Samui Wining & Dining
RESTAURANT DISGUISED
You might think Drink Gallery is just a bar, until you see the food.

You might think Drink Gallery is just a bar, until you see the food.Appearances can be deceptive. Usually the expression applies to people, and the way they turn out to be the opposite of what we thought them to be. But it can also apply to places, as well. We look at them, sum them up, label them, only to step inside and realise we were wrong from the start. I made that mistake with Drink Gallery, sure that it’d just be a chic place for über-expensive cocktails and little in the way of food.

          

Drink Gallery turns out, however, to be a restaurant rather than simply a bar. The fact is that though they do drinks here – we’ll come to them later, as they’re excellent – this is really somewhere to eat. It’s one of those places that looks expensive from the outside, but surprisingly isn’t. The décor’s both chic and daring, verging on the avant garde. It oozes creativity and sophistication, so you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s going to cost an arm and a leg once you’re inside. But once I looked at the prices I found that they’re entirely affordable. Think 350 Baht – but for food that’s tasty and filled with quality ingredients.

          

As you can see, so far, nothing about the place is quite as you’d expect it to be. It’s attached to The Library, a resort featuring minimalist rooms set in a green lawn amidst old trees with a swimming pool that has deep-red tiling throughout. It’s quirkily conceived and definitely original.

          

But back to Drink Gallery. You can choose to sit outside on wooden decking and be right there to witness street action at its most vibrant, or sit in the large air-con cube of a dining room with stylish seating, a mix of casual tables for couples and long wooden ones for groups. Drink Gallery’s easy to find by the way; if you head down Chaweng Beach Road, you’ll come to it about 200 metres after Central Festival (where you can park your car, if you’re bringing one). Opening hours are from 4:00 pm until 1:00 am.

If you like people-watching then any evening here will net you at least a couple of extraordinary sights. As if that weren’t enough, Drink Gallery puts on entertainment every night, in the form of a band or a DJ.

          

The menu was crafted by Chef Noi Ouypornchaisakul, who hails from Bangkok but spent many years in New York, where she learned cooking. Her style isn’t east meets west, but vice versa; she’s taken a mix of New American food and given it a Thai/Asian spin.You might think Drink Gallery is just a bar, until you see the food. The results: mostly familiar dishes made still yummier. Try the Samui-Rangoon, a starter, where cream cheese is blended with crab, and accompanied by a lemongrass dip. She’s also taken a few Thai dishes and given them a makeover. You’ve probably tried Massaman curry, but here it’s made using lamb, in this case Australian lamb shoulder.

          

They also have bar snacks (you don’t necessarily have to indulge in a full-scale meal here), including sandwiches, burgers and waffles. In other words, there’s plenty to choose from. The food at Drink Gallery is seriously tasty and you’ll want to try out everything on the menu. It’s hard to resist tucking in here, especially given the fact that the vast majority of dishes are so affordable. There are a few fancier ones thrown in such as natural grass-fed Australian beef tenderloin. It comes with corn-ricotta dumplings, sautéed onions and peppers, and mozzarella chipotle.

          

There’s naturally a choice when it comes to desserts. They don’t really come much more decadent than the Dark Chocolate Pot de Crème. The cream on top is misleadingly frothy, while the chocolate underneath is an addict’s delight. The two combined make this a dish that you’ll remember for the sheer pleasure of eating something so sinful. Suffice to say that if you’re part of a group you’ll want to dip into each other’s choices just to see how good they are. You won’t be disappointed. It’d be a serious challenge to eat two desserts, even though you may be keen to do so.

          

Drink Gallery’s also has a cheese platter and it’s well worth indulging in, too, not just because it’s relatively rare on Samui, but also because it’s been put together so well. It comes with brie, parmesan, gorgonzola, gruyere and feta – all presented with green and black olives, crackers and sticks of celery to munch on.

          

Last but not least Drink Gallery also does, yes, drinks - and it’s time to mention these. They’re spectacular. Even if you’re not a big fan of cocktails you may end up becoming one. I ordered The Parch and was told that the waiter would be on the way to prepare it at my table. I thought I was going to have to watch some kind of juggling act,Page-76-4 but it was way more original than that; the waiter came pushing a wooden trolley and holding up, of all things, a blowtorch. Surely he wasn’t about to show off his welding skills? But he soon set to, torching some grapefruit and thereby caramelizing it before it was placed in a glass jar. In went the other ingredients, including limes and hazelnut syrup, before he began pounding the mix to a pulp. Once it was completed, he produced a tube with a trigger that looked like a child’s fat toy gun, lit the blowtorch once more, and placed the flame into an aperture of the gun-like machine, which ended in a kind of hose. Smoke started pouring out of it; thick white smoke that I thought must be dry ice. The waiter stuck the tube into the glass jar until the air over the cocktail was billowing white smoke. Then he handed the jar to me.

          

As jars go, this one was big, by anyone’s standards. It was also still smoking. And it wasn’t dry ice, by the way, but the real thing. Smoke, and in this case, wood smoke. I asked how it was done and the waiter produced a small jar of tiny wood chips that the label said had been scented with apple. It was like the smoke of a garden fire, the kind where you burn wood that’s mulched down over a long, dry summer. And it had infused the drink itself, giving that autumnal note to an already utterly original taste. I think it’ll be a drink I long remember. A drink that tasted of autumn: bitey and poignant.

          

There are plenty of traditional cocktails, by the way, and you don’t have to get experimental. For many drinks you can also order ‘monsters’. The drink arrives in a glass container that can only be described as flower-vase size. Presumably it’s for a group of people to drink together; as an individual you’d need to time your consumption not with a watch but a calendar. Yes, it’s that big. Monster sums it up. There are also plenty of beers, wines and every other kind of drink you can imagine.

          

Drink Gallery turns out to be a surprising and wonderful place. There’s nothing quite like it on Samui and it’s definitely worth a visit or three. Enjoy the way they’ve mixed decadence with seriously good food and drink.

          

 Dimitri Waring


 


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