October 31, 2017
Known for its beautiful vistas, exclusive resorts, sense of wellness, and tasty coconuts – the island’s most famous export – Samui is now developing a culinary scene to match.
Thailand’s second largest island, Koh Samui has seen a rapid boom in quality fare. Some want the culture and scenery of places like the Jungle Club and KOH Thai Kitchen & Bar, others yearn for cocktails and culinary creativity at The Larder and Link Cuisine & Lounge.
KOH Thai Kitchen & Bar
Settings don’t come much more scenic than at this hilltop restaurant on Samui’s rugged northwest coast. Once a coconut plantation, this serene corner of the island is now home to the plush Four Seasons Resort, topped by this open-air, breezy eatery that showcases the best of local cuisine, such as the delicious “massaman nua”, a rich traditional southern curry given a swish upgrade here with slow-cooked wagyu beef cheek. Accompany your meal with a bottle of fine wine, carefully selected to accentuate the flavors of Thai cuisine, or indulge with a sparkling cocktail – we’re particularly fond of the smooth yet bubbly Rose Velvet, where sparkling rosé is mixed with tanqueray, elderflower, and crème de cassis.
A talented chef with a fine-dining background, native Bavarian Ferdinand Dienst eyed a gap in the market when he first visited the island on holiday back in 2009. A year later he was back with Barracuda, a smart leather- and chrome-filled restaurant on the seashore close to the famed Bophut Fisherman’s Village. With such a romantic nautical location, it’s only apt that the menu is Mediterranean, influenced by the flavors of the local ingredients he picks up daily at the market. Begin your meal with the wonderful homemade tortellini, small packets of perfection filled with lobster, salmon, prawn and shellfish velouté, before savoring the yellow fin tuna, given a sweet twist with the addition of roasted pineapple.
You could say that chef Marco Boscaini is the godfather of international cooking in Samui. In the early noughties, he came to the island to teach locals how to hand make pasta, and liked it so much that in 2003 he opened his own Italian restaurant: Prego. Over the 13 ensuing years both Boscaini and his eatery have become beloved fixtures on the scene, packing in the crowds night after night with deceptively simple yet flavorful Italian dishes. While the wood-fired oven produces perfect thin-crust pizzas, save your appetite for the incredible pasta – we’re still savoring the home-made potato gnocchi, accented with basil pesto, spinach and gorgonzola – and make time for a chat with the omnipresent chef.
There comes a time in every holiday when you just want a burger – and in Samui they don’t come much bigger or juicier than the behemoths served up at Stacked, from the bestselling “Cowboy” packed with onion rings, to the “Border Run” oozing chili con carne. The décor is modern diner with a seaside atmosphere, think comfy seats, exposed lightbulb chandelier, surfboard-shaped central dining table, and feature wall filled with paddles. Feeling really hungry? Then take on their challenge where if you can eat a tower burger that consists of four patties, eight bacon strips, squeezed into a sesame-seed bun and served with double fries and coleslaw in 20 minutes, you get it for free. Good luck.
After a ten minute journey up a very steep road – the gradient is such that taxis won’t attempt it, and those not comfortable about driving themselves should instead opt for the pick-up by 4×4 truck from Chaweng for THB400 each way – your reward is amazing views of the island’s northeast coastline, and a very chilled spot to while away the afternoon. Seating is on bright red bean bag chairs on two wooden decks, with a thatched-roof bar that serves a selection of cold drinks. For the best atmosphere, aim to arrive at around 5.30pm, when the lanterns brighten up the leafy trees, and darkness gently falls on Samui. If you’re staying for dinner, they serve a mix of contemporary French and Thai cuisine.
Link Cuisine & Lounge
Once home to locals who made their living on the waters offshore, the Bophut Fisherman’s Village is now best known for its Friday walking street market. While the Thai boatmen may be long gone, their former homes are not – places such as this gorgeous French-run lounge, where passersby are drawn in by the perfectly framed ocean views. The menu is split between the talents of the Italian and Asian chefs, which means you get to choose between Mediterranean red snapper or tamarind tiger prawns, rib-eye steak or Peking duck, but there’s no such divide on the extensive drinks menu, full of cocktails, wines, and spirits. Sup these on the laid-back upstairs lounge, which is perfect for pre-dinner drinks.
Opened by two of the island’s most well-known F&B personalities in 2012, The Larder was envisaged as a place that they could see themselves and their friends hanging out at, a gastro pub with a down-to-earth atmosphere, but fine-dining standards. Over the last five years, it’s become a mainstay for locals, and a magnet for tourists, drawn by unfussy but delicious dishes like the comforting soft yolk Scotch egg with asparagus for dipping, and the “Lambunctious”, an oven-roasted rack of Welsh lamb with beetroot puree that’s enough to warm the cockles of every homesick Brit. They put just as much effort into the drinks list, with inventive cocktails such as the “Tom Yum Siam” spicing up proceedings.
What’s a beach destination without a signature beach bar? Close to the famous Bophut Fisherman’s Village, under swaying coconut trees and facing the neighboring island of Phangan (known for its infamous full moon parties), chill out on oversized throw cushions (the hammocks that sit at the back of the beach are the prime spots, though do come with a minimum spend) and watch other, more ambitious, tourists try their hand at mastering water-jet powered boots, while you knock back a chilled local beer. There are plenty of classic family party games on-hand to help you pass the time, including UNO and Connect 4, while if you hang out until fairly late in the evening, there’s a nightly fire show at 10pm.