DINING OUT - ENTERTAINMENT

The Rainforest

More than a restaurant

Tropical Thailand is a country within which you would expect to find rainforests; however, in the colder climate of Northern Thailand, is not where you would expect to find this kind of eco-system. It then comes as a surprise to find a fully blown rainforest with a restaurant complex sheltering inside it, only 15 minutes from downtown Chiang Mai.

We dined at the Rainforest Restaurant with the owner and most gracious hostess Suwirin Sanguansuk who was able to explain a little more about this unique restaurant complex. And complex it is, being as Suwirin puts it - much more than a restaurant.

To begin with, Rainforest will seat 1,500 diners in 10 zones, and for those of you who have been to the similarly huge Tumnak Thai in Bangkok, let me assure you it is nothing like that! The ‘rainforest’ ambience means that you are dining under waterfalls, in grottos and under spreading tree branches around a central ‘lake’ - the dead ‘trees’ may be cleverly man made, but the tropical rainforest feel is real. The lake is also full of fish that you can feed and a big hit with children. Adding to the overall concept, the service staff are dressed like forest rangers in jungle fatigues.

The menu is large, with an accent on healthy cuisine - and is in English and Thai. It begins with beverages, with soft drinks 25 baht including guava, gooseberries and kiwi fruit. Small bottles of beer are B. 45-50, large B. 75 and house (red) wine is available by the glass at B. 80.

Into the food, and there are chilli indicators to show the spicy dishes and you can order small or large. The small dishes are generally between B. 50-80 with the large B. 90-140. Specialty items like ostrich meat or crocodile are obviously more expensive. The cuisine is Thai-Chinese-Northern style food and an example of this is the Larb which can be ordered either Northern style or the more usually known Esaan fiery variety.

There is an extensive fish section, with choices of catfish, plakapong, tubtim and Nile fish (B. 100-250) done in many ways - steamed, deep-fried and done with different sauces and spices.

There is also a most interesting ‘health’ dish of a herb salad with 18 ingredients (B. 50) including galangal, lime leaf, basil, winged bean, ginger and lemongrass.

The rice section deserves its own special mention. In addition to the normal fried rice types (chicken, pork, crab, seafood) there is also a choice of steamed jasmine rice or brown rice. I ordered the brown rice and it came in its own pot with a lid and was light, fluffy and delicious. I would recommend you try it if you are stuck in the jasmine rice mind-set.

We had a selection of dishes, including a very ‘American’ deep fried chicken and chips - apparently a very popular kids item. The Northern style larb was a hit at our table (we even ordered a second one) and the herb salad was a new taste sensation. An aromatic mixture that you could feel was doing you good! A sweet and sour deep fried fish rounded off our evening and it too was excellent. For me, the dish of the night was the herb salad, while Madame went for the Northern larb. The food carvings that came with the dishes was also a hit (a swan with the deep fried dish and an angler with the fish dish) and I must thank Suwirin for the sweet potato fisherman she presented to us at the end of the night!

Dining at Rainforest was more than just eating out, it was an experience. We agreed with Suwirin that it was “more than a restaurant” and we did enjoy it. The standard of food was excellent and the presentation some of the best I have witnessed in Thailand. With the emphasis being on healthy food and a family venue we can very easily give Rainforest a very highly recommended rating. It really is a great place to take the kids!

The Rainforest, 181 Chiangmai-Hang Dong Road, Hang Dong, telephone 053 441 908, fax 053 432 319.