Samui Wining & Dining
On A Theme

Variety and value at The Imperial Samui Beach Resort’s beach theme nights.


On A ThemeMostly it’s a gamble. It’s like trying to pick a winning horse. You look it over. You weigh up its appearance or maybe how lively it looks. You check how many other people are interested. You do all you can before you go in and put your money down. And sometimes you win and sometimes you don’t. But, like trying to pick a winning horse, measuring a restaurant by its appearance can be also disappointing. How we all wish we could be shown a winner in the first place! And that’s where the similarity ends. Because, unlike horses, there are some restaurants which are already waiting at the winning post. And two of them are to be found at The Imperial Samui Beach Resort in Chaweng Noi.


Most people ‘in the know’ will immediately think of Twisted Thai when the name ‘Imperial’ is mentioned. This is the resort’s flagship restaurant, one that’s gained a huge reputation, and the place that draws the dedicated diners. And quite rightly, as it’s unique in that deconstructs all the ingredients from familiar Thai dishes into their component parts and then reconstitutes them into something completely different using a multitude of molecular gastronomy cooking techniques, including sous vide, freezing and the like. It’s a tantalising and creative extravaganza and one that has to be experienced to be appreciated. And it deserves every bit of the attention it receives. But, whilst it’s bathing in the limelight of the centre stage, there’s yet another winner sitting quietly in the background. And it goes by the name of The Beach Bar.


To call it a ‘beach bar’ is just very slightly tongue-in-cheek: it’s a bit like referring to the majestic QE2 as a ‘boat’ or Concorde as a ‘plane’. The actual space involved and the area it occupies is huge, but cunningly designed to be on several levels, both on the beach and the upper terraces so that, no matter what the weather or the occasion, there’s always an airy sense of intimacy about the seating. “It all depends on the circumstances,” the resort’s genial General Manager, Magne Hansen, explains. “If the weather’s doubtful then there’s plenty of cover on the terraces. But usually we’ll aim at setting up everything on the beach. Everyone just loves to have their toes in the sand. It’s one of the big attractions of dining on a tropical island.”


But The Beach Bar is not merely a ‘restaurant’. It’s the place where, seven nights a week, there’s a running beach buffet, with each evening having a different theme or event. Over the last few years there’s been a bit of a blip when it comes to the viability of buffets on Samui, with some resorts cutting back or even cancelling them altogether. But The Imperial Samui has a 5-star reputation to maintain and it continues to do so with the same flair that it’s always displayed. In every instance, the quality of the fare is superb: lobsters from Phuket, oysters from France, beef steaks from New Zealand. And there are several live cooking stations too, making noodle soups or pad Thai, meat skewers, pasta, steaks and seafood à la minute.


The service to go with all this is also first-rate. The first thing you’ll notice is that all the staff are smiling (unfortunately, this isn’t the case in all top restaurants). You’ll choose your selection, order your steak or pasta, return to your place and in minutes it’ll arrive at your table piping hot. The floor staff are magically unobtrusive and, somehow, when your plate becomes empty it’ll just seem to disappear and fresh cutlery is whisked out of nowhere to your setting.


And then there’s the entertainment. The Beach Bar has not just one but two full-sized sound stages, complete with theatre lighting and sound systems; each one is big enough to feature an entire show band. At the time of writing (late August) the only evening not with a show-slot is Wednesday, but, as Magne told me, “… things are expanding all the time. There are plans to bring in Brazilian dancers and we’re weighing up several options. But essentially what we want is to avoid is repeating the same formula that every other resort seems to favour – our aim is to attract diners with something they can’t get by staying on their home turf.” And with a Brazilian BBQ, a Spanish Paella evening and even a Mongolian repast, it certainly looks like Magne’s on the right track. Mondays feature the ‘Brazilian BBQ’ where you can sample such delicacies as grass-fed beef or marinated pork belly whilst being entertained by the mellow-but-bouncy Right Track band, the only 3-piece female group on the island.

On Tuesdays it’s the ubiquitous ‘Thai Cultural Show’. You’ll come across a lot of presentations in this mould at other places but this not only features live music (many places use recordings) but authentically-classical costumes too, as well as hosting a variety of local artists and craftsmen working on the spot and displaying their wares.


And then each Wednesday you can dip into the ‘Italian Buffet’ and sample dishes such as the delicious homemade minestrone soup with garlic bread, and explore different pastas as well items like the seafood marinara or chicken saltimbocca.

Every Thursday it’s ‘Spanish Paella Night’ with a variety of offerings that ranges from Tuscan sausage and bean soup through to tortilla Espanola. And to entertain you there’s once again a full evening of music from Right Track.


Fridays offering will definitely tickle your taste-buds as it’s ‘Curry Night – a Taste of the East’. And here you’ll be able to sample sizzling dishes from Malaysia, Thailand and India as well as a selection of Creole cuisine. Plus there’s a special treat for your ears too in the form of Chris Fretwell, live on stage. This talented soloist has a voice that’ll haunt you, as he’s a world-class guitarist and a very laid-back performer.


And on Saturdays you can chill down or party up, as the mood dictates, with the ‘Chill ’n’ Grill BBQ’. Whole crabs, tiger prawns, ribs and steaks, and piri piri chicken, plus excellently marinated king fish, all to be enjoyed along with mellow DJ sounds provided by the internationally-renowned DJ Kris.


Finally, the week rounds off on Sunday with ‘Mongolian Show Cooking’ that not only features the traditional dumpling soup but also the succulent wild boar.


And that’s about it. The Imperial Samui is a positive hotbed of gastronomic glee that combines toes-in-the-sand fine-dining with quality entertainment and 5-star service. It’s one of Samui’s most dynamic dining destinations, with its two winning restaurants of Twisted Thai and The Beach Bar– and they’re both places you can bet on with no risk of losing.


Rob De Wet


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