Northern Thai Finds Home in Fort Greene

Samui wants to serve a more authentic, healthful take on traditional Thai dishes.

Napadol, the chef and owner of the Southeast Asian restaurant Samui, was feeling a little homesick. And nothing like craving food from your homeland to inspire you to open your very own dining establishment, right? And, so, recently she opened her new venture just off Flushing Avenue in that industrial Brooklyn Navy area that is getting more and more interesting. Home to the new ferry, and also the site for all kinds of cool projects, including New Lab, means the neighborhood is fast changing.

Napadol, who has been in the jewelry business for 22 years, says “I wanted a change.” And change; she gracefully received. “I have wanted to open a restaurant for a very long time while I was in the jewelry business but never had the time to do so,” says Napadol. “In order to be truly successful I knew I would have to focus on the restaurant full time.” She, in a beautiful colorful and shiny Thai outfit, in fact, greets you as you arrive.

The space, with statement lighting worth seeing, is garage-like and feels like the perfect place to come thrill your friends. “I also wanted the dining room to be a bit of a departure from what is expected in a developing Brooklyn neighborhood. It’s high-style versus rustic.” says Napadol. With booths, a hefty bar and tables all around seating is not too cosy or precious, allowing for some elbow room to enjoy an extensive menu.

But before all the food action her signature (and seasonally changing) cocktails will keep you entertained for quite some time. If you ask her what Samui is; she’ll tell you with a gorgeous toothy smile, “Oh, an island resort.”

And where did she learn about her palette then? “From my grandmother growing up a female in Thailand,” she says. “As a girl we are taught to cook to feed our family, as well as how to operate a ‘to-go’ food joint for people to come and take away from the house, which is commonplace in Thailand. I have long had a passion for feeding people and entertaining…now I can do it everyday on a larger scale.”

Back to the menu then.

Some of her signatures are chili naked shrimp with vodka and lime, black potato fritters plus a cucumber relish, the now, hankered-after, mussel pancake (comes with garlic chive and bean sprouts), a classic papaya and roasted peanuts salad is also there. If you’re more into the main courses try the turmeric garlic chicken wings which you dip into sweet chili and peanut or a spicy grilled beef, with lime and mint, of course. It’s Thai, but not quite the way you expect it.

“I would search for great Thai food in New York and I was never able to really find anything that matched my tastes except for a small number of places, some of which are now closed, so I thought to myself there was a great opportunity to open my own in Brooklyn,” says Napadol. “Most Thai restaurants today have been ‘americanized’ and are often over salted and too sweet. Our approach is a more authentic, healthful take on traditional Thai dishes I grew up with—less salt, less sugar, less sauce, more organic and natural.”

Photos courtesy of Samui.

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