Fondue House

Some places are destined to be restaurants, and 18/1 Airport Road, Chiang Mai, is one of those addresses. Current owner, Chanon (Mai) Pongcharoenkul, told me that 30 years ago his grandmother opened a restaurant there, and she only stopped 10 years ago. After that it became an upmarket restaurant, but now the family has resumed running it, where grandmother left off. This is the Fondue House.

Although the restaurant building is set back inside a compound, it has good readily visible signage for passing traffic. Drive in through the gates and there is ample parking inside.

As you walk into the restaurant there is only one word to describe it - elegant. The former ‘over the top’ clutter and cockerels have gone, to be replaced with a much cleaner and simpler approach to decor. Carpets on the floor are also a good idea, as are the brighter lighting levels.

There are alcoves around the perimeter for semi-private dining, as well as some larger tables for family groups in the center. Heavy white linen tablecloths and contrasting bright red napkins give a cheery ambience, as do the candles on the tables.

The menu is quite large and encompasses far more than just fondues, despite the name and is predominantly Swiss and French cuisine. Hot and cold appetizers include smoked salmon with horseradish cream (B. 240) and a mushroom toast at B. 145.

Salads and soups range from the B. 75 mushroom or vegetable soups, through to a salmon salad at B. 170. Fish dishes are next (B. 220-480) including salmon steaks and pan-fried Rainbow trout. Poultry (B. 195-400) covers chicken, duck and ostrich.

Fondues and Specialities range in price between B. 450 for the Raclette, through various meats, a red wine fondue and finally the classic Swiss cheese fondue at B. 960.

Meat dishes cover sausages, chops and beef (B. 185-800) and then many desserts at around B. 130.

We began with the mushroom toast which was a very smooth appetizer and then tried the home-made pork pate, an excellent dish. Mai also insisted we try the salmon which came with a very light dressing which added to the natural flavour of the fish, rather than overpowering it, as so often happens. Madame tried the mushroom soup, and this was sensational. Order it! (That’s an order?)

But it was the fondue that we had really come to try, it is the Fondue House, after all! Now I have had fondues for many years, including the famous cheese fondues, but I have never had a red wine fondue. Instead of oil, the fondue pot comes with red wine. Another difference is that the beef does not come cubed, but cut into slices. The fondue pots also have natty little cut-outs around the top, so that your fondue fork does not slide around the rim and you end up using someone else’s!

The sauces that came with the fondue included a hot Sriracha sauce, mayonnaise, mustard, 1000 Island, Ketchup and a spicy Thai sauce (nam jinn jaew?). For me it was the mustard, and for Madame it was the Sriracha. That’s the beauty of fondues, but naturally we tried all of them too.

This restaurant is definitely ‘up-market’, with regards to service, food and ambience, but the tariff does not reflect this. Caesar salad for two at B. 230, or the Snapper fillet with mango sauce at B. 220 are very reasonable prices when the standard of the food and venue are taken into consideration. The wine list is also quite comprehensive, and whilst there are some big ticket items, you can buy 1998 vintage Bordeaux for a smidgin over B. 1,000, or a 1997 Joseph Drouhin Beaujolais Village for just over B. 1,500.

We enjoyed our evening at The Fondue House, as I am sure that you will also. It is a restaurant for ‘fine dining’, yet is relaxed enough to make fondue dishes the fun food experience that they are supposed to be for the entire family. Highly recommended.

The Fondue House, 18/1 Airport Road, Chiang Mai, telephone 053 201 551, fax 053 201 550, email [email protected] usa.com. Secure parking at the front of the restaurant.