Samui Wining & Dining
A Breath of Fresh Air

Getting away from the beach at one of Samui’s most tranquil restaurants – The Farmer.

 

wining - dining 15Did you realise that around 15% of visitors to Samui don’t care so much for Thai food? Strange but true. There are quite a few reasons to visit Thailand, and food is usually one of them! But, then, few people want to eat the same sort of food every day anyway. And, for every Euro-style sports pub or restaurant, there are certainly a great many others offering ‘local’ cuisine. But this in itself causes a teensy problem, because Thai cuisine comes in all sorts of flavours and types.

      But what the heck! You’re here for the sun and the sand. And Thai food is more or less pretty much the same everywhere, isn’t it? Snappy answer – you’re suffering from too much sun! What you need is a break. You need to get just a little off the beaten track and away from the beach. And you need to tap into some of that deep tranquillity that you’ve read so much about. In a nutshell, you need to head towards Maenam and look for the sharp 90-degree twist in the road at the border of Ban Tai, right next to the temple arch and the side road to the Lomprayah Ferry. Because that’s where you’ll see the clearly signposted markers for The Farmer Restaurant & Bar.

       The Farmer is set within 16 rai of land, most of which is working rice paddy – as far as I’m aware perhaps the only one to be found on this coconut

isle – together with a team of workers to maintain it all. The best time of day to get there is half an hour so before sunset. The silence is impressive, like a soft blanket that makes you suddenly aware of all the now-missing background hum and buzz you’ve grown accustomed to. The rice paddy with its quietly rippling grasses stretches away into a cooling landscape of muted pastels, with the pale lilac of Samui’s mountainous interior as a backdrop.

      The building itself, however, is anything but rustic. It’s cleanly and elegantly modern, and the big, open interior deck leads down to the pride-of-place tables on the outer terrace, perched right over the edge of the sea of green. There are several levels here, each one stepping down a little, with a long bar at the back end and the kitchens along one side. The furnishings are tasteful and understated, but both the service and quality of fare are first-class.

         On the menu, it’s the Thai cuisine that shines through, and this is hardly surprising, considering the pedigree of the owner. Khun Lek (Khun Phraemat Pacharabusabong) is the creator of The Farmer, and she’s been here, on the island, for more than 25 years now. Although what’s interesting is that her family is based in Bangkok, and for five generations the maternal side of her ancestry worked in the Royal kitchens. As a girl she was taught to prepare all the hand-ground curry pastes - everything very exact and precise. And she quietly became a party to many of the hush-hush palace recipes for sauces and flavourings too. You probably won’t realise it, but the majority of Thai cooks today don’t go to this kind of trouble – they’re just too busy and it’s far more convenient to buy their pastes and sauces ready-mixed. But at The Farmer these old, traditional recipes are very much in evidence. Their dishes have a creamy smoothness, and use prime imported ingredients: definitely something you won’t come across in many other local Thai eateries.

         The menu here is just about perfect. At Samui Wining & Dining we get to see a great many restaurant menus; some are confidently short and sweet, others just so lengthy that diners become stressed trying to decide what to eat! Here you’ll find an admirable selection of tip-top International offerings melded in with some exceptional Thai fare. But, whichever way you lean, you’ll quickly find two or three items that’ll get your juices moving. The International menu is sectioned into appetisers, soups, pasta dishes and pizzas, then a selection of mains that cover meat, poultry and seafood. The beef is prime cuts of imported Australian tenderloin and rib, and a special mention has to go to the Kobe wagyu, that most tender of all meats. And this is where we enter that rich area where East meets West!

         A culinary generation ago, it would have been called ‘fusion’. But that’s now become a coarse and unwelcome banner, and dishes that once travelled under it (much as with ‘curry and chips!) were often similarly un-subtle. But to test the delights of a taste-bud tantalising chef, head towards the ‘Massaman Lamb Shank’. This succulent Australian lamb has been melded-in with a Southern Thai speciality, and the creamy soft sauce has a royal pedigree too, as already mentioned.

         The majority of local restaurants don’t offer duck on the menu. Why? “. . . because it’s Chinese, not Thai!”. But the far-reaching storerooms of the Royal kitchens had no such restraints. And at The Farmer, you’ll simply curl up and die when you order what is now simply called ‘Farmer’s Duck’. (A few years back it was ‘Dirty Duck’. But I guess the idea of clean living gets in everywhere nowadays.) It’s crisp. It’s a whole half duck and it tastes like nothing you’ve ever come across. It’s mildly spiced with a red curry sauce but there’s a slight under-taste of sourness (that’s balanced by the creamy texture) which leaves hints of cinnamon and tamarind that’ll make your toes wiggle.

         There’s all of this, you’ve got one of the most serene setting anywhere, it’s eminently affordable for this level of dining – and it’s most decidedly not on the beach! How many more reasons could you need to get away from the sand and the sun and head towards the tranquillity of The Farmer?

         

Rob De Wet


 


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