Samui Wining & Dining
The Sea + The Sunset + Great Food and Cocktails = ?

A group of nihilists arrives at Café Lebay at The Sea in Bang Por to be confronted by a delightful epiphany…

 

4In the sixth century BC, a group of Greeks asked a big question. What is reality made of? Without hesitation, most citizens answered God. But a young guy called Xenophanes begged to differ: "If horses had hands, would they draw God in horses?" Sounds like nonsense, right? But Xenophanes has inspired endless others to reject answers based merely on supernatural explanations. As other philosopher-scientists became increasingly sceptical about mysticism too, the search for the truth had a breakthrough in the hands of Pythagoras, the father of ratios and right-angled triangles. He proclaimed with much delight: "The truth is here at last! For a perfectly rational and predictable theory has been discovered!” The famous Greek would go as far as naming the number "four" as a representation of justice, in as much as four is perfectly square. But with the discovery of Pi – the naughty number 3.14159… which goes on and on and refuses to die and conform – Pythagoras’ whole belief system of rationality was crushed to smithereens. In a fit of deep frustration, he drowned his student Hippasarus in a pool. The incident only goes to prove the search for meaning can sometimes be maddening indeed.

     Fast forward thousands of years, the nature of reality is still as elusive as the true motive behind the Iraq War. As the Big Bang nerds in CERN, Switzerland, continue their search for the elusive particle called the Higgs Boson – believed to hold the key to man’s understanding of nature – one is exhausted just to think of the futility of all those years of hard thinking and hard experimenting. Well, we can always find solace in a school of philosophy that provides sanctuary to those who are simply content with the ease of falling fruits (without contemplating a Newton), the cooling breeze and the lapping sea. Say hello to nihilism, the perfect answer for people who don’t want answers.


      We therefore embark on a drive as far away as possible from the hustle bustle of Chaweng and Lamai (where the probability of being asked "where are you from", "what do you do", "what brings you here to Samui" is unfavourably high), and find ourselves attracted to the façade of The Sea Koh Samui, a resort located on the north west coast of the island in Bang Por. The Sea’s simple black and white nihilistic décor, with a welcome tint of hedonism, is what caught our attention in the first place. As we stroll through the minimal interiors beautified with traditional Thai finishing touches, we carry on past the exposed cement walls that seclude an L-shape swimming pool. Finally settling down on the beach tables set out against the magnificent sea, we amaze at the under-populated Bang Por Beach that stretches a good four kilometres, with sand soft like talcum powder. The waves that the powdery beach receives have traversed elegantly all the way from Koh Phangan, and under the mid-afternoon heat the flowing water reflects the sun's rays to yield an ungodly beautiful picture. As for our cocktails – served fresh from Café Lebay, where our food also comes from – our perfectly herbed mojito and The Sea’s Samui Signature cocktails are tureens of heaven in the sweltering summer heat.

      As we slowly sip our chartreuse and turquoise drinks, and watch families and couples make merriment and laze around in the pool-side banquettes, two white marquees to our back and front are being prepared by waiters for the evening’s barbecue special. If we weren’t feeling so nihilistic (or lazy?), we could have each spent a little over 1,000 baht to grill as much seafood, meat and vegetables as our stomachs would allow. Alas, the waiters must have noticed our blatant lethargy, and are knowingly bringing us the food and drinks menu.

       For starters, our chicken satay is marinated and grilled to loving tenderness, its eagerness to be enjoyed manifests in its willingness in being removed from the skewer. The next appetiser, the mixed seafood tapas, comprises several delicate baskets made of hollow cucumbers, each holding strips of medium rare tuna, squid, prawns and miniature mussels, bathed in a balsamic-based vinaigrette. The freshness of the seafood echoes with the virgin smell of the sea in the background, what a delight indeed! We then polish off the fragrant, crispy-on-the-outside and perfect-on-the-inside deep-fried shrimp with 100 percent enjoyment.

      As we look up from our table, the sun is already dancing its salute. The 180 degree panoramic view of the beach is such a glorious entertainment during the intermission. The sky above us is graduating from orange to pale pink, from grey to navy, mellow to the point that Edward Hopper would struggle to find melancholy in this perfect picture. As the axis of the earth rotates further, turning the setting sun out of sight, the black velvet above now gleams gleefully with stars illuminating our table in alluring romance. After this theatrical show of nature, we return to our main meal.

      The salmon salad is a benevolent plate of grilled salmon accompanied by Italian greens and cherry tomatoes that fill us to great satisfaction. The chicken and cashew nuts stir fry is a manifestation of expertly seasoned Thai cooking. The highlight of it all is the king prawns in sweet and sour sauce – cue fantastic freshness and heavenly seasoning. To end on a high note, the panna cotta is a cute, wobbly delight that’s appropriately sweetened so as not to overwhelm our steaming après dinner espressos.

      As we stride away from our nihilistic (and culinary) sanctuary for the evening, an epiphany dawns on us. Heraclitus once said that you cannot step in the same river twice, for the universe is eternally changing and the truth is only as graspable as flowing water. But like Xenophanes, we dare to challenge the established wisdom – for we are sure to set foot in Café Lebay again, for the unchanging natural beauty the location is fortunate enough to endow, not to mention to sample the restaurant’s glorious cocktails and wonderful food again.

 

 

Kawai Wong


 


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