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Rather a poignant visit to The Shack, this August marks the second anniversary of the passing of iconic founder and owner Larry, who literally built up this superb steak and seafood restaurant fourteen years ago from a derelict shack on the seafront into the well loved and thriving business that continues to serve satisfied clients to this day. The owners these days are Larry’s former partners John and Johan who have taken over The Shack and improved the restaurant with imagination and style of which their former friend would no doubt be delighted. John has been instrumental in developing the menu and wine choices over the past two years and his dedicated team of cooks and servers help keep alive the original concept, it is perhaps a testament to loyalty that of the fifteen staff who were there from the humble beginnings, fourteen of them are still actively involved.
The reputation of The Shack precedes itself, after nearly a decade and half the restaurant is an often returned to eatery by the numerous ex-pats on the island and a wonderful discovery for tourists making their first trip to Samui. Located in the buzzing centre of Fisherman’s Village, the sizzling sounds and glorious aromas from the barbecue at the restaurant’s entrance cannot fail to draw ones attention.
Renowned for its high quality produce, from the Grade ‘A’ flown in, chilled and never frozen, prime Austalian grainfed beef to the whole Maine lobster or Alaskan King Crab legs, customers can be certain that they will be receiving simply the best products available.
We chose as starters the Green Lipped mussels and the cold water Hokkaido sweet sea scallops. The mussels were flambed with Pastis, cream and Tarragon, a combination that was both light and fulfilling yet offering a fabulous depth of flavour that complimented the freshly caught shellfish marvelously. I would not be exaggerating in saying that the Japanese scallops were a good three quarters of an inch in depth, crisp and golden on the exterior and beautifully yielding in the centre. The melted garlic butter sauce with just a hint of lemon was all that was necessary to highlight the inherent ocean flavour of the scallops.
Taking time between courses we were able to really take in the warm, inviting atmosphere that just sets you at your ease from the moment you walk into The Shack and the ambient Blues music from the likes of BB king, Little Feat and Dr. John added to the home like feeling that Larry initially visualised.
Our entree choices were the 300g striploin (sirloin) and the seared fillet of Saku tuna with Wasabi and soy sauce. Cooked to a perfect medium-rare the steak was juicy, tender and full of real beef flavour that other specialty steakhouses would have a hard time matching. The dish came with the best homemade french fries it has been my privilege to try and a zesty, creamy side of shredded cloeslaw that was quite delicious. The Saku tuna steak, also grilled on the busy barbecue, was a very generous portion of flaky, succulent fish that just dissolved on the tongue. Judicious use of the accompanying fiery Wasabi and soy sauce brought the whole dish to another level and it was served also with the coleslaw and a fluffy jacket potato.
Overseeing the running of the restaurant as manager is genial host and Irishman, Mick. Always attentive and ready to share a ‘Bon Mot’ with the customers, he has an extensive knowledge of the industry and client care. Whilst we were dining, a party of ten came in without a reservation, (highly recommended) and he could not have been more charming in accommodating them.
Perusing the enormously tempting dessert menu choices of; Mom’s apple pie with ice cream, Nutellotto cake and various homemade ice creams, we settled for the hot chocolate nut brownie, who’s liquid interior was almost indecently divine. To round off our meal my partner chose an Irish coffee, made with piping hot fresh ground coffee and Jameson’s whiskey topped with freshly whipped cream. Johan recommended I try their signature coffee cocktail, the Martini espresso. The blend of ground mountain bean chilled espresso, Kahlua, vodka and cold cream was a moment of revelation, really stunning and naughtily moreish.
Consistent quality has made certain that The Shack has a long and bright future ahead of it and I have little doubt that wherever Larry may now be, he would be proud to see that John, Johan and the staff continue to offer their customers the best of what he initially conceived, ensuring that his spirit lives on at The Shack.