This week’s restaurant is a stunner. Write the name down
now, this place is a must. It is a while since I left an establishment as
impressed with every dish as I was at Puangthong. However, you are going to
have to do a little navigation work to get there (sometimes it isn’t all
that easy to get the good life)!
is on Charoen Prathet Road and has no English language signage, near Wat
Chaimongkol and opposite a large white building called Doi Ping Mansion. The
next problem is that Charoen Prathet Road is two ways some parts of the day
and one way on others. You have been warned!
The restaurant is in two sections. Walk in through the
‘gateway’ and you are in an open air area in the “compound” separated
from the road by trees, and potted plants and there is a glassed in section on
the left. Puangthong in English is Golden Bunch, and there is a sign to this
effect on the wall. The date is given as 1999, but this is not the date of
opening, but rather the re-opening, since the three 9’s in 1999 were
considered auspicious. The establishment is also a family business run by
Boonmee Ti-Aree, his wife and daughter, and they had a previous restaurant in
Bangkok, before opening Puangthong in Chiang Mai in 1991.
The fitments are basic. The tables outside are wood, with
some plastic chairs, and others made from old wooden wagon wheels. Inside is
equally as utilitarian. Crockery is the ubiquitous melamine, but scrupulously
clean. The decor defies description. Boonmee is also worth an article all on
his own - a Thai Vietnam veteran who had spent some time in the Middle East
and has even shaken the hand of Saddam Hussein! He is immensely proud of their
restaurant, and even brought out pots and pans for the Dining Out Team to see,
to show just how shiny they really were.
The menu, in Thai and English, is not enormous, and
commences with fried items ranging in price from 30 baht for the morning glory
with oyster sauce to 120 baht for a crab or prawn in a black chilli paste. The
following page has Hot Pot items (generally around B. 70) and covers different
soups like spicy soup with serpent head fish, as well as the normal tom yum
and tom kha.
Thai salads are next (around B. 50), then casseroles (B.
120) with prawns and crab, soups (B. 35-50) with prawn meat balls, then some
Individual Favourites with the most expensive B. 30 and generally of the rice
based variety. ‘Specials’ next (B. 60-200) with fish in boiling water at
the low end and three flavoured fried prawn at the top. Beverages are last
with large Heineken B. 80 and soft drinks B. 10.
Boonmee produced an assortment of dishes for us to try with
a stir-fried chicken and prawn and mushroom with cashew nuts, a deep-fried
catfish with lemongrass and green peppercorns, battered prawns in lemon-butter
sauce and garlic prawns. The team of three was simply delighted with the food.
Madame was ecstatic with the fish which had taken up both tastes of the
lemongrass and peppercorns, while my favourite was the huge battered prawns.
The lemon-butter sauce, which had a hint of orange as well, was fabulous and
the dish would not have looked out of place in any 5 star fine dining
restaurant. Flavour and presentation of the highest order.
Boonmee mentioned that he is also a fortune teller, but you
don’t have to be clairvoyant to see why this restaurant is successful (one
of Chiang Mai’s premier ladies was there that day too). The food is just
sensational, putting Phuangthong in the frame for “best food”, and so
cheap it puts the restaurant in the running for “best value” too. If you
don’t like the ‘funky’ atmosphere, don’t worry - you will rave about
the food. I did! Highest recommendation possible.
Phuangthong (Golden Bunch) Restaurant, 135 Charoen Prathet Road, (Nr Wat
Chaimongkol and opposite Doi Ping Mansion), Chiang Mai, telephone 053 820 378,
open 11.30 a.m. till 11 p.m. every day.