Samui Wining & Dining
THE EQUILIBRIUM OF EATING
We explore a new culinary experience at one of the island’s most stylish resorts – The Library.

We explore a new culinary experience at one of the island’s most stylish resorts – The Library.Samui’s changed a lot in the last ten years. Our island had been emerging, growing, for quite some time, but then there was a kind of watershed, a tipping point, around about a decade ago. This was the time when, suddenly, all the big international hotel chains began to appear at once, each keen to stake a better and more exclusive slice of Samui. And hot on their heels scampered all the lesser gods, all of them glittering hopefully, and most of them verging on 5-star in rating, if not actually in name. They came complete with the very latest in worldclass architectural fashion. Thus it came about that Samui suffered a sudden style-rash involving vast expanses of plain concrete and wide, empty spaces offset by scrubbed wooden decks, ‘plain’ fabrics such as unbleached jute and linen, and with ‘natural’ earth tones splashed everywhere around.

          

Except for one. While others were keen to be seen following the leaders in style, this one wasn’t. This particular resort didn’t follow anyone. This resort didn’t do things in style, it did them with style. It wrote, designed, realised, and then created, its own specific genre, according to the unique vision of its owner. It picked out some of the brightest young stars from Bangkok; artists, 3-D designers, textile and fashion innovators. And they all talked, worked and stayed together here on Samui until it took shape and was completed, in 2006. Even the name was obliquely tantalising. It was simply . . . The Library.

          

And here’s the thing. Whereas some resorts seem to work to a formula and mechanically apply it to everything – layout, furniture, décor, soft furnishings, and fabrics – The Library doesn’t. The essentials are consistent, yes; the geometric motif of the buildings with their blocky structure and fully-opening walls of wood and glass, for instance. Or the predominance of the colour white. We explore a new culinary experience at one of the island’s most stylish resorts – The Library.But the design brief changes when it comes to the smaller things. Now the theme is ‘There Is No Theme’. And this Zen approach means that the plates in the restaurant might be anything from slabs of granite to intriguing chunks of wood (and every other material you can imagine in-between). Or even the seats in their fascinating giant cube of glass on the main road outside (entitled Drink Gallery); each of which is different and most of which are quirkily custom-made. Or the cocktail glasses, which are a constant excitement, and might be anything from a tiny metal watering can to a row of antique Peruvian pickle jars.

          

Each of the accommodations is numbered in accord with the ‘library’ theme; the first of them is Page 1, the next is Page 2, and so on. And then, just when you were getting the hang of this, you’ll walk down past the (deep red) swimming pool and notice, on your right and at the edge of the beach, The Page. It’s another little quirk. Because this is the resort’s signature fine-dining restaurant. It’s open on two sides – a ‘room’ which extends out onto a broad wooden deck that fringes the beach. This room continues the ‘white’ theme, with crisp snowy walls and tables and everything very simple and geometric. But you can’t keep a good quirk down, and thus it pops out at you again with the menus (huge, and heavily-edged with strips of brass). But the content is elegantly, simply and clearly laid out – one menu for daytime and another for evening dining.

          

All the design ideas at The Library are creative and inspired. They are integral, not distracting or superfluous. And so the menu is not only of a similarly-elevated fine-dining standard but, in its own sphere, is equally as innovative and quite possibly unique. First let it be said that the cuisine is divided into ‘East’ and ‘West’. Featuring prominently on the ‘West’ is the legendary ‘Wagyu’ section for which The Library has become famous. All the selections here are MBS 9+ – so dreamily tender that you can cut them with your fork.We explore a new culinary experience at one of the island’s most stylish resorts – The Library. And with them, in the ‘Mains’ grouping, you’ll find grilled Kurobuta pork chops, together with bases of duck, lobster, tuna, salmon, seabass and kingfish, alongside a refined selection of starters and soups. Each of these dishes is exquisite in its own right. But such is the excitement when it comes to the ‘East’ part of the menu that it’s in danger of stealing the show!

          

It’s a simple enough concept: the way the Thai people eat their food is unlike the Western pattern where one dish arrives by itself, to then be replaced by the next course. Rather, the Thais sit around a collection of dishes and take a little from each of these to their plate, in different combinations. Thus the Thai elements of sweet, sour, salty, spicy and bitter are balanced and combined together in taste bud complements, according to individual preference. However, here at The Page, they’ve introduced another dimension, that of texture. Thus there is also a whole new adventure with the added possibilities of neutral, nutty, soft, crisp and waxy. It’s not unlike the principle of wine-pairing, but with multidimensionally more potential combinations, contrasts and harmonies. With the à la carte menu, there’s a wide choice of items, but the trained staff are at hand to advise and recommend differing combinations.

          

But this is just the machinery of the meal – how it all fits together on the table. Even more exciting are the dishes themselves. The chefs at The Page have been collecting old recipes; ancient and/or traditional dishes from all over Thailand, some of them virtually rescued from oblivion, and others with rare ingredients which are now not so easy to obtain. In times gone by, extended families were large enough to be almost a clan. And on religious or festive occasions when all the clans gathered together, each of them would contribute a ‘signature’ dish. Hence the ‘set menu’ that’s on offer in the daytime, the ‘Kin Hor’, a showcase of five dishes unique to Koh Samui.

          

And on the evening dining menu there’s the superb 11-dish ‘Samrab Thai’, a collection of similarly-unique dishes designed to represent the essence of the collective Thai dining experience, in which all at the table are invited to participate and share. It’s an exceptional event, featured only here at The Library in Chaweng, where they have elevated the ‘equilibrium of eating’ to a gastronomic art-form.

          

 Rob De Wet


 


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