Saen Kham Terrace Restaurant

Artful dining

From the outset let me make one thing quite clear - this restaurant will knock your socks off! I fully realise that this is a most “un-restaurant review” opening; however, Saen Kham’s Lanna Terrace Restaurant is a most unusual and special dining venue.

The location is a short drive only from town (around 6 to 8 km) along the Kan Klong Chonprathan Road from Chiang Mai University, depending upon your navigation skills. Look for the over bridge into Baan Nai Fun 2 and then come across the imposing clubhouse building on the right. As you walk into the main ground level area you are greeted with a sweeping staircase leading up to the dining floor. Stop. You are about to enter an art gallery, with artefacts and paintings blending with the cream colours of the walls with the wood relief and high beamed roof almost temple-like in aura.

One of the artists displayed on the wall at the main dining room is Vichit Chaiwong of Gong Dee Gallery, and another is Santi Channonsuang, with everything coordinated by interior designer Yutthana Mohprasit. It is an architectural/artistic tour de force.

The menu, which is in Thai with English explanations, begins with a history of the Saen Kham concept - read it, you will understand more.

The food items begin with 18 appetizers covering grilled, deep-fried and a salad item. There are vegetarian items as well as prawns, pork and northern sausage. The prices range between 60-90 baht.

15 spicy salads are next, generally around B. 70 and nothing over B. 90. These are followed by 17 curries, again with most at B. 70, though the prawn with young coconut in spicy hot and sour soup tops the bill at B. 120.

Fried items are next up, (B. 60-90) and include chicken, beef, pork, fish and pasta choices, and this section precedes 17 fish and prawn dishes, with most in the B. 120-180 range. An interesting grouping called “pastes”, with almost every one at B. 50 offers eggplant in batter and spicy shrimp on fluffy catfish. 9 Northern dishes next at around B. 60 include chicken curry and pork curry (hang lay).

The final pages are “special dishes” (again B. 50-60) and are mainly rice and noodle based, with a good choice of desserts. Back page has beverages and a large Heineken is B. 95, with local brands cheaper. There is also a wine list with reasonably priced wines, white and red.

The table settings are in keeping with the d้cor. Celadon plates and polished stainless steel cutlery. We used them on an assortment of dishes which included the deep-fried shitake mushrooms, a tom yum goong, chicken and cashews, a lemongrass salad, Vietnamese spring roll and a hang lay pork curry.

Referring to my tasting notes, I had jotted down the following - the hang lay was the best I have ever had, and being a favourite of mine I’ve had a few. The prawns in the tom yum were so large they were mini-lobsters! The shitake mushrooms came in a ‘boat’ with a special sauce and simply melted in the mouth while the lemongrass salad was piquant and not overly sharp. For Madame, the mushrooms were the dish of the evening, while I went for the hang lay. The after-dinner coffee was made from Doi Wawi grounds and was also delicious.

The Dining Out Team was left breath-taken by this restaurant. The d้cor is brilliant, with any area offering a quiet “artist’s corner”. The entire restaurant is a photographer’s dream, point the camera anywhere and you have an award winning architectural or gallery shot. The service complements the ambience - quiet and unhurried, while the cuisine is just sensational. When you consider the very inexpensive menu, it makes this total package the bargain of the year. Fine dining at cafeteria prices. You will not regret the decision to go to this restaurant. Take anyone you want to impress. They will be - and so will you. The highest recommendation.

Saen Kham Terrace Restaurant, 199/163 Moo 3, Baan Nai Fun 2, Tambon Mae Hia, Amphoe Muang Chiang Mai, 50100, telephone 053 838 990, open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.