Princess of the River – A look at one of Chaweng’s more stylish resorts, Sareeraya – and the excellent dining at their ‘Chef’s Table’.


Sareeraya Villas & Suites is one of Samui’s more interesting resorts. It appeared at a time when there was a fashion for minimalism – places were trying hard to make bare concrete and large empty spaces some kind of new trend. But what others did with no imagination, Sareeraya surpassed with a cool, clear essay in harmonious contrasts. There’s the continual interplay between rough and smooth, light and dark. And the harmonies of complementary natural and man-made items: wood, metal, stone and fabric. And everywhere the sight and sound of running water.

The name ‘Sareeraya’ means ‘Princess of the River’. And as you might have already gathered, water is a motif which permeates this resort. And that includes the understated frontage, too. It’s a large and imposing place, but you’ll get little inkling of this from the main beach road outside. But if you slow-down and look around when you get to the Samui International Hospital in North Chaweng, you can’t help but see the high, grey wall of Sareeraya directly opposite.

SareerayaThere’s something of a surprise as you come in towards reception; the crafted-architecture of cool space is delightful. I’m not going to be distracted by enthusing about the sheer opulence of the luxurious 49 five-star suites and pool villas here, but if you gaze around you’ll notice some of them discreetly tucked away as you make your way through towards Chef’s Table and the beach.

In keeping with the rest of the ethos, the restaurant’s décor is minimalist yet refined, the style throughout being subtle and understated. The far wall is a modern mosaic with golden sunrays. The furniture is dark, strong, and geometric. It’s cool and shady and open on two sides, with whirling rattan fans overhead. It’s a perfect setting for dining.

The menu is International and Thai. The Thai selections are straightforward enough, with a strong emphasis on seafood. The overall à la carte menu is varied and pleasing, ranging from daytime lite-bites, salads and sandwiches, through to a choice of mains that include meat, fish, pasta and risottos, plus a fair range of veggie dishes. But what makes Chef’s Table stand out is the way it goes about presenting its range of seafood.

SareerayaCesar Liesa is the resort’s Director of Food & Beverages, and also Executive Chef. And he’s made his reputation at five-star establishments around the world. His speciality is seafood, however, and he’s particularly expert in his creative flair with sides and sauces. But he’s a thoughtful sort of guy. And he’s come up with a simple but innovative way of looking at the seafood on offer. Instead of presenting a menu which prices it per gram, he’s logically rearranged it so that diners know right away how things stand.

“Everyone always asks how many prawns (or mussels or crabs) they get for, say, 100 grams – it’s impossible for people to visualise this,” he told me. “So now our menu is laid out in such a way that it’s priced per item and not in weight. Meaning that you’ll see ‘Prawns – 4 pieces = 100 grams’ (and so on) on the menu, making it effortless to order 200 grams of prawns or 100 grams of mussels and know exactly how much you’ll be getting.”

SareerayaBut Cesar’s taken it all one step further. He’s introduced ‘Seafood Boards’. Essentially these are a neat way of combining together sea bass, salmon, squid, soft shell crab and prawns, along with various different side orders. For instance, ‘Sea Bass Board A’ has sea bass, squid and prawns. ‘Board B’ adds soft shell crab to this, and ‘Sea Bass Board C’ has sea bass, squid, soft shell crab and prawns all together. There’s also a lobster option – which can be chosen with any of these combinations – but that is a separate menu item.

But there’s one other thing going on at Chef’s Table that is raising eyebrows because of its innovation. They are offering a cocktail-making class. Everywhere has a Thai cooking class, but this is the first cocktail class we’ve heard of. Essentially you can select any three of the Sareeraya signature cocktails, and work side-by-side with their featured mixologist as you learn how to get the balance exactly right. For example, the ‘Pearl of Sareeraya’ contains gin, apple brandy, lychee, lime, pineapple and grenadine, and it’s not easy to make, as the order of blending is crucial and the balance has to be just right. Classes run twice a day, from 12:00 noon to 4:00 pm, and from 7:00 pm until 10:00 pm and need to be booked by appointment. Enjoy this, and all the other gastronomic delights above, only at Sareeraya Villas & Suites and Chef’s Table!

Rob De Wet

For reservations or further information, telephone 0 7791 4333.