Samui Wining & Dining
Open House

Galanga must be one of the most delightful restaurants you’ll find on the island.


Page-10-11What is it that defines the ‘WOW’ factor? Great cooking, that’s for sure. Maybe even an awardwinning chef. The location needs to be right. The décor is important too, not too fussy or chintzy or over-the top. And, to go with the décor and the surroundings, there’s that hard-to-define factor – ambiance. I think that just about covers it. Except for the fact that if it was that easy, there’d be a lot more top-notch eateries that there are! But one that’s managed to put all of this together, and carry it off with panache and flair, is right smack-bang in the middle of Chaweng. And its name is Galanga.

      It would be hard to find a better location. It’s right on Chaweng Beach Road, just a hundred metres or so south of the central landmark of Soi Green Mango. But it’s also set back from the street, too, keeping the hustle and bustle at arm’s length. It’s impossible to miss. But what’ll cause you to stop and stare is the design. It’s unique in that it appears at first glance to be a two-storey house in the modern Thai style, with massive wood pillars supporting an elaborate timber roof. But it’s also completely open across the whole frontage, from top to bottom. It’s quite dramatic. There’s a sort of open courtyard at the front, with tables and chairs set around a big tree, and a small show-kitchen on the left, next to a display of fresh fish and seafood.

But it becomes far more of a ‘WOW’ when you then notice the tree inside! There’s a full-size tree growing right up through the middle of the ‘house’, with the balconied upper floor forming an open atrium through which the tree is growing.

      And it’s all combined into one glowing harmony of warm lighting, rich natural woods, simple, sturdy furnishing and subtly integrated décor, with artefacts, paintings and artworks scattered about here and there. Indeed the full title is ‘Galanga Restaurant & Art Gallery’, and the upper floor is a showplace of work for sale, with different small items of craftwork used as decoration on the tables. But, by the time you’ve noticed all of this, the initial first impressions will have faded. You’ll realise that the whole restaurant runs further back than you thought, with a full-length bar at the back and enough room to spaciously seat 48 on this level. And, as well as the tables inside and the open-air terrace at street level, upstairs there’s dining for another 52, plus a separate (and observable) children’s playroom, complete with an entertainment centre and lots of toys.

      The menus are just perfect – this is the way to itemise the cuisine! Firstly, they are big, clear and logically divided into different sections such as appetisers, salads, soups, three sections of zmains (chicken/duck, beef/lamb, fish/seafood) and desserts. This is not just traditional Thai cuisine, nor is it tempted towards some sort of ‘fusion’ concept. It’s certainly Thai-based but, for a start, all the beef and lamb is imported from Australia or New Zealand. Then there are more than a few items that draw on Japanese or Korean elements. And a number of Thai selections appear with a more interesting twist – adding different sauces or non-traditional vegetables such as sweet corn or asparagus, for example. For the want of a handy label I’d describe it as ‘contemporary Thai-Asian’ cuisine. But best of all is that a nice clear photo accompanies every item on the menu so you can immediately see exactly what each dish comprises.

      I’m not going to highlight any of the usual suspects – most diners will already be acquainted with traditional Thai food. But for something more subtle, what about an appetiser such as ‘crispy asparagus wraps’ or ‘tempura calamari with wasabi sauce’? Or a main dish that reads, ‘whole fish, pan fried, served with spicy tom yam sauce’? How about the delicious ‘roasted duck with pineapple and vegetables in red curry sauce’? Speaking of which, there are quite a number of duck dishes here, indicating a stronger Chinese influence than you’ll usually come across.

       But the most popular section of the menu I’ve left until last – the ‘set menus’. Here there are no fewer than seven combinations of seafood or meat, presented in a set of three or four items together, such as the first on the list, ‘one snapper fish, one squid, one clam’, which comes in at only 440 baht, and with the top selection being the table-straining ‘BBQ seafood for two’. All of this comes with a free run of the included salad bar and, of course, you can add anything from the à la carte menu too.

      As Galanga opens at 10:00 am, there’s also a big (all day) breakfast menu that’s utterly lacking in stodge or grease! But you’ll find plenty of baguettes, croissants, bruschetta, sandwiches, wraps, omelettes plus several vegetarian offerings also. The drinks selection is extensive, ranging from soft drinks and shakes through to beers and spirits, and there’s a wall-sized chiller cabinet with a huge range of wines that start at 850 baht, and with 18 bottles on offer at less than 1,000 baht. There’s a similar variety in the cocktails that are featured and you’ll find that, like the prices here throughout, they’re all ever so reasonably priced, with the average cost of these being only around 220 baht.

         There’s only really two ways to go about dining in Chaweng. One is that you go adventuring along the beach road and stop somewhere that catches your eye; there are dozens of pretty places to eat. But the best way by far is that you head directly to one of the best places. Many of these are hidden away somewhere. But not Galanga – it’s the intriguing house with the totally open front. And this is one place that’s managed to get everything just right and has the ‘WOW’ factor running throughout. Not to mention that, in more ways than one, at Galanga they have an ‘open house’ every day of the week!


Rob De Wet


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