Le Lang Ma Tong

Not French, but a great inexpensive family venue

Chiang Mai continues to turn up new and different venues for Dining Out. The latest for us was Le Lang Ma Tong, on the Chiang Mai-Lamphun Road, shortly after the 33rd Military Circle. This restaurant has been under the control of new owners for only six months, and was renamed at that time.

It is on the edge of the Ping River, with an open section nearest the water, and a covered section just back from the riverbank. There is also a tropical forest and waterfall along one side of the dining area. Seating is in ‘garden’ settings, but the cutlery is classical Thai bronze, helping to elevate dining just a little. There is easy listening folk music from 7 p.m. and a band from 9.30 p.m.

The menu calls attention to itself, being encased in ‘book covers’ with French impressionist style paintings. It is in Thai and English and commences with Appetizers. However, this is not quite correct, as in the 30 items there are some that are certainly not usually appetizers - like pork knuckle, for example. This section’s prices are generally under B. 100 and includes baked chicken in pandanus leaf, deep fried sun-dried beef or pork, seafood som tum and Japanese crabmeat.

Next up are 17 Thai spicy salads (B. 60-100) and includes pork, chicken, fish, vegetarian items and seafood. The following page has Steamed and Fried items (B. 60-160) and includes some different items such as fried black mushrooms with egg, or stir fried asparagus with shrimp.

The next section is called Chilli Paste and has 9 items (B. 60-100) and begins with green chilli paste served with boiled vegetables and egg and also has spicy salted beans and minced pork in coconut milk. 15 Tom Yum or Soups are next, with some of these in small or large servings (B. 80-160) and as well as the usual offerings there are items as Northern Thai style curry and yellow curry with shrimp and sour bamboo shoot.

The final food section is called Individual Dishes (B. 60-160) and covers 15 rice or noodle dishes, and again in small or large servings. This is followed by the beverages which includes softs and spirits, local beers at B. 45-60 for a small bottle.

We began with Vietnamese spring rolls, and we were favourably impressed immediately. These were followed by a steam boat with the gaeng liang curry, packed with vegetables and prawns. It had a slight chilli ‘bite’ to it, but well within palate limits for those not accustomed to spiciness. For Madame, this was the dish of the day.

Our next item was their version of the German standard pork knuckle. This was huge, and if you are going to order this, have a good appetite! It came with various accompaniments including mustard, mayonnaise and Northern style sauces. We also tried their Pad Thai, done with egg and prawns, with vegetables and bean sprouts. Not heavy, but light and flavoursome. Another excellent selection. My choice was a toss-up between the Pad Thai and the Vietnamese spring rolls.

This restaurant turned out to be a real ‘sleeper’. It has everything the larger establishments have along the Ping River, but in a smaller, less impersonal venue. The standard of the food was excellent, and the presentation likewise. With the entertainment and inexpensive prices, it is difficult to imagine a better place to take the family, or large groups of friends. Whilst this is a ‘Thai’ venue, there are enough items on the menu for expats who may be a little afraid of the spice factor. It is not French, despite the “Le” in the title - this was only done to make themselves a little different from the other English sounding Ping riverbank restaurants! We enjoyed the food and the ambience at Le Lang Ma Tong. Take a bunch of people along and enjoy it too. You won’t be disappointed.

Le Lang Ma Tong, Chiang Mai-Lamphun Road, just after the 33rd Military Circle, telephone 053 302 260, 01 1111 893. Open 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. but lunch groups by prior appointment. Parking outside, or across the street.