La Veranda

There are many international cuisines represented amongst the Chiang Mai restaurants, and this week it is a fairly recent arrival on the classical French scene that was the subject of our review.

In the heart of the Night Bazaar area on Changklan Road is the Chiang Mai Pavilion. On the ground floor is the well-known McDonalds fast food restaurant - but that was not the restaurant under scrutiny! On the next floor up in the Chiang Mai Pavilion is La Veranda, run by Sonjai (a sweet French speaking Thai lady) and husband Gilles Poitevin, a very French chef. They established this restaurant one year ago.

Not only is the restaurant upstairs, it is up-market too. Even approaching the restaurant this is quite apparent, with tasteful (sorry about the pun) flowers and greenery decorating the passageways to the entrance.

That the restaurant is French is also immediately apparent, with a large map of old Paris on one wall, and other French art works, including pictures of the half-finished Eiffel Tower. The dining area appears very airy, with full length windows on two sides.

The terracotta tiles and glass topped tables, with wrought iron and cane chairs also add to the continental classy ambience.

Like most restaurants, the menu is under constant revision, and with low season approaching, Gilles told me that he was going to be introducing some different (and somewhat less expensive) items to the list. He is also enlarging the ‘set’ menu items to six, starting at 290 baht and running through to 590 baht.

The menu begins with hors d’oeuvres including a marinated salmon with dill, blinis and seaweed (B. 350) and snails (escargot) in garlic butter (B. 390). Soups are next up (B. 250-390) and then fish items (B. 350-650) with such mouth watering offerings as banana sailfish with champagne zabaglione.

Meat dishes are next (B. 360-700) with beef, duck and chicken featured in various ways with differing sauces, and then it’s into the desserts including an imperial souffl้ with violet flower. Finally there are examples of the set menus. The two on offer on the day we attended were both of three courses (one at B. 390 and the other at B. 490), with the choice of main dishes almost covering the entire cost of the set.

Gilles has an extensive wine selection too, with bottles from B. 700 upwards, or B. 120 per glass.

We began with a selection of the hors d’oeuvres, with such French specialities as snails in garlic butter and fricasseed frog legs. For those who have not tried, pretend it is chicken, the taste is very similar. We were all immediately taken by the faultless presentation of the dishes, as well as the cooking.

In our selection of mains, the crab souffl้ was simply superb, with the Aioli sauce sensational. Yes, it was that good! The lamb and mushroom sauce was tender with again a delicate sauce that complemented the lamb, and did not overpower it. The other choices were also “magnifique”!

The Dining Out Team was impressed by this restaurant. The fact that chef Gilles spent many years at Maxim’s in Paris shows in his classical approach to the menu items. What elevates many dishes from ‘ordinary’ to sublime, with French cuisine in particular, is the sauces. Gilles’ sauces are superb. The pepper sauce for the steak was not the usual cream, gravy and a handful of peppercorns, but a skilfully blended taste sensation that set the palate tingling. Likewise the Aioli sauce which was made from garlic, saffron, potato and olive oil was superb and just lifted the crab souffl้ to new heights.

La Veranda is a restaurant for those who enjoy the finer things in life - especially food! It is not cheap - but the better things in life never are. It is more than a ‘special occasion’ restaurant as the new low season menu may place it as a more regular culinary treat. Highly recommended. Do yourself a favour and try this restaurant. The food is exquisite.

La Veranda French Restaurant, 145 Chiang Mai Pavilion (Night Bazaar), Changklan Road, Chiang Mai, telephone and fax 053 818 495. Parking behind the building. Amex, Visa and MasterCard accepted.