Ko Kut’s limited food and drink choices include the restaurants offered by nearly every resort along with a handful of freestanding eateries serving some good Thai food and a few Western bites. Do make a special trip to one of the fishing villages for seafood fresh off the boat.
Descendants of the island’s original Khmer inhabitants carry on a small fishing industry out of both Ao Salad in the far north and Ao Yai in the far south. Both of these large bays host several seafood restaurants but, between the two, we found Ao Yai a bit more scenic with its stilted wooden walkways taking you past sun-drying herbs, villagers sorting fish and colourful fishing boats moored up close to the wooden houses.
In Ao Yai we sat on Chonthicha Seafood’s # photogenic deck for som tam and grilled squid that was really, really tender. The restaurant extends to a fish farm where you can pick out a live snapper or sea bass to be grilled, steamed or deep-fried and served with any number of hot and pungent sauces. You’ll also find crab, scallop, prawn and shellfish, with most of it fetching around 300 baht per kilo and regular seafood dishes like garlic-pepper and pad pong garee coming in at around 150 baht. Chonthicha is one of several family-run seafood spots in Ao Yai, and we’ve also heard good things about Noochy Seafood. They all fill up with Thai tourists on weekends and holidays.
Moving northwards from Ao Yai, you’ll find very few freestanding restaurants until reaching the Bang Bao area, where a few kitchens do business along the main road. One of the best is Chiang Mai Restaurant #, serving hefty portions of Thai food for 100 baht or less. A full range of Thai standards like pad Thai and fried rice are good, but we were glad to have ventured into the Northern Thai culinary roots that the owners bring to the table. We enjoyed both the gaeng hor, a dry “curry” of glass noodles, herbs and veggies; and laab mueang, a Northern Thai version of minced pork salad with roasted chillies and Sichuan pepper that leaves the tongue tingling. Both came as surprises considering that Chiang Mai is 1,000 kilometres away.
Khlong Chao hosts Ko Kut’s largest selection of freestanding restaurants and cafes—perhaps a dozen in all. The best meal we had on Kut came just north of the river at I-Yar #, a tiny five-table joint serving unexpected dishes like tom zaab (spicy pork rib soup), tam ponlamai (som tam with fresh fruit chunks rather than shredded green papaya) and kung ob wun sen (prawn and herbs baked in a pot with glass noodles). The laab tort, deep-fried balls of pork and herbs built from the “salad” of the same name, was served fried to a crispy brown and carried a real punch of flavour best enjoyed with fresh veggies and cold beer.
For breakfast we ended up at Viewpoint Cafe # a couple of times for the banana cake, Vietnamese-style drip coffee and ho mok, a Khmer/Thai fish curry cake steamed in banana husk and served here—oddly but in a good way—with two slices of German rye toast. The open-sided dining area overlooks the mouth of Khlong Chao and fills up for sunset, when the cocktails come out. A friendly Australian/Thai couple founded Viewpoint and since our last visit they had sold it to some Thai buyers who kept the menu and recipes the same. The original owners started a smaller spot, The Pink Kangaroo #, which serves the same great coffee and cake next to a giant pink kangaroo on the road to the Khao Rea Rub cave shrine.
Do also stop by Good View Coffee # for a coffee, beer and perhaps a meal at a pair of roofed decks on the headland marking Khlong Chao’s southern end. We didn’t try the food but the coffee was good and the vista makes it worth a sunset stop. They also have a few air-con bungalows if you can’t part with that view.
Heading further north along the main road towards Ao Tapao, The Fisherman Hut # is a popular haunt with a mixed staff of Thai and foreigners serving quality Thai and Western food. The tom yum we tried had an excellent flavour balance with plenty of heat from fresh chillies and enough coconut milk to bring some richness to the generous helping of fresh prawns and squid. The burgers are also said to be great—a guy sitting next to us sounded like he was getting a deep-tissue massage while devouring one. The Fisherman Hut also has a bar that’s a favourite of dive instructors and long stayers, often with live music to set the mood and even an art gallery and tattoo parlour out the back.
Just up the road from The Fisherman Hut is Pizza and Pasta #, an Italian-run restaurant where you’ll often need a reservation to indulge on fresh tagliatelle, lasagna, pizza, tiramisu, Italian wines and espresso. North of that you’ll find only a few little places serving simple Thai dishes, including a few serving good-value seafood along Khlong Mat.
Kut doesn’t have much nightlife, but those looking to go out for a few could head into Khlong Chao to start with a cocktail at Sunset Bar before moving across the road to the funky little Tawan Eco Bar # to check out the live music and chat up the engaging owners.
On the Khlong Chao Waterfall road, Bartist # is a chilled-out spot where you might meet some of the few expats and long-staying foreigners that are under Kut’s spell. Further south, Dreams Bar has a billiards table and widecreen TVs showing sports, while the bars at Eve’s House # and Wooden Hut are both worth a trip south if you seek more of a hippie-ish scene.
Bartist Khlong Chao; .
Chiang Mai Restaurant Main road near Ao Bang Bao; T: (098) 872 0961; Mo–Su: 10:00–22:00.
Chonthicha Seafood Ao Yai; T: (084) 348 4992; Mo–Su: 09:00–21:00.
Eve’s House Main road near Ao Ta Khian; .
Good View Southern end of Khlong Chao; .
I-Yar Khlong Chao just north of the khlong; Lunch and dinner.
Pizza and Pasta Main road between Khlong Chao and Ao Tapao; T: (083) 297 2860; Mo–Su: 12:00–21:00.
Tawan Eco Bar Khlong Chao; .
The Fisherman Hut Main road between Khlong Chao and Ao Tapao; T: (092) 494 3600; Mo–Su: 09:00–22:00.
The Pink Kangaroo Inland from Ao Ngam Kho on road to Khao Rea Rub; T: (087) 886 5330, (089) 555 3598; Mo–Su: 09:30–16:30.
Viewpoint Cafe Khlong Chao at mouth of the khlong; Mo–Su: 09:00–20:00.
David Luekens first came to Thailand in 2005 when Thai friends from his former home of Burlington, Vermont led him on a life-changing trip. Based in Thailand since 2011, he spends much of his time eating in Bangkok street markets and island hopping the Andaman Sea.