Riverside Bar and Restaurant

The music, the mood, the food

The Riverside Bar and Restaurant is no newcomer to the Chiang Mai food scene, having just recently passed its 19th birthday anniversary. As they say, a week is a long time in politics and a year is a long time in the restaurant business. 19 years is an eternity, so expect the Riverside Bar and Restaurant to be around for a little while yet!

The concept was born from the frustration of a collection of like-minded musical souls, in that there was no cool hangout in Chiang Mai to cater for their musical tastes. The Riverside Bar and Restaurant was the result, a place where you could ‘hang out’ and eat, drink and listen to the music. That ethos remains today, with the now much expanded Riverside Bar and Restaurant being the venue for two bands, with a stage at each end, and three levels of dining - around the bars, an under cover ‘mezzanine’ area and riverbank dining along the banks of the River Ping.

The restaurant does not pretend to be a ‘fine dining’ establishment, the tables are wooden and some are longer benches, with similar bench seating. Candles are on every table, and the effect at night is quite romantic. It reminded me of university days, when we went to the folk music and jazz clubs and sat there eating, drinking beer and discussing politics and all other earth shattering subjects, none of which turned out to have any possible bearing on the future of the world - but it was fun!

The menu is huge, counting the wines and cocktails there are over 560 items. Take your time; this one was devised by the James A. Michener of menus! A few points are well worth noting. In the Thai food items, the majority are under 100 baht per item, and even the western main dishes are generally under B. 200 with a pepper steak coming in at B. 180, for example. There are also 30 items in a dedicated vegetarian menu which has most items at B. 60. Another plus, the spiciness of any dish is indicated by the number of red chillis beside the item! You have been warned. However, the menu is far too large for me to go through the sections individually, but just believe me when I say it is very comprehensive and inexpensive.

We began with a crispy morning glory salad and a savoury Riverside taro basket of seafood. The initial feeling from the Dining Out Team was that the presentation was simply superb. Vegetable carving and slicing was done in the way you might expect in a five star hotel, but comes quite unexpected in a relaxed dining establishment such as this one.

Next up, and my favourite for the evening, was deep fried battered mushrooms with a creamy garlic sauce. Beautifully plump mushrooms and not overcooked, and the sauce sensational! And it costs B. 75! I would go back just for this one!

We also had a very interesting whole tub tim fish served in two styles on the one plate. Half was fried and topped with chilli sauce and pineapple, with the sweetness and the sharpness contrasting beautifully with the fish itself; while the other half was fried with cashew nuts. This one cost B. 180.

The Riverside Bar and Restaurant was everything that we expected of it. It provides a good mix of music (though sometimes if you are caught in the middle between the two bands the ‘mix’ can be a trifle confusing), it provides a good mix of cuisine and provides a wonderfully atmospheric dining area, with the Dining Out Team’s favourite being right on the edge of the river bank. The preparation and presentation of the food was excellent, and with 324 food items in the menu, there are enough choices for even the pickiest of diners. For me, it is a place to enjoy for a couple of hours, not a gulp and go establishment. Highly recommended.

The Riverside Bar and Restaurant, 9-11 Charoen-raj Road, Chiang Mai, telephone 053 243 239, fax 053 242 511, www.theriverside chiangmai.com

Opens 10 a.m. for breakfast through till 1.30 a.m.