Samui Wining & Dining
On A Theme

Enjoying an evening at Chomtalay’s laid-back Asian BBQ and Beach Buffet.

 

18Times are hard. Interest rates are creeping and economies are suffering. All over the civilised world people are tightening their belts and watching their spending. And that’s happening on Samui, too. Yes, sure, the sun is shining and the sky is blue, but everyone’s feeling the pinch in one way or another.


That’s one reason why the buffet dinner with its volumes of quality food required is falling out of favour with restaurants. It costs a lot to put on a good spread and lots of customers are needed to make it work. But, whereas many places are shelving the genre, there’s one in particular that’s not. Just the opposite, in fact. They’re actually expanding it! And that’s the Chaweng Regent Beach Resort’s beachside restaurant, Chomtalay.


Chaweng Regent is one of the island’s longest-established resorts and one of the biggest in Chaweng. Well, certainly when it comes to the extent of the grounds and the splendidly rampant tropical foliage that abounds therein. But just because they’ve been around for a while doesn’t mean that their outlook is conservative. And over the last few years their energetic management team have been coming up with some bold new strategies to attract more custom. Whereas competitors have been counting costs and cutting corners, the Chaweng Regent has completely overhauled its buffet theme nights, made them more diverse and adventurous, and moved them prominently right onto the beach.


And there’s more. Many resorts still feature one buffet-style evening every now and again: the cost is balanced by their own in-house residents. And they’ll probably put on a Thai dancing show to go with it. But everywhere seems to do this and, by itself, it’s not likely to attract visitors from outside. But here, at Chomtalay, they’ve got different ideas.


We’re keenly aware of what’s going on around us,” the resort’s Guest Services Manager, Nadine Rouget, told me, “and we need to offer something that will interest outside visitors and tempt them to come here for the evening. So we’re putting on some varied and unusual entertainment to go with our buffet nights. Tumblers or fire-jugglers, for example. A jazz trio. A travelling circus. We even had a bartender cocktail-juggling display. Folk walking past on the beach stop to watch and then decide to eat here. Simply having great food and service isn’t enough. People need to know that it’s fun here, too!


To add to that, a month or so back Chaweng Regent caused something of a stir when it hosted Spark Circus, a brilliant group of travelling performers that specialises in dance, mime, juggling, and light and fire performances (and whose laudable aim is to generate money for homeless Burmese children). To see the clowns and acrobats parading in full costume on the beach prior to the evening performance drew quite a crowd – particularly the performer on stilts, dancing in the soft sand! The show at the buffet that night was nothing short of spectacular.


Not so long ago Chomtalay had a well-earned reputation for being classy … but demure. It’s certainly still classy but much more out-going now, with the firm-but-not-deafening bounce of up-tempo music as a backdrop and a full-tilt lounge on the beach, complete with chunky modern sofas with big red cushions grouped around nests of low tables. Or you can opt to sit at one of the sturdy restaurant-style tables instead – still with your toes in the sand. If none of this appeals, then the elevated terrace of Chomtalay is more formally laid-out and allows an overview of the goings-on without being in the midst of it all. It’s your choice.


The buffet itself is super. A line of long tables, brightly lit by overhead spots, bears all the dishes, ingeniously heated in woven ethnic containers or stainless-steel servers. There’s a live ‘cooking station’ where kebabs and satay-sticks, or the seafood and meat of your choice, is barbecued à la minute. Exactly what’s on offer varies slightly from week to week, according to what’s in season or freshest at the market that day. There are all the usual and expected Thai dishes: the stir-fries, curries, salads and soups. Plus a sprinkling of other appealing comestibles, too, such as: green salad, French toast, baked potatoes, sausages and burgers. The staff here are aware that not everyone from Europe likes to eat Thai food all the time, particularly children!


The service is excellent, by the way, and in keeping with the best of fine (beach!) dining traditions. Staff are constantly yet unobtrusively at hand to take another order for drinks, remove your empty plate or replace used cutlery. And they all speak first-class English.


But that’s not the end of it. Each month there are different ‘specials’ running. It might be offers on wine, beers or cocktails, or the option of ‘buckets’ – a traditional Samui party offering. (Essentially a small metal ice-bucket filled with the spirit and mixer of your choice: choose from local brews such as Sang Som whiskey or go for the ‘Premium’ option of a branded vodka or Bacardi.)


If you can’t make it to the Thai buffet, held every Saturday, then you can look-in at the Tuesday ‘Roast Evening’. You’ll find exactly the same variety of dishes available and the same quality of service whatever night you dine here. But with one exception: the Roast Evening also features an entire roast pig on a spit, at which you can slice-away to your heart’s content.


One of the ongoing problems on Samui is that there’s no real way to advertise events on a daily basis; no daily (or even weekly) newspaper or ongoing community news presence, not even a current-events website. And so the only way to know what’s being offered at Chaweng Regent and Chomtalay is to pass by and look at the banners and posters outside. They’ll be outside the resort, towards the northern part of Chaweng Beach Road, not far from the turn towards the Lake Road.


Everything is attractive here and that also includes the cost. The Friday Thai Buffet will separate you from a mere 850 baht and the Tuesday Roast only 750 baht, and that’s for all you can eat. And with children under 12 years old paying half-price, this has to be some of the best news around. Few others can match this and fewer still can offer the sheer variety and quality you’ll find here.

 


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