15 Vanderbilt Avenue near Flushing Avenue, Ft. Greene, Brooklyn
Getting There: B,C,Q to DeKalb Avenue
Restaurant Review: Samui
Any travel guide will extoll the many virtues of Thailand’s second largest island, Ko Samui. Outwardly, a wonderfully designed and pristine place to frequent- but a place that also celebrates the region’s spirit in its most traditional sense. With similar sentiment, we traveled out to Fort Greene, Brooklyn on a recent weeknight to visit a newly opened eatery with similar distinction. Serving up a modernized take on authentic Northern Thai fare, Samui is a swanky looking, wonderfully decorated restaurant, whose mouthwatering fare manages to exceed its eye-catching ambiance.
A cavalcade of colors are affixed to an otherwise typical looking brick front building sitting on Vanderbilt Avenue. Inside, intricate and modern chandeliers hanging overhead are also visible from the street outside, where new apartment housing developments are sprouting up around the still up-and-coming area. The rustic brick decor continues inside the dimly lit, chic dining room where blue banquettes make up a preponderance of the seating areas and the bar area is buzzing with patrons sipping on refreshingly hand-crafted concoctions like the kick-in-the-pants “Chili Margarita” or the far sweeter “Ginger Caipirinha.” A nearby diner leans over suggesting they’d ‘never been to a Thai restaurant like this’- and for good reason. Samui is the perfect Thai-style restaurant in contemporary Brooklyn.
Among the many characteristics at Samui to like, perhaps the best is the place’s value, where nothing being served- not even a ‘Large Plates’ section boasting a “Sirloin” ($29) and a “Garlic Branzino” ($29)- exceeds $30. With the bells and whistles out of the way, it’s time to work our way through an expansive double-sided menu where, appropriately, curries and turmeric dishes sit alongside the likes of noodle soups, manila clams and perhaps the tastiest looking “Crispy Red Snapper” ($22) that we’ve ever avoided ordering. Fortunately the food works its way out of the kitchen fairly quickly and we dig into a tasty chilled “Salmon Tartare” ($15) touched up by a hint of lemongrass and a memorable “Mussel Pancake” ($12), served piping hot, accompanied by garlic, bean sprouts and chives. Deliciously decadent, the flash fried mussels are especially tasty, just a notch above the creamy peanut dipping sauce that lathers our “Chicken Satay,” a relative skewer-steal at just $9.
Ordering a saucy side of the “Green Chinese Broccoli” ($8) is an absolute must. The crunchy and perfectly cooked stems are literally bathed in a sea of oyster and soy sauce, but are about as tasty an accompaniment as one can ask for when enjoying Thai food. Paired with an order of succulent “Drunken Shrimp Noodles” ($14)- which offer an excellent textural contrast with richly decorated, thick noodle strands woven around more than a half-dozen bulbous and juicy shrimps- alone, would suffice for a single diner. Not for our hungry party though, who insisted on the “Chicken Bamboo Curry” ($19), a stroke of brilliance considering the dish served before us. Tender hunks of stripped chicken meat lay in a thick and scrumptious green curry broth. Slices of kabocha squash served to punctuate the dish’s short dalliance with our taste buds as we reached across the table for anything we could find to sop up the bowl’s green coated remnants.
Soon enough, a table covered in empty plates lay in front of us with our belt buckles now unfastened as our appetites were completely appeased. Despite a mid-summer opening, Samui never seemed to need to work out any of the new restaurant kinks that we’ve become so accustomed to experiencing- a testament to the talented and friendly waitstaff and an expert ownership team. Just two miles from the Barclays Center, Samui is as notable a restaurant- with fantastic decor and terffic food- that’s opened up in the Fort Greene area in some time- and it’s one that absolutely warrants a visit.
Rundown of the Meal
Chili Margarita – Tequila, Jalapeno, Pineapple, Lime
Ginger Caipirinha – Cachapa, Canton, Lime
Salmon, Lemongrass Tartare ($15)
Mussel Pancake, Garlic, chive, bean sprouts ($12)
Chicken Satay, peanut, cucumber, relish ($9)
Drunken Noodles, Shrimp ($14)
Chicken Bamboo, Kabocha Squash, Green Curry ($19)
Green Chinese Broccoli, oyster & soy ($8)