It comes as no surprise that seafood is the number one choice for visitors to Samui, and you’ll find simple shacks on every beach serving up fresh fish, shrimp, and squid in a huge variety of preparations. We also recommend such casual local seafood restaurants as Jun Hom (tel. 07760-2008) on Bangpor beach, just west of Mae Nam beach, and Sabeingle (tel. 07723-3082), which is perched above the south end of Lamai beach.
In the same way that Thai food in the northern provinces, like Chiang Mai, tastes different than in Bangkok (and absolutely different than it does at home), you’ll find a unique flavor to Southern Thai food. Indian influences are found in the use of cardamom and cloves, while a Malaysian population turns out cracking biryanis (khao mok) and a famous Muslim curry, known as massaman. Outside of the island’s hotels, where everything is cooked with mild spices, Thai dishes in the south tend to be the hottest in the entire country. If you’re particularly spice-adverse, stick to curries that use the island’s coconuts, and remember the essential phrase: mai phet (not spicy)!
BOPHUT & FISHERMAN’S VILLAGE
Take the time to wander through the Fisherman’s Village area, located more or less in the middle of Bophut beach. The houses that once belong to the island’s fisherman have been transformed into foodie havens, and there are several atmospheric pubs and small upmarket restaurants along the water’s edge.
You can savor good seafood at the perennially popular and antique-laden Krua Bophut (www.kruabophut.com; tel. 07743-0030), toward the western end of the village. It serves delicious fried snapper and squid, and features traditional musicians some evenings. Café 69 (www.fb.com/cafe69kohsamui; tel. 081978-1945) serves Thai fusion in a relaxed café; their green curry pie is legendary. Café de Pier x Samui (www.fb.com/cafedepier; tel. 07743-0680) does a booming trade in artisan cocktails and French-Thai dishes in a hip, industrial space. And if you missed the hotel breakfast or want something different, Bar Baguette (www.barbaguette-samui.com; tel. 094804-1221) has healthy smoothies, eggs with smoked salmon, pancakes, and delicious lunch options. The food is Instagram-worthy, and there is a second location on Chaweng Road, but this is the original.
Along the main drag with tables on the beach, it is impossible to miss the ice-packed crates of fresh-caught fish and employees begging for your attention. Price don’t fluctuate shop-to-shop, so pick one that has an appealing atmosphere and get ready to feast. Grilled prawns with spicy dipping sauce or garlic-fried sea bass never disappoint.
Chaweng has tons of eateries, with everything from fast food to the finest dining. Increasingly, larger resorts in the area are setting up free-standing restaurants for both in-house and outside guests.
If you’ve enjoyed the pastries at your hotel’s breakfast, they most likely came from Clyde Café (www.clydecafe.com; tel. 07760-1402). In their shop, they have outstanding coffee and sandwiches on fresh-baked bread.
The Laem Din Market (Soi Reggae) is where many restaurants stock up on produce and meat, and it’s a fun place to wander and grab some fruit or pre-made packets of spices to make curries at home. When the sun goes down, hawkers sell fried-chicken and noodles at the night market.
In addition to the places reviewed below, it’s worth dropping by for lunch or a sundowner at Dr Frog’s (www.drfrogssamui.com; tel. 07741-3797), which sits on the hill between Chaweng and Lamai. It’s a popular spot with a big marketing budget (you’ll see signs everywhere around the island) known for basic Thai grub and well-made Western food, like pasta, grilled meats, and seafood, but the real attraction is spectacular views over the bay.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.