Samui Wining & Dining
NEW TOUCHES, RARE RETROSPECTIVE
Now refurbished, The Page features not just international dining but a chance to taste
Thai dishes from the kingdom’s past.

Now refurbished, The Page features not just international dining but a chance to taste Thai dishes from the kingdom’s past.Dining out in Chaweng is always fun, and there are some remarkable places to go. Right in the heart of the action, you’ll find The Library, a resort that strikes many people as having stepped out of the near-future. It’s a creative kind of place without being peacockish in any way – if anything, it’s understated. Come in off the street and you’ll face a plain wall with a large opening. Step through this and Chaweng and its bustling neighbourhood are immediately forgotten: you find yourself in a garden setting with a wooden walkway that leads past old trees down to the sea and the resort’s restaurant.

          

The Library has always successfully combined a natural feel with some very contemporary architecture. However, it’s managed to raise the bar a few notches higher; already hyper-modern, it’s given its restaurant, The Page, an aesthetic touch-up and has unveiled its new look. Before, the dining area was flatteringly black and white, but now its colours have become more comfortable, with the black replaced by cream tones and the occasional touch of copper. The Library’s incidentally just in the process of opening its brand-new pool villas, and the upgrade in the decor goes hand in hand with the latest section of the resort now coming on stream.

          

Needless to say, you don’t need to be a guest to take advantage of the food at The Page. Plenty of people simply walk in as The Library is so centrally located. You’ll find it on Chaweng Beach Road, a few minutes’ south from Central Festival, right next to Drink Gallery.

          

 The clean lines of the resort, imbued with simplicity and chic, are pleasing to the eye and offer a relaxed dining experience. The menu has also had its own overhaul, and diners are getting a chance to try out some completely different dishes. You might think that with The Page being so modern, dining here is all about fusion food or whatever the latest trend is.Now refurbished, The Page features not just international dining but a chance to taste Thai dishes from the kingdom’s past. But while the menu caters for both Thai and international tastes, what’s really unexpected is the Thai section; instead of voguish new dishes hot out of Bangkok, you’ll find the exact opposite. The menu brings to life dishes that were treasured in the Siam of old, and which have been all but forgotten. That culinary buzzword ‘authentic’ is exceeded here; these are dishes that go way beyond that, and aren’t simply faithful to their roots but are seldom-found gems. You’d have to go far afield to find them elsewhere in the country, and they harken back to recipes involving preparations that have largely been forgotten or rather neglected – these dishes require skilful preparation and can’t simply be belted out by cooks, no matter how experienced they are.

          

The Page offers a wide choice of treats. The menu starts with soups and curries, such as Gaeng Jeud Hua Plee or Banana Blossom & Chicken Soup. Next come the ‘lon’ or relishes. You might be unfamiliar with these, but don’t worry as the staff can explain. Choose perhaps a Nam Prik Goong Yang Naem Pla Rew Gew or Grilled Shrimp and Chilli Relish, a shrimp paste of traditional fame but with added aromatics that give it an entirely different taste. Next to come are grilled and roasted dishes, such as Hor Mok Pla Insee or Grilled Smoked Mackerel and Mushroom Pudding. Hor mok, by the way, is the centuries-old process of steam-cooking in banana leaves. This dish was said to be a particularly auspicious one as its thick texture signifies the close bond between two people. Finally there are stir-fried and deep-fried dishes, such as Goong Krob Phad Prik Khing or Crispy Shrimp Stir-fried in Red Curry. Whatever you choose will be exquisite and prepared to perfection. And you’ll be able to say not just that you’ve dined in style but in an original way.

          

There are five different flavours in Thai cooking (sweet, sour, salty, bitter and spicy) and three different textures (basic, nutty and malleable) and to celebrate them all at one sitting, there’s a degustation menu that is certainly unique not just on Samui, but probably in all of Thailand. It’s called ‘Samrab Thai’ which translates as ‘Thai combination’ and it certainly lives up to its name: it consists of no less than eight courses and eleven separate dishes. And as with Thai dinners of this kind, it’s not an experience to be rushed. The meal takes some three and a half hours from start to finish. It’s not that the food is slow to arrive – the staff are very efficient – but that this is a feast and one to be relished.Now refurbished, The Page features not just international dining but a chance to taste Thai dishes from the kingdom’s past. It’s ideal for Thai-style eating, where you order a variety of dishes that you can then share together.

          

But whatever you choose to eat on the Thai menu, you’ll find that dishes are variously marked. Some have asterisks to denote that they are one of the restaurant’s signature dishes, while others are marked ‘rare’, which means exactly that – you won’t find them anywhere else, certainly not on Samui. You’ll also find some marked with a chilli symbol. These are very spicy, though, if you ask your waiter or waitress, they can be toned down in heat. Then there are vegetarian options, too. Portions, by the way, are on the generous side.

          

There’s also a lunch menu, which tends to be slightly lighter. It’s called, ‘Kin Hor’, which is a bit harder to translate, and many Thais themselves will be flummoxed by the words, never having heard them before. It’s a southern Thai expression and denotes an old custom, prevalent on Samui, whereby extended families would meet once a year, each family bringing with them their best dish. Everybody would then eat together, no doubt swapping recipes along the way. The custom, sadly, is on the wane, but The Page commemorates it and features typical dishes that families might have eaten.

          

However, if you don’t feel like eating Thai fare, you’ll nonetheless be able to satisfy your taste buds with the excellent international menu which offers delights such as Wagyu beef. And at The Page it’s the highest quality, known as MBS 9+. It’s comparable to Kobe beef, and is so tender that you can actually cut the meat using two fingers instead of a knife.

          

The Page has turned into a kind of culinary sanctuary for Thai food. To eat here is to savour the tastes of the old kingdoms of Siam, and there’s something indefinably nostalgic about the dishes – despite the glamourous, modern setting. The restaurant works a kind of magic and shows how inspiring The Library is as a food destination. You can never say that it’s gotten itself into a creative rut. And when dinner’s over, you might just want to slip into the island’s only true library, a white-shelved cube of delight just opposite The Page!

          

 Dimitri Waring


 


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