Royal India

But you don’t have to dress for dinner!

Chiang Mai has many different styles of restaurant, but we suddenly realized that we hadn’t reviewed an Indian one. The Royal India Restaurant (on the right going down Charoenprathet Road, after the New Bridge) offered themselves as a starting point, and we arrived with no preconceived ideas.

From the outside, the double shophouse frontage is well signed, so you should not miss it. The interior decor is Indian in that there is the obligatory picture of the Taj Mahal, though the tartan tablecloths are a bit of a cultural disparity! The Sa paper around the walls reminds you of where you really are, but the overall ambience is Indian.

While perusing the menu I decided to have a beer. This came with a well chilled iced glass, and I must admit was a presentation that far surpassed my expectations, especially when the beer only costs B. 50! Other drinks include the Indian staple Lassi at B. 25, Heineken at B. 60 for a small or B. 100 for a large bottle, and house wine comes in at B. 70 for red or white.

The menu begins with appetizers ranging between B. 10-110, with the usual pakoras and samosas, or a green salad or papadums. Next up are five tandoori choices (B. 50-200) and covers chicken (and chicken tikka), fish, kebabs or a mixed grill.

The multiple choice thali dishes are in the menu, a boon for those who are somewhat unsure of what is which in Indian cuisine. The non-vegetarian one is B. 159, while the vegetarian one is only B. 99.

Chicken dishes are next up (B. 75-110) with all the usual choices including vindaloo and butter chicken, plus one I have not heard of before, called a karahi chicken!

Eight mutton choices (B. 90-120) include rogan josh and korma, and the seven seafood items (B. 80-160) includes a hot prawn vindaloo.

Indian restaurants are usually very strong on vegetarian items, and Royal India is no exception. Most of the items are under B. 60 and include some of my favourites, an onion bhajee and aloo ghobi. And of course there are the breads and rice dishes.

We decided to go for the thali plate - the easy way around Indian food, where you get several different items, all served on the one platter. The Royal India presents a six item thali plate. This comes with a further choice of fish or prawn and mutton or chicken masala. Our choices were made and the food came hot to the table, along with some naan bread. The full thali plate included masalas, raiti, a yellow dal, a tandoori item, saffron rice as well as the naan.

The masalas were excellent. Full of flavour and no harsh spices. The chef knows what he is doing. The tandoori items were also properly cooked, and I even enjoyed the dal, which is not normally one of my favourite Indian items. There was no faulting the food.

The Royal India Restaurant is, in many ways, typical of the Indian restaurants throughout the world, in that the decor and atmosphere are not high on the list of priorities. However, it is necessary to forget that, and delve further into the reasons for the popularity of Indian food world-wide. Quite simply, that is ‘taste’.

In these regards, the Royal India fits the genre. The food is well prepared and very pleasant Indian style cuisine. When you then look at the food, relative to the price in this restaurant, you start to see the appeal of this eating place to its customers. A thali plate, at B. 99 for the vegetarian variety, has to be top value. A Singha beer to go with it, served in a chilled glass, at B. 50 would bring the total to B. 149, which has to be bargain eating out. It’s not the Ritz, but the food is good and exceptionally cheap. If you are a fan of Indian food, this restaurant may just fit your expectations.

Royal India, 73/2-3 Cahroenprathet Road, Chiang Mai, telephone 053 275 738, 09 634 4009. Open seven days. 11 a.m. till 11 p.m. Street parking only.