Samui Wining & Dining
Kitchen Kings

April’s ‘Chef of The Month’ is actually four! And they are the talented chefs at Buddy Oriental Samui Beach Hotel.

 

4There’s a little part of Samui that has until recently slipped under many people’s radar. And yet it’s a veritable ‘Dining Avenue’ that leads down to the beach. Buddy Oriental Samui Beach Hotel is located spanning the ring-road as your approaching Lamai coming from Chaweng. It looks like a plaza in a European capital city with colonial architecture surrounding it. And it is home to four distinct restaurants all managed by the hotel. Each one has its own chef leading the teams and we took a stroll around the avenue to find out a bit more about each of them.

 

Khun Chaiyasak Phronthida heads up the brigade at their signature Chom-Lay Thai Seafood Restaurant. It sits on the beach and if you walk through the restaurant towards the ocean you’ll see a large pond and ten display tanks with live seafood. Chef Chaiyasak joined the Buddy Group in 1999, at the age of 17, spending the first six years at their hotel in Bangkok before transferring to Samui. He describes the cuisine at Chom-Lay as regional Thai with a strong emphasis on seafood and, as you would expect from seeing the fish tanks, freshness is paramount. The menu is extensive and there’s plenty of seating inside and outside. When I asked for some recommendations he simply smiled and handed me the menu. “Everything’s very good, but my favourite is the stir-fried soft-shell crab with curry powder.” And his advice for those of you who want to create Thai dishes at home? “Follow a good recipe, get the best ingredients and be patient. You may have to cook a dish dozens of times to perfect it but it will be worth it.

 

Facing the plaza, you’ll see Pazzo Italian Restaurant and Wine Bar on the right. And at the ovens there you’ll find Chef Manee Poosa-art who’s been cooking professionally for the last 18 years. He got his start in the industry when the Italian head chef at the restaurant he was working in took him under his wing. From there his interest in Italian cuisine blossomed and he’s worked in Italian restaurants in Bangkok and Samui ever since. At the beginning of the year, Buddy Oriental was looking to recruit a new head chef for the restaurant and after demonstrating his skills he was offered the position right away. He’s already introduced new dishes and, like Chef Chaiyasak, has a long list of recommendations. When pushed to name just one he opted for the ‘Fettuccine Nero with zucchini and shrimp with white wine sauce’. It’s one of many that are well worth trying.

 

At the top of the plaza is the main entrance to the hotel and what is known as the Buddy Coffee Shop and Restaurant. The name doesn’t adequately describe what goes on here as it’s open for breakfast from early morning and doesn’t close until late at night. There’s a full international menu for lunch and dinner and they’ve also recently opened a Mexican restaurant beside it. Chef Chatchai Tawannakul is the man in charge here and he’s worked in top class hotels and restaurants in Bangkok, Koh Chang and Koh Samui. He’s been with Buddy Oriental for more than a year now and it was at his suggestion that they added the Mexican restaurant to the avenue. You’ll find the menu packed with chimichangas, nachos, rellenos (stuffed chilies), spicy chicken wings, taquitos, flautas (Mexican style spring rolls), tacos, enchiladas, fajitas and quesadillas. His personal favourites though are the marinated pork ribs with barbecue sauce and the spicy chorizo sausages. So why does he like Mexican cuisine? “It’s got a kick to it but it’s a different kind of spiciness to Thai cuisine. There’re also lots of ingredients used in Mexican food that aren’t common in Thai food and it’s meant I’ve had to adapt my style and educate my taste-buds and olfactory senses. Corn, beans, oregano, cilantro and cinnamon are staples that we don’t see in Thai dishes though the use of garlic, onions, chilies and rice is similar. I was intrigued the first time I tried it and have loved it ever since.”

 

Opposite Pazzo on the avenue is Mulligans Irish Pub. And it’s one of the most popular places in this part of Lamai. Like Irish bars the world over, the décor is typically robust with lots of dark wood, there’re all kinds of beers, stouts and lagers on draught and a comprehensive menu. Khun Kittinan Ghampatom is the Chef de Cuisine there and he’s created a menu that encompasses all the Irish and British favourites you’d expect plus a selection of Thai dishes. “Quite often we’ll have a couple in and one will want pie and mash and the other some pad Thai, it’s why we have both, although the Western dishes are ordered most.” Like a number of chefs, he began cooking beside his mum at an early age. For him, in the family catering business in Bangkok. And over the years he’s worked in Thai, Vietnamese, Mexican and Irish restaurants before joining the team at Mulligans last year. Again, he’s expanded the menu and brought another dimension to the avenue. And what are the most requested dishes? “Big breakfasts - they seem a popular hangover cure - Irish stew, Guinness pie, spare ribs and the bacon wrapped pork tenderloin. We have television screens all around the bar and show lots of sports, particularly football, so we tend to serve more snacks, burgers and finger food when that’s on. And we also have live bands playing regularly so it depends on the demographics of the crowd as to what that evening’s most popular dish will be. You have to be ready for every eventuality.”

 

Buddy Oriental’s dining avenue is full of surprises, great food and dedicated chefs. And you certainly won’t be short of choice or good company.

 

Johnny Paterson

 


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