Baan Suan

The Lanna experience revisited

The first Dining Out review in Chiangmai Mail issue number 1 was of Baan Suan. Since that issue, almost one year ago, the number of Chiangmai Mail readers has multiplied many times over, so we felt it was only fair to revisit this restaurant.

A few words on getting there. Probably the simplest is via the Super Highway, Chiang Mai-Lampang and be ready to bail out around the Chiang Mai Hospital 2, or the Lanna Hospital. Get on either the Chiang Mai-Mae Rim road or the Chiang Mai-Meijo road on the other side of the Ping River and look for the Baan Suan signs from there. Sorry to be vague, and we did get lost once, but we did get there!

Baan Suan is set in a garden area beside the Ping River. The torches lit along the river banks all add to the “Lanna” romance, with the Thai salas and open air terraces and the d้cor of the North - wooden wall carvings, wooden statues, wooden flooring and Northern Thai music.

The table settings are Lanna, with little ‘dunce’s hats’ made of banana leaves over the glasses, locally woven tablecloths and napkins, and original, hand painted ceramic plates from the north. Even the cutlery is hand crafted stainless steel.

Before we ordered, we just sat out on the terrace, overlooking the river and drank in the natural beauty of such an environment. It is worth the contemplation.

The menu commences with appetizers, around 100-150 baht and then into a section simply called Northern food (around B. 100) which includes some Chiang Mai sausage items.

From there it is into Thai Food (B. 120-180) with curries (both green and red) and some stir-fries, followed by choices of pork, beef or chicken, again B. 120-180. These include roast spare-ribs in a pot and braised duck in red wine sauce. Fish and shrimp items (B. 150-280) with snapper and serpent head, and some soups (around B. 100-150) and then a small but sophisticated European menu covering appetizers, soups, salads, breads and mains which include items such flamb้s. Prices are hotel style (plus service and VAT).

There is a separate wine list with a selection of wines coming from the old and new worlds with the whites and reds mainly under B. 2,200.

We were given a ‘tasting’ menu with assorted items for us to try. One of these was a yum guava salad which featured cashew nuts and the ‘farang’ fruit. This was flavoursome with a slight ‘bite’, but certainly not over the top. Other appetizers included a shrimp spring roll, and a fried minced tuna wrapped in thin pancakes.

To experience one of the European dishes we were served with a flamb้ beef on a special hanging stand and salad, with accompanying small dishes of caf้ de Paris butter, mayonnaise and 1000 island sauce. Unfortunately, with the cooling breezes from the Ping River, the flamb้ wouldn’t, but it was still a pleasant dish.

The next items were back in the Thai menu. We were treated to a snake’s head fish with herbs, a shrimp curry and a fried rice. The fried rice came with its own dunce’s hat, leaving a cone of rice on the plate - very novel. The fish was superb, with the lemongrass herbs giving it a great flavour.

The dessert was one we have had before - a mango with red wine ‘snowflakes’. This is a fabulous dessert, and a perfect ending to allay any spiciness that the diners may not be accustomed to with northern Thai food. I should also mention the very aromatic coffee made from locally grown coffee beans and by all reports another taste sensation, though we were too full to even try the offered coffee.

In my summation all those months ago, I wrote “Baan Suan is an experience. It is a romantic setting for long relaxed dining out.” I am still of that opinion. A place to take visitors to give them an idea of what the Lanna Kingdom was really like, and how northern Thai cuisine differs from other Thai regions.

Baan Suan, 25 M3, San-Phi-Sua, Muang Chiang Mai, telephone 053 854 169, 053 852 751.