vibrant and fresh. There are no gimmicks here; nothing outlandish or risible – it’s simply about great tastes and food that’s been lovingly prepared. It’s not the work of a clever maverick either; Lucas has worked in classical Michelin-starred restaurants where, as he puts it, “You have to learn to not just do the very, very best, but also to be creative.”
Sugarcane has evolved from an obscure grass to the world’s number one crop, but it’s not all sweetness and light.
Next time when you set off on a journey, be aware of what you're casually given to take along with you for the ride. You might be getting more than you bargained for – and so might the entire continent that you're visiting. “How about popping these spindly plants in the hold of your ship?” sounds like an innocuous suggestion, but can turn out to be the start of a mighty and wondrous adventure. Even more so if it’s the 15th century and you're Christopher Columbus, off to trade with the New World.
When he set off on his second voyage to the Americas, in 1493, Columbus interrupted his journey to take on food and water in the Canaries. It was to be a brief stopover of several days, or so he thought, but that was before he met the governor of the island, Beatriz de Bobadilla. He had a passionate affair with her.
If you visit her castle – it’s a beautiful hotel today – you'll see that it’s the kind of place where you might want to linger for a long, long while, even without any love interest to hold you back. Columbus was no doubt loath to get back on his ship, an entire month later. But already destiny was taking a hand in matters. Beatriz gave him some sugarcane cuttings to take with him. It was hardly a romantic present, but sailing to unmapped territories called for practical items such as cuttings, and Columbus was probably happy to receive them. While he was sailing, did he even think about the sugarcane? Who knows? What’s certain is that he was used to taking many things with him on board, and bringing back other things. It was definitely a two-way trade: back to the Old World came items such as potatoes, tomatoes, chocolate, tobacco, pineapples and chillies, none of which had ever been seen before in Europe.
From breakfast to dinner Sun, Moon & Star at Silavadee Pool Spa Resort has you covered. And then there’s the romantic side too.
Often overlooked on travels around Samui, there’s a remote-feel headland that’s located just as you come into Lamai. Most people rush past, never realizing it’s there. It’s home to Silavadee Pool Spa Resort, which boasts a very fine and picturesque setting. As a get-away destination, it could hardly be better. With its beautiful views and lush gardens, it’s a wonderful place, and you could easily while away a good few weeks here. But you don't need to be a guest to enjoy the resort. A trio of restaurants are to be found here in a single building, providing great views and equally tempting food. Sun, Moon, Star is the name of this three-in-one restaurant, and just like the celestial bodies they're named after, each is quite different.
Sun dazzles with its barbecue food. You can expect amazingly good grilled seafood and meats while you look out over the sea as evening falls across the panorama before you. The deck here is spacious and open-air, and dining is very casual and relaxed. There’s also a pool bar where you can kick back with a range of food and drinks during the long, hot days.
Hungry ? Take to the road and you 'll find countless snacking oppotunities.
Travel round the ring-road on Samui, or any other of the island’s roads for that matter, and you're never short of food. We’re not just talking about the many established restaurants and eateries that you'll see as you whizz round, but the hundreds and hundreds of smaller places. To even see them, you'll need two people: one to drive and one to be the look-out. These places often seem camouflaged against the urban backdrop. Nobody has ever managed to count the number of food stalls and small eateries on the ring-road. And those are just the ones that are fixed in place.
To get started in the food business is no easy matter. The simplest form of vending is when a shoulder yoke is used, and the vendor walks along selling his or her food – as you'll often see on Samui’s beaches. It’s an exhausting business, as you can imagine. The next rung up this freewheeling ladder is, yes, a set of wheels: a cart that you push. Or better still, a mobile cart which is attached to a motorbike. Beyond this, wheels assume less importance: a fixed stall or small shop is next on the list. But some vendors like to keep things simple – or is it that they value their freedom? They keep to their carts and a fluid way of life. That’s why when you're driving round the ring-road, there are many other options besides looking for the tiny restaurant-shops. Things in Thailand aren’t so fixed.
