DINING OUT - ENTERTAINMENT

Whole Earth Restaurant

Eating on a higher plane with a little TM thrown in

This week it was lunch at probably one of the most stunning restaurant gardens in Chiang Mai. The Whole Earth Restaurant is set in a large carefully landscaped area off Sridonchai Road. There is also a shady parking area inside, so drive in (don’t leave the car out on the street in the blazing sun as we did) - see, it has been worthwhile reading even just this far into the Dining Out column!

Brick pathways run through the gardens, which have topiary bushes, manicured lawns, trees, statues, orchids and some large umbrellas. Everything is neat and trimmed, and although we saw no gardeners, the restaurant must employ an army of them who must work at night.

The paths take you to the dominant feature, a large steeply roofed Thai house with a verandah all the way round the upper level. As you approach there is a notice asking you to remove your shoes, with a shoe cabinet for your footwear. Beside this there is a pile of leaflets offering an Introduction to Transcendental Meditation. By this stage you know this is going to be a different dining out.

We divested ourselves of the clogs and climbed the stairs to the first level restaurant. There you have the choice of either dining out on the verandah section, enjoying the warm Chiang Mai breezes, or inside which is air-conditioned. We decided on air-conditioned comfort, it being the middle of the day when we visited.

The inner restaurant (better for inner peace perhaps?) has woven bamboo walls and the chairs are cane, keeping to the ‘whole earth’ environmental theme. Both inside and out, the tables are covered with good quality heavy linen.

The menu begins with Thai specialty vegetarian dishes with the first category called Soup and Appetizers, and all priced at B. 95. In the 15 items are dishes as special Chinese soup with seaweed and black mushroom and marinated minced bean curd saut้ed with chilli and a vegetarian tom yum.

Still in the vegetarian section there are 14 main dishes and again these are all B. 95 including saut้ed heart of coconut with bay leaves or another just proclaiming itself as saut้ed Whole Earth special vegetarian spicy dish.

Next up are non-vegetarian dishes, again beginning with Soup and Appetizers, with nine choices and all slightly more expensive at B. 110 with tom yum chicken, shrimp or fish, a Malaysian chicken satay or Fancy bean curd with crabmeat.

Main dishes are generally around B. 110-120 with items such as saut้ed seafood with transparent noodle and mixed vegetables, while items such as BBQ prawns are B. 250, as is the deep-fried snowfish with spicy hot sauce.

The next section has Indian specialties, beginning with vegetarian items at B. 95 or below, with all the usual favourites - samosas, pakoras, paneers and even a vegetable biryani. Non-vegetarian Indian items were B. 95-150 in the main covering chicken, fish and crab. There is a full range of Indian breads and Lasi is available.

There is a separate desserts menu with most fruit items at B. 60-80, plus a large range of coffees and several teas, including ginger, herb, lemongrass and Liptons! All menu prices are + + in hotel fashion.

Wines are available, one fridge having bottles under B. 1000 and the other the more expensive vintages.

We began with the samosas and a vegetarian satay, which were very tasty, but at that point lunch had to be curtailed as I had to catch a plane, but we were not allowed to leave until we had tried their mango and sticky rice, which was very Thai - and very pleasant.

The Whole Earth Restaurant is definitely the place for those in harmony with nature (and the whole earth). The food was well prepared and well presented, but the lasting memories were of the beautiful gardens with Dr. Budhacharan, one of the owners, walking through in his flowing white robes, his enlightened aura almost visible. The Whole Earth is an experience.

Whole Earth Restaurant, 88 Sridonchai Road, Chiang Mai, telephone 053 282 463, fax 053 819 106. Secure parking in the grounds.