Samui Wining & Dining
Beachside Brilliance
Not all beachside restaurants are the same, and Buco Restaurant & Bar proves the point.


Beachside BrillianceIt’s easy to miss. You could drive past it and not notice. And there are so many beachside restaurants on Samui, all competing for your attention. Surely they’re all pretty much ‘same-same’? A mixture of Western and Thai fare, a cocktail menu, a ‘happy hour’, tables on the sand and a view across the water?


Well, no actually, they’re not. Some are quite a bit different and Buco Restaurant & Bar is one of them. You could almost be forgiven for thinking it’s just one of the many as you drive past it, tucked away as it is on a corner at the end of Chaweng Noi Beach before you head up the hill towards Lamai. But only almost. This is a beachside restaurant with a difference, with a menu so extensive and tempting you could spend 20 minutes trying to decide what to have. And then changing your mind at least once.


Where to start? Well take pizza for instance; something so basic and available the world over that it’s always a good way to measure the quality of a menu. Pizza is so easy to make but almost as easy to get wrong. The base could be burned or soggy. The chef could be stingy with the cheese but too heavy-handed on the tomato base. The toppings could be too few or not cooked properly. A good pizza is something that often makes people return to a restaurant time and again, knowing the rest of the menu will be of the same high quality. And at Buco’s they make them just perfect.


There’re 14 different pizzas on offer, from the usual vegetarian, Hawaiian, mushroom and margarita found everywhere to the more unusual fare found here. There’s the Buco Pizza Pad Kra Prao, with spicy chicken, pork, beef or seafood, with a spicy sauce ‘Buco style’ and topped hot basil. Or the salmon pizza, with smoked salmon and rocket leaves. Or what General Manager, Khun Khajohn Eakintumas, says is the most popular, the green curry pizza; again with chicken, pork, beef or seafood but this time with a spicy green curry base instead of the normal tomato.


But the pizza is only a small part of it. This is the way menus should be. The appetisers, with favourites like garlic bread and baked tomato bruschetta alongside crab cake with diced fresh apple and lemon and sauteed fresh New Zealand mussels. The salads, a full page of nine dishes including Caesar, Nicoise, seafood, salmon, Capresse and seared tuna. Seven soups, including clam chowder and cream of sea crab. Also seven pasta dishes – take your pick from sausage, salmon, clam, seafood and more, with a choice of six different types of pasta and a carbonara or pesto sauce. Ten types of sandwiches and burgers – cheese, club, steak and beef alongside marinated tuna or salmon.


And that’s before even getting to the main dishes. There are two sections here – meat and seafood – each crammed with choices and all at good prices. Try king prawns, tuna fillet, grilled scallops and more from the seafood menu, or go the whole hog and splash out on the king Phuket lobster. Then there’s fillet mignon, grilled T-bone, grilled duck or chicken or pork cordon bleu on the meat menu. All with a choice of 11 sauces and ten sides. And then with six full pages of Thai dishes covering food from all over the country and a page of Buco specials, such as deep fried sea bass or stir-fried king prawns. It’s a menu that would take months to get through.


You could eat this type of food in a run-down shack and it’d still be memorable. But add the surroundings at Buco to the menu and it’s clear this beachside restaurant is definitely worth stopping at. It’s bigger than it looks, too. Going down the wooden steps from the main road leads to a wooden deck and bar, where the friendly staff call out greetings. The main restaurant area is small and cosy, looking out across the water. But there are extra tables right on the sand, and sunbeds and loungers dotted all around. Plus there’s free WiFi so you can surf on the sand or get caught up with work. There’s a drinks’ menu on the same extensive level as the food menu, with cocktails, beers and spirits alongside mocktails, fresh fruit shakes, liquors, shooters and drinks divided into ‘aperitif’ and ‘digestive’.


There’s nothing quite like lying on a sun lounger on the sand, cocktail in hand, annoying your friends back home on Facebook. And Buco is a good place to do it. There’re 19 cocktails to choose from, including a couple you don’t see in most bars, like the Rusty Nail (Drambuie and Ballantine’s). And naturally one or two creations especially for Buco – the Buco Blue Sky (tequila, Cointreau, light rum, Malibu and Blue Curacao) is especially tempting, even at lunchtime.


If you want to Buco Restaurant in the evening, Khun Khajohn says they’ll soon be introducing live music at nights. He also points out that all the food and drink prices include service charge, although the menu is priced so reasonably this isn’t really an issue. The most expensive dish you can have is the king Phuket lobster at 2,200 baht, but this is easily higher than everything else, with salads and pastas around 200 baht, pizzas, burgers and sandwiches at 250 and a main of grilled sole fillet at 350.

Next time you’re heading towards Lamai from Chaweng Noi, keep an eye out on your left for Buco Restaurant & Bar before the hill. It’s easily missed. But it really shouldn’t be.


Lisa Cunningham


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