River House Coffee Shop Restaurant

I was not sure of what I was going to experience at the River House Coffee Shop Tara Restaurant in Chiang Rai. “Coffee shops” tend to be fairly down-market venues, plastic tablecloths, noisy and inexpensive. I found out later that only one of those descriptions was correct at the River House Coffee Shop Restaurant! Which one? Read on.

The River House is a boutique resort property overlooking the Kok River in Chiang Rai. Thirty-six rooms, each with river views, it is a Lanna-style haven away from the bustle of Chiang Mai. (At the end of my stay I changed that to a Lanna-style ‘heaven’.)

The restaurant is in one of the two wings of the resort and has a glassed-in air-conditioned area, and another patio section outside. We chose the air-conditioned comfort and were met by the smiling staff in Lanna style uniforms and ushered to our table.

This was no coffee shop laminate topped table with plastic tablecloth, but a beautiful wooden table with the heaviest starched white linen tablecloth you could imagine. The napkins were also starched linen and the cutlery neatly arranged on a glazed pottery spoon rest (made in Chiang Rai). Sitting on the table was a small pottery vase with a posy of real flowers.

I was talked into their River House special cocktail (it did not take much persuasion), called Sweet Memory, presented in a martini glass, accompanied by two ‘tiger’ orchids. A wonderful palate refresher. While enjoying the cocktail I had time to peruse the menu.

The menu is quite large and is in Thai and English and covers the entire day, since the restaurant’s primary function is to feed the guests. The Asian Dinner was the section that we had come to try and covers classical Thai choices as well as Northern dishes such as hanglay pork curry. There are stir-fries, deep fries, grills and salads, and the vast majority are priced at less than B. 100. This is not an expensive restaurant.

We began with spring rolls with fruit salad with a radish sauce and sweet basil leaves. From that first dish I knew this was going to be a special evening. The ‘fruit salad’ of apples and pineapple contained small salted shrimp, was delicately spiced and a brilliant melange of aromatic flavours.

Following that we had a tom yum goong, with a prawn that would not have been out of place in a lobster pot! Huge. A more creamy version of the Thai favourite, and again not overly harsh with chilli.

In quick succession we were regaled with a deep-fried tub-tim (ruby fish) with mango salad, a gaeng keowan neua (green curry beef) and sweet snap pea from the Royal project. All were excellent, and the tub-tim fillets had me returning for more.

We finished with a deep-fried banana and ice cream, where again the chef impressed me with his ability to produce a light batter, with no grease or oil residue. A wonderful ending.

At the end of my meal I sat in amazement. We had eaten a superb multi-course Thai meal that would not have been out of place in any top restaurant in the Kingdom. The delicate way the food was prepared and the artistic presentation was not what you would expect from a restaurant that calls itself a ‘coffee shop’. This had been a wonderful experience, but there was more to come. The bill for this culinary delight was extremely reasonable, especially when the quality and presentation and overall ambience were taken into consideration. The only ‘coffee shop’ attribute here is the inexpensive price. If you are in Chiang Rai I can wholeheartedly recommend this restaurant, in fact since Chiang Rai is only two and a half hours away from Chiang Mai by road, come up for the weekend! Highest recommendation possible.

The River House Coffee Shop Restaurant, The River House, Chiang Rai, 482 Moo 4, Tambon Rimkok, Amphur Muang Chiang Rai, telephone 053 750 830, fax 053 750 822, email [email protected] Secure parking within the resort grounds. Open seven days. Breakfast 6.30 a.m. until 10 a.m., lunch 11.30 a.m. until 2.30 p.m. and dinner 6.30 p.m. through till 10 p.m.