I’ve been here a long while now, and I’d be the first to say that Samui’s got it all. There’s nightlife and parties aplenty. And it’s a shoppers’ paradise. And yet, only 20 minutes from all of this, you’ll find unspoiled beaches and little rustic huts. And when it comes to eating out, it’s foodie heaven! There’s cuisine from every nation, street stalls, food markets, 5-star resorts and top restaurants everywhere. But, you know, I’ve had a sudden thought. I can think of very few places where you can enjoy dinner and a show.
Sure, we’ve got lots of entertainment from live bands to ladyboy cabarets. And a great many resorts will feature a Thai dancing group or a fire-juggling act. But when it comes to pinning down a really good restaurant which is also known for its shows, they really are few and far between. One or two have come and gone over the years. But there’s only really one that’s still alive and kicking. It’s been here for a while. It’s down at the southern end of Chaweng Beach Road. And its name is Zico’s Brazilian Grill & Bar.
Zico’s has always been in something of a class of its own – mainly because there’s absolutely nothing else like it on the island! It’s big, double-fronted, and with a lofty entrance flanked by Roman pillars. But the high exterior, with its concrete and wood façade, doesn’t hint at the roomy layout within. Coming up the steps and in through the entrance, you’ll be surprised that you’ve just entered a kind of atrium that’s floored with big slate tiles yet open to the sky above. This is a part of the overall dining area, the other part of which is air-conditioned and behind a wall of glass to your left. And then there’s also a really nice cosy bar, up the steps on your right.
Plus there’s also the fact that this is the only Brazilian venue on the island. Other places might feature Latin-music or have a salsa night, but Zico’s is Brazilian through and through. From the bouncy Latin music, to the style and form of the unique cuisine, to the quite special dancers who perform nightly. Most of the time the background music is just that – unobtrusive and secondary. But between 8:00 pm and 10:00 pm, all diners are happy to put their knives and forks to one side for a while as the exotic dancers take to the floor. And they’ll then perform with astonishing energy, 30-minutes on and 30 minutes break, between which times the music will fade again. The setting is just great, the range and quality of the food is fabulous.
It’s tempting to say that the format of the Latin-style dining here is similar to a buffet. But it’s actually quite different to any that we’re used to. At the centre of the far end of the dining area is one of the biggest salad bars I’ve ever seen. And the word ‘salad’ doesn’t even begin to convey the range and variety of foods that are spread over these two huge tables; they’re far too numerous to list; soup, numerous full-mix salads, bacon, sliced meat, dressings, toppings, dips and green salad – plus there’s a hot section, too. But you get the idea – it’s a banquet!
But that’s only a part of it because then there’s probably the most definitive aspect of all – the ‘passadors’. I’ve heard them wittily described as ‘wandering skewer maidens’, although this seems to sidestep their Brazilian origins. There are perhaps 10 of these, whose only aim in life is to stroll around between the tables tempting you with yet more freshly-made cooked goodies: Wagyu beef, beef tenderloin, strip loin, Aussie lamb, pork loin, cooked ham with honey, chorizo, pork sausage; chicken breast, duck breast, barracuda, Norwegian salmon and black tiger prawns – plus a fruit and veggie skewer, too.
However, if you’re now imagining kebabs, you’re way off the mark! These ‘skewers’ are the granddaddy of all skewers, being around three feet in length and packed with pressed offerings that mostly need to be hand-carved direct onto your plate. (There’s an open kitchen at one end of the dining area where you can see a team of chefs busily at work making up new ones to replace the skewers that are being depleted.) Plus as well as the cold dishes there’s the hot ‘side dish’ selection to maintain: mashed and baked potato, potato gratin, fries, soft corn polenta, grilled and marinated vegetables, sizzled vegetables, stew – the list goes on! In fact it’s not uncommon for guests to come in here at 7:00 pm, take half an hour’s break in the bar, dine again, watch the dancers and then eat some more. And the code for ‘more’ is the two-sided disk by the side of your plate: red side up means ‘I need a break’. Green side means ‘feed me!’
Zico’s is actually owned, managed and staffed by a nearby 5-star hotel. Which means that they’re constantly adding new promotions and incentives. Each night of the week has something different, from Monday’s Mojito Madness to Thirsty Thursday (four bottles of local beer for 300 baht) through to Sangria Sunday (99 baht a glass). And that’s not to mention that the upstairs bar stays open until 1:00 am, plus sells a range of craft beers, too; full details are on their website.
Finally, the cost. It’s just 850 baht for all of this, with kids under 12 at half price. (There’s also a 680 baht option with a choice of fewer skewers.) But you’ll discover all this for yourself – after you’ve gone zooming down to Zico’s!
Rob De Wet
For reservations or further information, telephone 0 7723 0500.