Chiang Mai may have been the capital of the old Lanna
Kingdom, but these days, a short ten minute drive from Chiang Mai is all
that is needed to experience the ambience of that bygone era. Baan Suan
(the house in the gardens) is a local restaurant that has been for many
foreign residents and tourists, a well kept secret. That secret is no more!
Set in tropical gardens, the restaurant is a series of
Thai salas and open air terraces surrounded by the d้cor of the
North - wooden wall carvings abound, wooden statues, wooden flooring and
even Northern Thai music, over the background hum of the crickets beside
the Ping River. The waitresses too are dressed in Thai silk outfits.
Even the table settings are original, with little
‘hats’ made of banana leaves over the glasses, locally woven
tablecloths and napkins, and original, hand painted ceramic plates. Even
the cutlery is hand crafted stainless steel. It comes as no surprise that
the owner of Baan Suan is a famous architect, known for his original
Before going to our table, the Dining Out Team sat for
a while in one of the open-air salas and had a contemplative drink, just
to take in the atmosphere of the restaurant complex itself. While we sat,
we nibbled on some of the celebrated Chiang Mai sausage.
The menu commences with appetizers, between 100-150
baht and then into a section simply called Northern Food (around B. 110)
which includes some Chiang Mai sausage items.
From there it is into Thai food (B. 120-180) and then
choices of pork, beef or chicken, again B. 120-180. These are followed by
fish and shrimp items (B. 150-260), some rice and noodle based items (B.
90-150) and then a small but sophisticated European menu covering
appetizers, soups, salads, breads and the mains which include items such
as fondues. There is a separate wine list with a good selection of wines
from throughout the old and new worlds with the whites and the reds all
under B. 2,200.
We began with a yum guava salad which featured cashew
nuts and the ‘farang’ fruit. This was flavoursome with a slight
‘bite’, but certainly not over the top. Our second appetizer was a nam
meung, again another different dish with rice crackers and a sauce made
from tea leaves.
As is the way with eating Thai food, we had a selection
of items beginning with a wild mushroom dish. These are an annual crop
only and a local delicacy, with the slightly ‘crunchy’ texture and
taste quite different from the usual champignon. Accompanying this was
another Northern dish with the ground sausage mixed with egg, spring
onions and clear noodles. Once more this was a new taste for the palate
unused to Northern cuisine.
The next item was a freshwater catfish in lemongrass.
This was a most interesting dish with the sauce almost caramelised and
giving a ‘sweet and sour’ flavour to it. For me, this was the dish of
the night, but it was only a narrow winner. The standard of all the dishes
was so high. Madame was taken with the green curry chicken which was very
smooth and creamy, such a pleasant change from the thin, watery fire-water
curries so often dished up as gaeng keowan.
Though Miss Terry Diner does not usually eat dessert I
was tempted by the mango with red wine ‘snowflakes’. A sensational
ending to what had been a voyage of exploration in the Northern style of
Thai cuisine. I should also mention the very aromatic coffee which, I was
reliably informed, was made from locally grown coffee beans and another
Baan Suan is an experience. It is a romantic setting
for long relaxed dining out. The ambience is superb, the food excellent
and the cuisine allows the diner to try dishes for which the North is
famous. The Dining Out Team has no hesitation in awarding this restaurant
a very highly recommended rating. If you have never been there, do go. You
will not regret it.
Baan Suan, 25 M3, San-Phi-Sua, Muang Chiang Mai, telephone 053 854 169,
053 852 751.