Samui Wining & Dining
Up the Road

It's worth making a trip up to the north end of Chaweng - where you'll enjoy the super dining Nora Beach Resort.

5-1Most people shudder when they hear the word ‘buffet’. All too often, it brings to mind images of dull hotel breakfasts, finger food wedding spreads or teenage birthdays. In other words – any time or place there are lots of people who need a quick and easy food fix. But hold your horses! The concept behind buffets is perfectly sound. And if you apply the principle to first-rate food that’s cooked to perfection, plus live cooking stations for the meat and fish, attentive staff, and top quality table settings, then the experience changes radically. Particularly if you set it all up on a tropical island at the edge of the sea and under the stars.

The main problem with buffets is the sheer quantity of food that needs to be provided in order for it to work. That means you need lots of customers to cover your costs. You could always try to drop the price to attract folks, but then you’ll have to cut back on both quantity and quality. What you need is a good reputation. Good word of mouth. You need to grow in stature. And this is just what has happened, over the years, at Nora Beach Resort & Spa, just about the last resort there is on the strip, up at the very northern end of Chaweng Beach Road.

The Nora Group is something of a local legend. They started off here with Nora Beach itself; a spacious and luxuriant layout that’s cunningly terraced down the hilly land that’s found in this part of Chaweng. Then they surprised some of the locals by aiming at the other end of the holiday market and building two budget-style hotels, away from the beach. But then, in 2009, they came out with a lavishly luxurious 5-star offering with their flagship, Nora Buri – revealing that they had cleverly created a spectrum of accommodation that drew in everyone from backpackers to jetsetters alike. And naturally, at the top end of their pitch, they established some outstanding dining.

The setting, here at Nora Beach, is just about picture-postcard perfect. Situated right at the edge of the sand, the restaurant, Prasuthon, is actually quite large, being able to seat up to 120 people if need be. It’s very neatly designed so that all the space is broken up – to start with there’s actually two separate open-sided sala-style buildings. There’s the main ‘room’ together with the pleasant outside deck that forms a deep terrace overlooking the beach, and there’s also a spacious area running along the entire far side of all this – and they’re all at slightly different levels, linked by wooden decking.5-2 It’s all very attractive, made of warm, rich timber, and wherever you sit there’s a sense of intimacy and privacy.

The menu here is really very good, and comes courtesy of another island legend, Chef Sitthichai Saephu – more usually known by his nickname of Khun Sit. He previously worked at top restaurants in Phuket, before coming here after the fateful tsunami of 2004. And his pedigree is such that his European offerings are as effortlessly authentic as the regional and Thai dishes that form the other side of his menu.

It’s easy enough to sit back and simply run the same menu year after year. But, twice a year, Chef Sit completely overhauls his menu, revamping his offerings with a fresh approach and featuring new signature dishes. And currently you’ll find that there’s a subtle hint of ‘East meets West fusion’ running throughout. Right now ‘King of the Sea’ is top of the pops here, a mixed seafood dish featuring scallops and king prawns, combined with a fillet of sea bass together with mango sauce with chilli balsamic, and presented with mange tout, baby corn and a side salad.

If you’re already a seasoned visitor to Thailand then you’ll enjoy picking from the authentic Thai dishes on offer. But if you’re not too sure, then there’s a useful set menu that conveniently groups some of the most popular items all together. The four courses come with a starter (Asian Flavour) which contains spring rolls, chicken satay and deep-fried prawn pancakes. Then there’s a soup (tom yam gai) 5-3and a main course of either massaman or green curry. And to finish off there’s the traditional dessert of mango sticky rice. It’s also worth mentioning that the prices here not what you’d expect for quality dining. Most of the items are in the 250 – 350 baht price range, and the most expensive dishes only run to around 450 baht or so.

But it’s the theme buffet evening which always seem to attract the most attention, although you’re quite welcome to choose from the à la carte menu instead, if you wish (which is useful if one member of your group has a smaller appetite or if you come with children). Every Thursday there’s the all-you-can-eat ‘Beach BBQ’ where you can pick from a variety of different cuts of hot and cold meats, including chicken, pork and beef, plus a range of fresh seafood. And not only is there an open salad bar but also live cooking stations preparing fresh seafood and meat cooked just the way you want it. Go and order your choice, sit back, and it will be delivered to you in just a few moments.

And then on Tuesdays you’re invited to enjoy ‘Siam Kingdom’, essentially an entire range of Thai offerings (with a variety of cold cuts and barbecued items too) but with the advantage of being ‘all you can eat’. There’s a splendid display of Thai dancing that runs for an hour starting at 8:00 pm. And it’s also worth knowing that there’s a happy hour in place from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm, with all spirits and liqueurs, plus Corona beer, at half price. Also, on the subject of pricing, be aware that the prices on the menu here are what you’ll actually pay - there’s no tax or service charge on top, it’s already included.

Very few resorts get outside diners coming in for their buffet nights. But here, at Nora Beach Resort, the price is excellent, the choice varied, and they get a great many guests coming in to enjoy their buffets. And all you need to do for this – is just go up the hill!


Rob De Wet


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