Nora Beach Resort & Spa excels when it comes to romantic dining on the beach.
For over a decade, Nora Beach has catered for Samui’s weddings, receptions and romantic beachside dinners with a mix of carefully thought out service and mouth-watering food. The chef and his team have gained considerable experience over the years, and can handle every kind of request that they receive. They're also dab hands at reading the weather, which is notoriously tricky here on Samui, as the island has what amounts to its own micro-climate. What happens if things suddenly turn bad and rain is on its way? Guests can arrange another day to hold the dinner or it may be moved inside the restaurant. The set-up here is just as amazing as it would be on the beach; guests eat in an ornate roofed sala that’s very lavishly decorated. There’s no loss of privacy either, as this is a separate part of the restaurant and well away from the dining area. Indeed the entire resort has a very private feel, and is located just a couple of kilometres to the north of Chaweng, meaning it’s easily accessible but at the same time is far enough away to have a very secluded feel to it. To get there, just head north along the beach road as it leaves Chaweng, then follow the coast road until you see the signs for Nora Beach.
Whether you're dining on the beach or in the restaurant, the set-up is extraordinary: plenty of flowers and candles grace the scene, but the exact decoration depends on the couple’s choice; guests can specify exactly how the table and surrounding area should look. Often a special colour is called for, or a particular type of flower. As you can imagine, there are many details to be taken into account but the overall aim is for the couple to be wowed when they see their table and its decor.
In charge of the private dining, you'll find the resort’s Executive Chef, Khun Sittichai Saephu. He’s a very affable figure, warm-hearted and a veteran when it comes to pleasing his guests. He’s been with Nora for 11 years, and was largely responsible for originally setting up these dinners in the first place. And he's also totally professional when it comes to cooking. He started out when he was 18, and has been a chef for over 30 years.
Make it yourself: gai hor bai toey, or chicken wrapped in pandan leaves.
Although it might not look it, this dish, known as ‘gai hor bai toey’ in Thai, is very easy to make if you keep things simple. You'll need to work a little with a pestle and mortar – essential tools in any Thai kitchen – and to do a little folding of some pandan leaves, origami-style. It won’t be birds or animal shapes you'll be making, but one of Thailand’s abidingly popular dishes, with chicken featuring as almost the only ingredient.
But why make it at all, you might be asking? What’s wrong with any of the thousands of great chicken recipes on the internet? Well, because this one looks and tastes very different. People have been known to fall in love with it, and so might you.
And that’s less to do with the chicken, and more because of the pandan leaves that are used. Pandan is a type of long grass that you'll find throughout South-East Asia. When you walk past a clump of pandan on a hot and humid day, you'll be lured by its heady aroma.
Samui Seafood Grill & Restaurant offers gourmet food in a lush setting.
under the Trees Thirty years is a long time, especially on Samui where everything can change so quickly. Buildings are pulled down, others go up and what’s here today is replaced tomorrow. Chaweng moves in a blur that keeps even the most dedicated urban soul off-kilter. But not all the time. One of the island’s most popular restaurants is right now in its 30th year. It’s Samui’s original fish restaurant, and it dates back to the first wave of tourism. The road it was built on was just a dirt track in those days, and idly followed Chaweng’s sandy coastline. The original premises were on the spacious side. After all, they could afford to be; there weren’t many other buildings around. The restaurant, simply called Samui Seafood, was as close to the island’s way of life as could be: it was run – and is still run – by a family whose job was fishing. Instead of selling at the market, they began to bring the fish to the restaurant and cooked it for their guests, who came in greater and greater numbers.
We take a look at what’s enticing so many people to dine at Anantara’s Full Moon restaurant in Bophut.
