One of the reasons I look forward to visiting Thailand is the food. I am a sucker for Thai flavours and absolutely love the cuisine. Be it Bangkok, Phuket or Pattaya, I have always had amazing food in Thailand and was pretty excited to tickle my taste buds at Ko Samui as well. Good food always forms an integral part of all my travels, and as much as I enjoy street food, I love to try out good restaurants as well. To be honest street food in Thailand hasn’t really caught my fancy, so I tend to stick to the safer and tastier options like Massaman, Green Curry, Thai Fried Rice, Chicken & Cashews, Pad Thai and the like. Although I do love two of the most abundantly available street foods there; Sticky Rice with Mango and Banana Nutella Pancakes.
Coming back to my recent trip to Ko Samui, I must say that the food served at most of the restaurants there tends to be a bit much sweeter than Thai food usually is. The explanation for this is the the large number of European and Australian tourists that visit Ko Samui throughout the year, spice just does not suit their palates.
Nora Buri Resort & Spa:
After a red eye flight from Bombay I finally arrived at Ko Samui right on time for breakfast. I wasn’t about to start my first day at Ko Samui by over eating, so I kept it light and had a Thai fruit platter at the hotel that I was staying at; Nora Buri Resort & Spa. The fruit platter was huge with generous helpings of dragon fruit, papaya, bananas, pineapples, musk melon and watermelon.
The daily breakfast at the Manora restaurant (Nora Buri Resort & Spa) was quite a spread with both continental as well as Thai breakfast items. My plate usually contained some good old bacon, cheese omelette, butter croissant, tea cakes and the like. I also tried some of the Thai spread as well including the massaman curry, green curry and the very weird but kind of nice egg custard buns also known as Lai Wong Bao (the white blob on the plate). Yes I usually ended up having two plates of breakfast instead of one, but I was on vacation!
While I did not get the chance to eat any of my other meals at the hotel restaurant, I sampled some of their poolside snacks and my order of both the Chicken Satay and Chicken Spring rolls were pretty tasty and so were the drinks.
The hotel also has a restaurant called The Rice Barge which has a sea food buffet at night, but like I mentioned I did not get the time to try that. But going by the taste of the curries I had for breakfast, I am pretty sure the Thai cuisine here would be upto the mark and not sweetish. Another great thing about the hotel restaurants was that both the drinks and the food are pretty reasonably priced, especially for the kind of hotel it is.
We went to the main Chaweng street on our first day at around 4 pm looking for some late lunch. After walking for a bit and taking in the sights, aromas and the sounds we stopped at what looked like a pretty decent restaurant with a huge seafood display at the entry. The fact that it was called Samui Aussie was a bit strange, but that was before I knew that most things here were shaped as per the tastes of the visiting tourists.
So in a huge menu full of options for varieties of steak, I spotted the Thai section and ordered Pad Thai Noodle and Chicken & Cashews with rice. I kind of liked the Chicken & Cashews although it had a sweetish flavour, the Pad Thai was sweet as well so after adding a lot of chili sauce I found a good balance of flavours.
Also ordered some Onion Rings, and regretted it the moment i bit into one. It was profusely oily and quite frankly were like bad homemade onion pakoras.
Although I didn’t have any alcohol, the restaurant had a well stocked bar and looked like it had a fine collection of wine.
It had a very chilled out ambience, probably more fun at night with a little more crowd and some music I am guessing and is right in the main market area of Chaweng. The food was pretty okay, not too good not too bad either. It wasn’t the kind of Thai food I was hoping to eat but still okay. Assuming that the steaks and seafood here would have been better.
Eat Sense Restaurant
So i had done a bit of research on the best Thai restaurants in Ko Samui and Eat Sense was quite highly rated on TripAdvisor as well as on other lists such as ‘Top 10 Restaurants In Chaweng’ and the like. In pictures, the place too looked pretty with beach front seating and fairy lights on the trees. Quite a few people had called it as the best Thai restaurant in Ko Samui. The location and reviews seemed really great so I found myself there for dinner. While the place looked quite pretty with both indoor and outdoor seating, unfortunately due to sudden rains we were forced to sit inside.
