Suan Paak

The Dining Out Team went to Suan Paak Restaurant for lunch. This is close to the Airport Plaza, on Airport Road. I was under the impression that this was a vegetarian restaurant, and I have to admit I was not all that enthusiastic. While Miss Terry knows that vegetables are important part of all our diets, I am also a card-carrying carnivore! However, I could not have been further from the truth - Suan Paak is a normal restaurant, but one with very special vegetables!

The first aspect to impress you is the gardens. Trees, umbrellas, fountains and ponds, bushes, pergolas and trellises abound. You walk into a veritable garden nursery. At the rear is another important part of the restaurant, but not for an idle wander - a complete hydroponics area growing their own special vegetables.

To the right, as you walk in through the covered walkway, are some undercover dining areas, very tastefully decorated, but with the crisp mid-day sun in Chiang Mai, we decided to stay in the gardens, choosing one of the many tables covered by a large umbrella.

The menu begins with a small explanation of their salad dressings, being creamy, or a sweet and sour oil and vinegar or a French style oil and vinegar. The hydroponically grown vegetables are free from pesticides and other toxins, and feature highly in the fare offered at Suan Paak.

There are 14 salads, with the majority around B. 115 and range from vegetarian styles, through sausage, ham, tuna, chicken, pork, beef and shrimp, as well as the expected Caesar salad.

Next on the menu are the breads with whole wheat and French bread predominating. These are followed by sandwiches, mainly around B. 75 and then some interesting soups such as Chinese black mushroom (B. 50). There is also a stand-alone dish called khaow-ping at B. 90 which has fried rice with shrimp paste.

These are followed by a group called “Specialities” with the majority under B. 100. These include spaghetti, a chicken curry with rice, roast chicken with BBQ sauce and even an ox tongue stew.

Hot and Sour Thai salads follow at around B. 100 including an interesting (Thai?) sausage, ham, bologna with chilli lime and shallot.

Suan Paak steaks get a page on their own and come with either mushroom, pepper, lemongrass or Northeastern Thai sauces. These come with vegetables and ham steaks are B. 150, pork chops are B. 200 and sirloin steaks are B. 320.

There are a couple of pages of beverages with many fruit based shakes, beers are around B. 60 for a small bottle, and fruit milk shakes at B. 65. Of course there are ice creams (B. 35) and cakes and pies (B. 60) with blueberry cheesecake or blueberry pie and tiramisu featuring highly.

We began with the shrimp and chicken salad with a Thai-style dressing that was very good (and spicy), and this was followed by German sausages (full and meaty) with mushroom sauce (very bland) and then their Suan Paak sirloin steak with pepper sauce and a tossed salad as well, which had the French oil and vinegar dressing.

The vegetables made the meals for me. Truly delicious veggies, which had me going back to the salad bowl for more. I honestly do not remember when tomatoes tasted this good. Even the cooked vegetables with the steak were excellent. We were all very impressed!

We finished with a strawberry drink that Madame was still talking about an hour later. Scrumptious was the word I think she used.

Lunch at Suan Paak was brilliant, and I would go as far as to say that it was the most enjoyable garden restaurant experience I have had in the past 12 months. The food was excellent, the service likewise. The lunch was superb, and I can honestly say it was the first time I have gone digging in a salad, hoping to find more tomatoes, a vegetable I am not normally all that fond of. Very highly recommended.

Suan Paak, 61 Moo 3, Airport Road, Suthep, Chiang Mai, telephone 053 201 690, fax 053 201 692, email [email protected] Secure parking in the grounds. Open 11 a.m. till 9 p.m.