Most of you won’t be familiar with the name ‘Anantara’. And yet it’s a well-respected brand name over here. Literally translated it means ‘water flowing without boundaries’ – ‘the infinite sea’. Or, more easily, ‘endless seascape’. It’s a memorable name. And the group behind these rather special 5-star resorts, Minor International, has been creating discrete, refined and quietly upmarket resorts under the Anantara brand since 2001, when their first property opened in Hua Hin. Expanding across Asia, the Indian Ocean, Middle East and Africa, Anantara now boasts a portfolio of 145 uniquely luxurious hotels and resorts, with 13 in Thailand alone. Each retreat offers distinct allures, and for Anantara Bophut Koh Samui Resort this is a blend of island magic, authentic Thai elegance and signature Anantara touches.
This luxury resort comes as something of a surprise, located right on the edge of Fisherman’s Village in Bophut. Running alongside for the next kilometre are some of the most sumptuously-landscaped resorts on the island. These were all built at a time before the ‘Samui land-grab’, and before the maximum units needed to be squeezed into the minimum available space – back when ‘5-star’ meant acres of rambling greenery with towering mature trees, and the expression of style was being able to flaunt this as a feature without the need to cram it full of little bungalows.
Hard Rock Cafe opens in Chaweng offering delicious food and drink along with a gallery, store and plenty of music.
Hard Rock Cafe has been around almost as long as rock music itself; the iconic restaurant chain successfully combines two passions, one for food, and the other for music, and almost out of nowhere has crafted a global brand. Hard Rock Cafe kicked off in a former car showroom in London, some four decades ago. It was a debut that many thought was bound to fail. The landlord of that first venue was so unimpressed that he gave his new tenants just a three-month lease. They proved him wrong; there was potential for a restaurant that provided both classic American cuisine, and at the same time was an informal shrine to rock music. Today Hard Rock International manages close on 200 venues in over 70 countries, including not just cafes but hotels, too.
One of its newest cafes is right here on Samui. Even though it’s only just opened, it’s already popular, and provides exactly what that first venue gave its diners – great food and an ambience that takes music seriously. Hard Rock Cafe is always more than the sum of its parts. If you've never before set foot in one of their restaurants, the first thing that strikes you about any of its branches is that it has everything you'd expect of a quality restaurant – the drinks, food and desserts are top-notch – while the setting itself comes with quite a few surprises.
Something really special is going on, tucked away on the north coast, at The Passage Samui.
Yes, it’s yet another one of those wonderful hidden gems! There are many hundreds of restaurants now on Samui, but our particular talent is to seek out those that aren’t obvious; the ones that are off the beaten track. And one that you’re just going to love is The Passage Samui Villas & Resort on the exclusive Laem Yai Beach.
It’s not so well-known, although it deserves to be. It’s over on the island’s north-western tip, not so far away from the landmark of Four Seasons. It’s not as far as it seems, only perhaps a 20-minute drive once you’ve got clear of Chaweng. Head in the direction of Nathon, look out for the only steep hill and, coming down the other side, as it levels out, look for the sign for The Passage, the first turn on your right.
The name is pleasantly appropriate, as it’s a narrow little lane through the coconut groves. But the resort’s very obvious façade is imposing, and you can’t miss it, even at night (as it’s brightly spotlit). The reception area is slightly elevated, offering a great sea-view, but look upwards, too – the roof is an impressively-high essay in timber and glass. Passing onwards towards the sea, head to the right and skirt around the large twin central pools, and you’ll end up alongside the resort’s signature restaurant, The Terrace.
This is the usual style of tropical restaurant, roofed-over but open on three sides. There’s nothing showy or dramatic here, just a large, calm area with very solid and elegant tables and chairs. The dimensions are larger than they seem (there’s seating for 80) because of the many feature-pillars, plus another spectacular vaulted wood and glass ceiling. But the tables are gracefully spaced for privacy, not crowded together. There’s also an outer terrace that’s open to the stars, plus quite often you’ll also find tables right on the sand, too, depending on the time of year or the occasion.
Since it re-opened its doors, Spices Café has attracted quite a lot of attention thanks to its cool black and green decor. It serves excellent food along with beers, wines and cocktails, attracting holidaymakers and locals alike. It gets really busy here in the evenings after 7:00 pm so it’s a good idea to book a table. The seating consists of wooden tables and chairs, simple yet comfortable. If you sit at the back of the restaurant, you'll be able to watch the cooks making the food. In the tiny space that's theirs, they deftly work as a team, moving round each other and coming up with dish after dish, all with an apparent effortlessness that’s the hallmark of true professionals.
