Samui Wining & Dining
Going Native

Joining the locals for some home-cooked Thai cuisine at Toy’s Restaurant in Maenam.


Going NativeI often get recommendations from friends about local Thai restaurants. Usually they’re off the beaten track or under the radar for most tourists. But they are the kind of places that most visitors want to know about. And that’s why our photographer, Khun Krit, and I seek them out.

This month we ended up on the northern coastline of the island at Toy’s Restaurant. Owned and run by Khun Toy, its opening was eagerly anticipated. She was the chef at the highly regarded Mummy’s Restaurant in Maenam, something of an institution, for many years. And it was always in the back of her mind to open her own place one day. That happened earlier this year and many people in the local community have followed her. And the reasons why are quite simple – the food is very good and the prices are highly competitive.


Finding it is easy enough; coming from the Chaweng/Bophut direction, go through the traffic lights in Maenam and the restaurant is exactly one kilometre from there on the left-hand side. It’s surrounded by tall trees and plants but there’s a yellow A-board sign at the front with the name of the restaurant on it. Inside, there’s half a dozen large, good quality wooden tables and cushioned seats and a small bar area. And there’s not a plastic school-chair in sight (when you weigh as much as I do you have to carefully consider what you sit on). Behind the restaurant is a huge open-plan kitchen, bigger than the seating area, which you can see into. It’s the largest, and cleanest, Thai kitchen I’ve ever seen and Khun Toy’s given a lot of thought to the work space and flow of the kitchen.

Even though the restaurant is on the main road, you’re shielded by an attractive screen of plants, keeping things clean and quieter. And the interior has been nicely decorated too. Her menu is in English and there’re more than 100 dishes to choose from. On the front page of the menu it does say that you may have to wait a little while as everything is cooked to order and not pre-prepared. But, be honest, where are you rushing to? Khun Krit, my wife and I went along at mid-day and there was a group of half a dozen local lads who come in for lunch most days. They just helped themselves to drinks from the fridge as Toy was busy in the kitchen and on her own at the time and she didn’t mind at all. “They’re taking a break from work and just want fed and watered and I’ve known them for many years. I trust them as I trust anyone who comes in; I know people will let me know if they’ve had some beers while I’ve been in the kitchen. I want everyone to feel welcome and make themselves at home.


It’s open every day (except Monday) from 9:30 am until 10:30 pm and there’s plenty to choose from for breakfast. An omelette with shrimp or chicken is just 60 baht as are the pancakes with lemon and honey. Appetizers, snacks and salads run to a couple of pages and the salads are huge, fresh and delicious (55-80 baht). You can have them with tuna, chicken, seafood or in a whole range of spicy Thai-styles. There’re also ten different soups (50-75 baht) that are a meal in themselves, a selection of sandwiches and burgers (60-75 baht) and lots of pasta dishes (80 baht). She added the ‘Western’ items to the menu as tourists sometimes just want a non-Thai snack, as do kids. How times have changed; I don’t ever recall being given a choice as a child when it came to mealtimes except the eat-it-now or you’ll have-it-for-dinner option.


As you would expect, there’re dozens upon dozens of main dishes with rice and noodles. A classic pad Thai is just 60 baht and very filling, a kaow phad is 55 baht, yam woo sen which is glass noodles with spicy pork is 75 baht as is phad graphao. With all of these dishes you can have pork, chicken, shrimp, squid, mixed seafood or vegetables. And you can have them cooked with chilies, basil, oyster sauce, cashew nuts, ginger, sweet and sour, pineapple or tomato and onions. They all have a specific Thai name but there’s too many to list here. Toy also does some great curries (75 baht) including green, red, yellow, sour, phanaeng and massaman with your choice of protein. And there’re house specialities, too, like the excellent gai manaow – fried chicken with butter and lemon (115 baht).


She also makes all of the juices and shakes fresh (40-50 baht) and I personally loved the watermelon juice and the banana shake in particular. Beers are super-cheap with a small Chang being just 40 baht, a large bottle just 50 baht, Singha beers are 50 and 70 baht and, the bargain of them all, large bottles of Leo beer are just 50 baht (it almost costs as little if you buy them in the shops).


We had three dishes with some rice between us. All were very large portions and the presentation was excellent, too. We opted for the prawns with garlic and pepper garnished with spring onions, chilies and chunks of fresh pineapple; a chicken massaman; and a chicken with cashew nuts and vegetables. All the dishes were very tasty and we ended up taking about a third of the food home in take-away boxes as we couldn’t finish them, there was that much.

Toy has created a beautiful little restaurant in Maenam that is a favourite with locals and expats. Her food is delicious, the portions large and, for my money, it’s incredible value all round. This is a great place to stop off, take your time and enjoy some good old-fashioned home-cooked Thai food.


Johnny Paterson


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