Sala Mae Rim

Was this the ultimate?

This title of week’s review has already given the game away, like turning to the last page of a ‘who dunnit’ and finding out it was the butler after all. There is a song which goes, "Some days are diamond, some days are stone" - let me tell you that dining out at the Sala Mae Rim in the Regent Chiang Mai, the Four Seasons Resort, was a diamond evening in a paradise built of stone. Has Miss Terry Diner gone over the top this time? No, I have not, this was an evening as close to the ultimate as I have experienced.

The restaurant is on one of the stone terraces of the resort, overlooking the valley with planted rice fields and above it all, the minarets and spires of the Regent’s residences poking through the canopy of trees. Get there before sunset and watch the world settle into night from the open air bar, before crossing the waterways via the stone bridges to the restaurant itself.

The Sala Mae Rim is in a sala but with one section glassed in and air-conditioned and the other just with the sala roofing over the tables. We chose to sit outside, as even though the days have been hot in Chiang Mai, the cooling breezes from the valley made dining outside an even more romantic experience.

Unseen hands placed comfy chairs under our bottoms at tables covered with white linen tablecloths and Lanna style contrasting throw-over. Napkins were held in beaten silverware holders. Candles were on the table and highly polished bespoke bronze cutlery was laid out for our use. Little did we know at that time that we were about to enter another world of culinary excellence.

The menu at Sala Mae Rim covers appetizers, Lanna appetizers, soups, salads, curries meat and poultry and does show the spiciness of the items with three chilli indicators, and a ‘V’ for items that can be produced as a vegetarian dish. The individual helpings range from a low of 170 baht (crispy vegetable spring rolls) to a top of 455 baht (beef curries), with the median around 250 baht.

Chef Derek Watanabe had put together a ‘tasting’ menu for us, with many different items, to show the range and versatility of his team. Right from the start, it became obvious that this was no ‘ordinary’ restaurant food, no matter how many stars Mr. Michelin might like to throw out to others. In those first dishes was a miang pla salmon samoon prai, a deep fried salmon topped with spicy herbs. This was superb, with a sweet crispy herb coating to the salmon, which still allowed the taste of the fish to come through, but enhanced by the Thai herbs. A brilliant example of ‘fusion’ cuisine.

Being a ‘tasting’ menu, we tried many more dishes, all of which we enjoyed, but here are a few of the items that impressed Miss Terry’s palate. There was a smoked duck mango tartlet with a tangerine mint vinaigrette tapas - superb taste. The panaeng nua (beef curry) was delicious, with the meat very tender, and served in a carved fresh pumpkin, and when you lifted the lid it was carved underneath as well! I also enjoyed the krathong thong (chicken tartlets) and the steamed baby seabass in a sweet ginger sauce, which came in a carved split papaya fruit. Another ‘more-ish’ tapas was wonderfully steamed scallop marinated in yoghurt, ginger and cashew nuts and transfixed with a lemongrass stalk. Bravo! Bravo!

To sum it all up, the Sala Mae Rim dining out was to experience as close to the ultimate that Miss Terry has ever had. The food was brilliantly prepared and cooked, the presentation was simply sensational, and the service faultless. Chef Derek Watanabe and his team are to be congratulated on showing the world that you can experience world class dining in Chiang Mai. Not cheap - but the best never is. Invent an excuse to celebrate and go there. You will not be disappointed. This restaurant gets the highest recommendation possible.

The Regent Chiang Mai, a Four Seasons Resort, Mae Rim-Samoeng Old Road, Chiang Mai, telephone 053 298 181.