Samui Wining & Dining
When it comes to elegant eateries, there’s nothing like Art of Life anywhere else on Samui!

When it comes to elegant eateries, there’s nothing like Art of Life anywhere else on Samui!Art of Life is a restaurant which specialises in seafood. But unlike the others, this is seafood that’s regarded, approached and treated as being French. That is to say, this is a contemporary French seafood restaurant – the method is towards a fresh and lively modern style of cooking which sidesteps the heavy wine-rich sauces and carbohydrates of the old classical thinking. This is the first of several unique plusses.


The next one is its location. It’s in the absolute prime spot of Fisherman’s Village, right at the corner as you get to the centre and the pier. Many of the old original wooden buildings have now, sadly, disappeared, victims of a misguided urge to update and ‘modernise’. But not Art of Life. It’s been lovingly and painstakingly restored – and any modern touches have been crafted to tie-in with the style.


And that holds true also for the general décor. I challenge you to look at the tables, chairs and bar stools, and the cameo ad hoc decorations, and identify which are actually real antiques and which have been specially-made just to match the period ethos.


Well, that’s another bonus point taken care of. But the biggest points of all have to be for the food. There are many other places which boast of Mediterranean cuisine. But this is, as far as we know, the only spot on the island which offers southern-French-style Mediterranean cuisine, but specialises in seafood. This is fine-dining seafood, French-style – and it’s superb!


This is due to the creative expertise of the resident chef, Christophe Scali. And what you’ll enjoy here is not only his flair and experience, but also the results of a great many imported items, lending a deep layer of authenticity to the southern-French cuisine on offer. Sole, salmon, sardines, clams, periwinkles, whelks, scallops, mussels; none of this is found locally, and there’s nothing that can be substituted if you want that authentic Mediterranean taste.


These are brought-in, every few days, from Rungis, the huge wholesale food market (serving the Paris metropolitan area and beyond) and said to be the largest food market in the world. But (as the owner, Laurent Haroutinian, will tell you) everyone here is also dedicated to supporting the local economy, and many of their fresh vegetables and locallyseasonal fish (snapper, grouper, crabs etc.)When it comes to elegant eateries, there’s nothing like Art of Life anywhere else on Samui! are sourced daily from the freshest the local markets have to offer.


But it’s not all seafood. There’s a slow-cooked (5-hours) Lamb Shank (with mashed cauliflower, raisins and crunchy vegetables), or a rack of prime ribs (Cote De Boeuf) for two people. There are several pasta options. There’s a small but interesting selection of Thai dishes. And most thoughtfully there’s even a kid’s menu, too.


But here comes the next plus point – the actual menu itself. There is no long list of separate items to struggle through in order to decide. Sure, there are the several items listed above, and more. But the working hub of the menu is the choice of combo dishes or ‘platters’. These are logically, tantalisingly and deliciously laid out clearly in order of price and complexity.


The first set (the ‘Discovery’) acts as an intro, with Fine de Claire oysters, clams and shrimps. There are two more sets, each increasing in flamboyance and decadence, culminating in the piece de resistance, ‘The Royal’. And this, truly, will spread across the whole table, with three different sorts of oyster, Canadian lobster plus seven other seafood delicacies.


Those are the ‘big guns’. But Art of Life is also keen to snipe softly at you and seduce you with less quantity, but exactly the same quality, via its tapas and wine selections. Popular in the sunshine hours, as well as a lighter evening alternative, the ‘Art Tapas’ truly fascinate. There are eight different options, and each with a suggested wine (glass or bottle) to pair with. This overlaps the oyster and seafood menu, allowing for a laid-back finger-food approach also.


There’s an extensive wine menu, by the way, with a state-of-the-art ‘chill box’ that allows opened bottles to remain fresh, and the owner and staff have an on-going commitment to keep sampling new wines – purely in the interest of matching them with the seafood . . . so they tell us!


There is even more tucked away in the newly-streamlined menu, but I have only the space here to enthuse about the (numerous) highlights above – you really need to go there and discover Art of Life for yourself, then return to explore further.


And one final point: this isn’t just an excellent restaurant, it’s excitingly unique and refined, and in the best of laid-back island traditions – an absolute must!


Rob De Wet


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