The Room Bar

Gina Hahn

One of the nicer areas on Nimmanhaemin Road is a small new mall, close to the Chiang Mai University Convention Center. Look for the big billboard announcing “The Room”. Park inside the mall if there’s space, or down the road near the convention center. You’ll see coffee shops and upscale stores, and you’ll also see the beautifully decorated restaurant, The Room Bar. Surrounded by floor to ceiling glass, several dining rooms are elegantly appointed in purple and red silk. Huge flower arrangements decorate the rooms. As you are seated, you realize that this restaurant would look just as stylish in New York or Rome or London as it does in Chiang Mai.

Then the heavenly scents of Chef Pomphan’s specialties will distract you, and you will be in for a taste treat. The Room Bar opened in November 2004, but was quite new to the Dining Out team. Chef Pomphan worked at a local hotel before being hired by the owners of the restaurant. They made a good choice. A chef for eight years, he has developed house specialties that are unique in Chiang Mai.

Start with an appetizer, and start with this one: Room Bar spring rolls. These delightful and unusual spring rolls are stuffed with fresh spinach and topped with a creamy sauce. The entire team was delighted with this choice. Appetizers start at 65 baht and go up to 95 baht, and range from these delectable spring rolls to seafood to chicken tidbits

The restaurant’s soup special is a spicy, but not too spicy, fried vegetable, egg and shrimp combination. Fresh and delicious, but the roasted duck in red curry is also good. Soups start at 75 baht and go up to 125 baht for the duck, which is the most expensive item on the menu.

I love spicy Thai salads, so was delighted by the spicy wing bean with shrimp salad that was served next. Chef Pomphan makes ample use of seafood, and it’s fresh, fresh, fresh. Salads are priced at 75 to 95 baht. In addition to the spicy wing bean salad, the restaurant features a deep fried morning glory salad that is topped with a spicy seafood sauce and a prawn and apple salad. Of course, there are many other salads on the menu, but these caught my eye – and my taste buds.

The house special in main courses is a deep fried chicken with mixed herbs. Priced at only 85 baht, this is a delightful dish. We also tried the beef curry with fresh raw vegetables and roti. It was spicy but delicious, and was the first time that the Dining Out team had eaten spicy dipping curry with roti. It was a pleasant accompaniment. If really spicy isn’t your thing, ask the chef to tone this dish down a bit. The flavor is wonderful. We also sampled the stuffed and steamed cabbage rolls. Minced pork rolled into a cabbage leaf and neatly tied into a little package is a light and mild main dish. For a seafood main course, we had fried sea bass with black pepper, fresh and hot, crispy on the edges, and very tasty. Main dishes range in price from 65 to 115 baht.

Thailand is fortunate to have some of the finest fresh fruit in the world year round. We loved the fruit plate but missed out on the dessert special. We were just too full of good food! It’s not on the menu, but you should ask for it. Envision special fried rolls dipped into chocolate. Now that’s a taste of heaven.

When you talk to him it’s obvious that Chef Pomphan loves his job. He likes to experiment with flavors and textures, and he likes to talk about cooking. We compared notes on cooking. He has a secret and I wanted to learn what it is. Unlike a lot of rotund western chefs, the man is super slim. How can anybody who prepares such delicious food manage that? He just laughed at my question. He says it’s just because he’s Thai.

The Room, 61 Nimmanhaemin Road, Muang, Chiang Mai. Telephone 053-215-277, mobile 04-042-9099. Open daily 10 a.m. until midnight. Credit cards accepted. Limited parking inside.