The menu is mostly Thai, focussing on dishes that are the nation’s favourites, with all the regions represented, but there are quite a few European dishes, too. The restaurant is the brainchild of Khun Wanida Nuied, usually known as Khun Jeab, and has been operating in Maenam for almost five years. It originally opened a few doors away, and was much simpler in design and ambition. And a lot smaller, too.
Eating snake and drinking its blood is a must for some. But first find your snake.
“I knew I wanted to swallow the snake’s heart whole. When I put it in my mouth it was still beating. I was savouring it and could feel it pulsing. And then it slowed.” Sharon, invariably dramatic when talking about her experiences abroad, paused. “It was still beating as it went down my throat.”
There are backpackers and flashpackers, but perhaps Sharon and her ilk can be called yuckpackers: when travelling, they seek out gag-worthy experiences that are guaranteed to shock.
Food features highly for travellers like her, and eating snake is decidedly on the things-to-eat list. And those who’ve savoured snake will be quite likely to have eaten monkeys’ brains, bugs, and vermin, too. You might think snake’s hardly a popular food item, but take a look at Google and you'll find that there many, many enquiries about where and how to eat it. Typical is this jaunty one from the Lonely Planet website:
New innovative flavours and ideas available from Boncafé.
Originally established in Singapore, Boncafé is a joint Thai and Swiss business enterprise which originally focused on the perfection and enjoyment of coffee. In this head on pursuit, they have also managed to create a customer friendly coffee superstore that provides a multitude of products and support for a wide range of customers, ranging from private individuals to hotels and restaurants. Their coffee beans are sourced and roasted right here in Thailand, and their coffee machines are imported from manufacturers in Italy, Switzerland, Spain and the United States, as well as other countries. But what really sets them apart from their competitors is their desire to help and advise their customers, as well as maintaining their products after each sale is complete.
In Thailand, Boncafé is the countries biggest coffee and associated products suppliers. The chances are that if you've stayed anywhere in Thailand for more than just a few days, you've already become acquainted with Boncafé in one way or another – even though you may not have been aware of it! They supply huge industrial machinery such as giant coffee grinders and roasters, as well as the sort of Boncafé capsule machine you would love to have in your kitchen! And in addition to producing world-class coffee beans, blends and roasts, they also market an entire range of chocolate drinks, butters, creams, frappes, juices and teas, as well as the exciting range of Torani syrups. These syrups are perfect for flavouring coffees (think of lattes and cappuccinos), Italian sodas, mocktails and cocktails, as well as bakery items. They are the perfect choice to top off all sorts of sweets and desserts. Just smash up some ice and pour over as many colours and flavours as you desire - Almond Roca, Butterscotch, Cherry, French Vanilla, Mojito Mint or Raspberry, to name just a few.
Do you prefer to stay in your comfort zone? If so, believe me I understand. At restaurants, I‘m always fighting the impulse to order a favourite dish again and again. And I have to struggle against sticking to customary territory in music, books, websites and especially, in wine choices.
Habit partly explains the appeal of the familiar. The desire to drink nothing but Barossa Valley reds, for example (assuming you can afford such a desire) stems certainly from the titillating satisfaction derived from the wine. Like a laboratory rat touching a button wired to the pleasure cortex of the brain, you want to repeat the experience endlessly. For people who are just beginning to grasp wine, naturally the need to dive deeply into the nuances, and the resulting rewarding revelations, is irresistible. And wine enthusiasts read such ardent descriptions of the thrills of wines that they are no longer willing to settle for second hand enjoyment. With experience, comes the desire to focus and learn about wine. And in the process, let’s be honest, combining inebriation-based pleasure! Who, but a non-enthusiast wine infidel, can argue with the notion that one can lose oneself, forever, in the dark mysteriously seductive red wines of northern Italy?