Where to eat and drink: Khanom And Sichon

Khanom And Sichon: Where to eat and drink

Affordable seafood is a highlight of Khanom and Sichon, with plenty of good seaside restaurants serving it up fresh. In Khanom you’ll also find a couple of excellent expat-run restaurants for a bit of variety.

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In Khanom, we kept returning to a cluster of restaurants found at the far northern end of the beach road on Haad Kho Khao. Half a dozen places serve similar seafood selections to individual thatch-roofed bamboo tables spread directly over the sand. All of these have English menus and most have some photos of the various dishes. Favourites include som tam puu maa (papaya salad with blue crab), pla neung manao (steamed whole fish with lime, chilli and garlic) and pla muk yang (grilled squid) served with tart and spicy sauce. Salads start at around 120 baht and whole fishes or crab fetch over 300 baht; if you don’t require the beachfront setting, a couple of slightly cheaper seafood restaurants do business just around the corner from the beach.

Haad Kho Khao is also where you’ll find Ciao Bella, an Italian-managed restaurant with a setup identical to its Thai seafood-slinging neighbours. A favourite of long-stay visitors and expats, Ciao Bella whips up outstanding bruschetta, pizza, focaccia sandwiches and gnocchi, spaghetti and fettuccine with sauces made from scratch. They also offer some decent wines and a small Thai menu. Prices run from 200 to 400 baht, making it a good option for a splurge, and they’re open for lunch and dinner.

Heading south along Ao Khanom, CC Beach Bar and Restaurant is a popular nighttime spot with a cosy bar and tables set up under fairy lights on the sand. The massive menu features a wide array of Thai food, including extensive seafood offerings, plus steaks, burgers and pizza, and even a few Indian and Mexican options. While the Western food will satisfy your cravings if feeling homesick, we recommend sticking to the tasty Thai food. If you’re after more of a Bob Marley beach-bum atmosphere, nearby Jam Bay has a billiards table and is another good spot for chilling out after dark.

One of the best options for a splurge is Le Petit Saint-Tropez, where the French owners serve French cuisine with a Thai twist on a stylish seaside terrace. We didn’t get around to having dinner here, but the 350-baht burger, “Thai tartare”, roasted duck breast with honey sauce and a list of cocktails all looked promising. Serving excellent espresso and fruit shakes, it’s also a great option for brunch.

If you’re looking to save cash or simply prefer to eat at establishments frequented mainly by locals, Khanom town has a few hole-in-the-wall noodle shops and Isaan eateries along the main drag, though don’t expect English menus. On Wednesdays and Sundays from around 07:00 to 10:00, the town hosts a small market that we’ve heard is worth checking out for a taste of local food. A market also materialises on Sunday afternoons from 15:00 to 17:00.

The most obvious place to eat in Nai Phlao is Khanom Seafood, which serves an extensive array of seafood dishes on a spacious terrace with sea views. You can save a little cash by heading to the smaller terrace at neighbouring Thong Yee Seafood. Both are open for lunch and dinner.

Haad Nai Phlao also has a few cheap Thai restaurants serving simple rice dishes and perhaps a sandwich or two for breakfast, lunch and dinner. At tiny Hua Loma (sign in Thai) next to the Suchada Villa Resort, we enjoyed a tasty pad pong karee pla muk, a mix of squid, scallions and chillies stir-fried with yellow curry powder. Across the street, Nong Sao’s Kitchen has a similar menu. Nai Phlao is far from a nightlife destination, but One More Beer is a fine place to kick back with a beer and some barbecue after the sun goes down.

Sichon town offers a better selection of local-style food than Khanom, with a few nondescript shops dishing out over a dozen types of Southern Thai curries on the main drag near the hospital -- look for the lineups of round stainless steel spots but keep in mind that they close up by 16:00. The central market is also a fun place to browse the local seafood and produce while munching on finger foods like khanom krok, pan-fried sweetened rice flour dumplings.

While we weren’t able to try Sichon’s resort restaurants, we’ve heard good things about the Lom Thale Restaurant at Sichon Cabana. It’s situated right next to the beach and also includes a beach bar. Neighbouring Prasarnsook Resort has a similar setup and includes a relaxing coffee bar.

The food highlight of the Sichon area is arguably Khoplyedum Restaurant, attached to the same-named resort on remote Ao Thong Yang. The sprawling restaurant has loads of heavy wooden tables set up over the sand under individual pavilions, making this a great option for a private seaside meal. Prices start at around 150 baht but portions are huge and the fare is mostly authentic Southern Thai with a smattering of dishes from other parts of Thailand. We thoroughly enjoyed the gaeng prik pla sai, a fiery and aromatic soup featuring half a dozen long and thin pla sai fishes with head and tail attached, served in a fire-heated metal bowl. If you want to play it safer, the tom yum is also excellent.

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