The service was top notch, and although the staff had a little bit of trouble understanding English, they seemed very eager to make our dinner memorable and pleasant. I was craving some Massaman Curry and was delighted when I saw that they had something called the ‘New Zealand Lamb Shanks Massaman Curry’. I immediately ordered that, while my mother went for a Chicken Tom Yum Soup, my father ordered some Shrimps and my sister ordered a vegetarian fried rice and some mushrooms and asparagus.
Our order was placed with a special instruction to make everything spicy and to cut out the sweet. The presentation of the food was impeccable and I couldn’t wait to dig into it, and that’t when the disappointment began. The soup was sweet, the lamb shanks were tough and the base of the curry was so sweet that it could pass off as dessert, the vegetarian fried rice contained a generous amount of egg in it (I had completely forgotten that egg is considered vegetarian in Thailand and had forgotten to mention a request of no eggs while placing my order), the asparagus and mushrooms and the prawns were the only thing that were okay, not brilliant, just okay. This was the first time in my life I must have left the meat on my plate. I guess most of those positive reviews were written by European tourists. For being the best Thai restaurant in town, it was pretty disappointing, not to mention that it was kind of pricey as well, I think we paid around Rs. 7000 for this meal with a couple of drinks. While I am sure a lot of people must be genuinely finding the food here to be tasty, it was too sweet for my liking.
Lunch At Koh Paluay
On my second day at Ko Samui, I went for a full day Ang Thong Marine Park Tour (Read more about it here) and our lunch stop was at Koh Paluay- the only inhabited island of the marine park. Quite hungry from the day’s activities, the lunch felt quite good.
The fare was quite simple with Chicken Satay, Fried Shrimps, Fried Chicken Strips, Chicken & Cashews, Vegetarian Fried Rice, Steamed Rice, 3 types of Salads and Chicken soup.
They also made a special spicy potato curry for my sister as there were very few veg options in the buffet. The food was served with spicy fish sauce which I love! Finally I had some Thai food that wasn’t sweet. After the disappointing dinner at Eat Sense the night before, this felt absolutely fantastic.
Coast Bar & Grill
Not too thrilled with the Thai fare that we had been eating, we decided to take a break and try out some other option for dinner instead. Coast Bar & Grill at the Centara Grand Beach Resort had appealed to me due to its fabulous ambiance and the fact that it faced the sea. This was one of the restaurants that I had made up my mind to visit even before we reached Ko Samui. So we decided that this was the place to grab dinner for the night.
The only Thai food that we ordered there was the Som Tam (Green Papaya Salad), which we asked to be made spicy and thankfully it was. The rest of the order included a crispy chicken fillet burger with fries, a smoked salmon tortilla wrap with a tomato salsa and guacamole, a 4 cheese pizza, a cucumber and apple mocktail and some red wine.
Everything starting from the decor, to the view and the food were perfect. I guess the best meal that I had in Ko Samui was this, also the most expensive. All of this was easily around Rs. 9000 in Indian currency. Overpriced? Definitely.
My last night at Samui, I had already stuffed myself with Banana Nutella Pancakes and Sticky Rice with Mango from the street side carts all through the evening, so for dinner I wanted to keep it light and probably get a fresh coconut water with some starters. I didn’t have the energy to look for a specific place and had remembered seeing Copacabana at Central Mall in Chaweng. So as I was already in Chaweng I found myself a table there and ordered some Prawn Tempura, Fried Mozzarella Sticks and Spring Rolls along with some coconut water. Thai coconut water is probably the yummiest I have ever had, the water is like nectar. I seriously didn’t mind paying 120 bucks for these. The food was good and I had no complaints.
Other food included lots and lots of Sticky Rice and Mango, I absolutely love this dish. I also feasted on some Banana Nutella Pancakes and had lots and lots of coconut water and pineapple juice. Since I had made up my mind not to drink during this trip, the only two times I ever drank, I had some Singha.
Overall I wouldn’t say that I was extremely satisfied with the food at Ko Samui, and I say this because I was really expecting some delicious Thai food. I made up for it druing my one day stay at Bangkok though. So if you want to avoid sweet curries, then avoid the Thai food here, stick to more of continental dishes, there is also a good Indian restaurant at Chaweng that goes by the name Noori, my folks had a meal there and were raving about it.
My suggestions- have lots of Sticky Rice with Mango and Banana Nutella Pancakes!