Samui Wining & Dining
Going Native

Joining the locals for lunch far from the madding crowd at I-Talay.

p22Each month our photographer and I take a trip around the island and get off the beaten track a little. Our aim is to find a local Thai restaurant that you probably don’t know exists but is more than worth the effort to visit. Recently we were scouting around the south-west of Samui and came upon a beautiful little restaurant that had great food and outstanding views. It’s called I-Talay which means ‘a feeling of the sea’.

It’s only 30 minutes or so from Chaweng and after you pass by Lamai and Hua Thanon you’ll see a sign for the 4170. It loops back around to the ring-road but maybe three quarters of the way along it you’ll see a turning on the left which is guarded by two huge carved elephants. Go down that road and just after the temple there’s a right-hand turn that takes you past The Five Islands Restaurant. Just after that take a left-hand turn and go up the hill past Taling Ngam Resort, then down the hill going past Ban Sabai Sunset Resort and a couple of hundred metres further on you’ll see a sign for Nasai Garden. Turn in there and the restaurant is right in front of you on the beach.

Made from simple bamboo with a thatched roof, the restaurant is open on all sides and has wonderful views of some of the nearby uninhabited islands of the Angthong National Marine Park. There’re tables inside the restaurant and out on the grass and some deckchairs on the beach that you can relax on. Owned and run by Samui natives, Khun Tik and Khun Puang, who’ve both worked in a number of resorts around the island before opening the restaurant earlier this year. And whilst this is very much a small local eatery, it’s clear by the presentation that the chef has worked in some top-class places.

Their menu is written in Thai and English and is packed full of familiar favourites and southern specialities, some of which you may not have tried before. They have a reasonable range of shakes, juices and soft drinks, and beers start at just 60 baht. And there’re a dozen or so cocktails at 120 baht (during happy hours from 4-6:30pm, cocktails are only 99 baht with beers from 49 baht). The menu is split into 12 sections opening with Thai appetizers (60-100 baht) such as moo da deaw (deep-fried pork with dried herbs), kai tod kamin (chicken with turmeric) and goong chae num pla (spicy fresh shrimp with chili and lime).

Over the page, there’re a dozen Thai salads (60-100 baht) which make delicious side dishes to most meals. Amongst the favourites are yum pla doog fu (crispy catfish with sour and spicy salad), som tum poo (spicy papaya salad with prawns, peanuts and chili) and the outstanding yum hua plee thod krob (deep-fried banana flower salad with onion, tomato and herbs). This latter dish is not something you see too often and I’d recommend you try it when you can. They also have seven soups (80-120 baht) which are almost complete meals in themselves and another dozen stir-fry dishes that start at 60 baht.

As you would expect, they have steamed and grilled whole fish which changes daily depending on what the fishermen have caught. Khun Tik and his friends often take the boat out at night themselves and have the evening’s catch on the menu the next day. We had a whole steamed white snapper with garlic and chili when we visited it and, at 200 baht, was a real bargain which we struggled to finish.

They’ve included some western dishes to the menu as visitors don’t always want Thai food. And you can get garlic bread, fish and chips, sandwiches, burgers, snacks, a couple of pasta dishes and even a steak if that’s what you’re in the mood for.

Interestingly enough, I met a Swedish couple there and, even though they were staying in Bophut, this was their third visit in a week to I-Talay. They’d come across it purely by accident and not only enjoyed the food but also the quiet beach and the view. Each time they visited, they’d shared a couple of Thai dishes and then spent an hour or two chilling out on the beach before tucking into a plate of chips with tomato sauce before heading back to their hotel. Some foods have a comfort value beyond measure! Aside from a steady trickle of locals and tourists during the afternoon that I went, there was hardly another soul on the beach. You could be forgiven for thinking that you were one of just a handful of people on the island, and that’s a very nice feeling.

Open from 10:00 am to around 9:00 pm, I-Talay is how you imagine local Thai restaurants would be. There’s really no comparison to the places you see in Chaweng or Lamai and they definitely don’t have the ambience. Going down there for the day is like a mini-holiday, somewhere that you can relax to the full. If you only get out-and-about for one day of your vacation, I’d certainly suggest heading down to the south-west coast. If you follow the road further past the restaurant it leads towards Lipa Noi and eventually back onto the ring-road so you can’t get lost.

All in all, you’ll find terrific food, peace and quiet and a warm welcome at I-Talay – and you can’t ask for much more than that.

 


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