Samui Wining & Dining
Doubly Delightful

Two restaurants. Two menus. One building. Nora Buri Resort & Spa know just how to spoil you with both Thai and international favourites.

 Two restaurants. Two menus. One building. Nora Buri Resort & Spa know just how to spoil you with both Thai and international favourites.If you're familiar with Thailand’s larger waterways, you'll probably have seen one of the old-style rice barges. They're very graceful, slow-moving vessels that nowadays are a great tourist attraction, and tend to serve lunch or dinner as part of a cruise. But in times gone by, they were used to transport rice up and down the rivers. Traditionally, they were made of wood, and for protection from the sun, their canopies would be a broad leaves of banana trees or pandan leaves that were sewn together.

Here on Samui, there are no major waterways for barges, but nonetheless, you'll find a top-notch restaurant where the amazing architecture is directly inspired by this riverine transport of yesteryear. Well, by now you may be thinking the restaurant’s a refurbished rice barge, but it turns out to be a building, though one that instantly calls to mind the old barges – the roofing in particular mimics the canopies of the barges. The building’s definitely anchored to Samui, but even though it’s not going anywhere in a literal sense, there’s nothing stagnant about it; it’s a vibrant place to dine, and over the years has acquired a deserved reputation for both its Thai and international menu.

Simply known as ‘The Barge Building’, it has three floors and is built on the steepest of slopes. The rice barge that the building resembles seems to be heading out directly into the sea itself. It’s definitely looking forwards, and with a confidence that’s not just architectural but culinary too. The building is technically home to two restaurants, The Barge (international menu) and Rice Barge & Terrace (Thai menu). They're located at Nora Buri Resort & Spa, just a few minutes’ drive north of Chaweng; take the beach road, and keep on going (don’t take the turn-off to the airport) and you'll soon see it the signposts for the resort.

The food is as impressive as the architecture. Starting with the international dishes, there’s a plethora to choose from and the wines to go with them. Brendan Semmens, the chef de partie for Western cuisine here, says that the focus is more on Mediterranean-style cuisine, though he plans in the year ahead to add in some more Asian influences. “We provide the freshest of ingredients and make sure that everything’s as it’s supposed to be,” he says. “There’s no corner cutting of any kind. The food’s honest, ensuring that diners have maximum satisfaction and get their money’s worth.”

Brendan has come up with some brilliant dishes. For starters, the vegetarian Carpaccio might seem to be a contradiction in terms, but it works out well and is an excellent way to begin your evening at The Barge. The dish consists of beetroot, along with red radishes, goat’s cheese,  Two restaurants. Two menus. One building. Nora Buri Resort & Spa know just how to spoil you with both Thai and international favourites.and capers and is served with a rocket salad. It’s delicious, and being quite original, probably something you’ve not had before. One of the things that The Barge promotes is its seafood, with a popular dish being the fillet of sea bass, which is accompanied by lemon potatoes, cucumber and coriander salad and a delicious sauce vièrge. Naturally, you'll find plenty of other equally good dishes to choose from – and there’s a great selection of vegetarian food, too.

You'll also find special theme nights at The Barge. On Monday nights you can enjoy their sumptuous Cowboy Steak Buffet, which as the name suggests is a barbecue of assorted meats. It also includes a cabaret show and musical accompaniment by The Barge Band. It’s a fun way to spend an evening, especially if you're a meat lover. And on Wednesdays, you can enjoy the Hawaiian Seafood Buffet, with a variety of fresh seafood on offer, along with a selection of meat dishes, too. And there’s entertainment in the form of a Polynesian dance troupe.

If you would like to have an extraordinarily romantic evening, then you might want to avail yourself of something rather special that’s on offer: you can dine in the open right by the beach. There are three different menus and all are extremely tasty. You'll definitely need to make a reservation, however, as places are limited, with your table being in a decorated gazebo. You can enjoy a main course of grilled rock lobster with black pepper sauce served with grilled vegetable and butter rice or grilled Australian lamb chops on vegetable ratatouille served with mashed potato & red wine sauce. Or how about a Thai and seafood barbecue, with fish dishes from a charcoal grill? These are just a few examples, but whatever you choose, it’s guaranteed to be truly delicious.

On the uppermost level you'll find Thai cuisine at Rice Barge & Terrace. The restaurant has an air-conditioned section, where you can sit on Thai triangular cushions and enjoy a very relaxed atmosphere, or there’s a patio with great views out over the sea. Naturally, Two restaurants. Two menus. One building. Nora Buri Resort & Spa know just how to spoil you with both Thai and international favourites. it’s possible to mix menus; it’s no problem and all you have to do is tell the waiting staff you’d like to see both the Thai and international menus.

The Thai dishes are real treats, with many old favourites and some that you may not be quite so familiar with. As with the international menu, all the food is the freshest possible, guaranteeing great tastes. A couple of the dishes that Khun Chalermkiat Suwannasri, the group food and beverage director, recommends are the gaeng poo mar, which is blue crab in a yellow curry, accompanied by rice noodles or the pla salmon tord, which is fried salmon with a penang sauce. It’s particularly creamy and delights those who try it.

Dishes tend to be highly photogenic – presentation’s definitely not skimped on – and you'll often find beautifully carved fruits and vegetables that accompany the dishes. If you're not sure what to have, then you might want to opt for a Thai set meal. You'll be served an exquisite selection of dishes, a choice that’s a real treat for diners. Every evening you can enjoy gentle music that is played by a professional musician on a kim, a wooden xylophone, one of Thailand’s traditional instruments.

With so much attention to detail and with the greatest care taken with the food preparation, you’d be forgiven for thinking the price is going to be exorbitant. It comes as a surprise that this isn’t the case at all; despite dining in the architectural gem of a building, the bill when it comes is entirely reasonable – you'll have dined truly well, but without even coming close to breaking the bank..

          

Dimitri Waring


 


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