DINING OUT - ENTERTAINMENT

The Lemon Tree

If you haven’t been to the Lemon Tree on Huay Kaew Road in a while, it’s worth revisiting, to remind yourself of just how nice their down-home Thai food can be.

Although this is an area that is frequented by tourists from neighboring hotels, the clientele is primarily local – western people living here make it a regular dining spot, as do many Thai people who live in the neighborhood. Look around and you’re likely to see a discrete table of Thai VIPS relaxing and talking over a good meal. The tourists we met were from other Asian countries, and appeared to appreciate the posted specials in both Japanese and Chinese languages.

It’s a busy little place, even on a weekday night, with many customers coming and going and bags of take-out leaving. The Lemon Tree is very casual, and much larger than it looks on first inspection. As with many shop houses, you just go to the back of the restaurant and go upstairs for a second floor of tables as well as a bar. There is open-air seating upstairs. This ten year old restaurant is also air-conditioned, a bonus during hot weather. Another bonus, at least for this diner, is that the tablecloths are just that – cloth!

The menu is large and organized into several sections that at times overlap because it can indeed be quite difficult to classify Thai food into western categories of appetizers, soups, salads, etc. Recognizing this, we ordered a mixture of samples and enjoyed them all. We started with sun-dried pork with sesame seed at 50 baht along with chicken wings that had been stuffed with glass noodles and minced pork at 60 baht. Both were delicious. The tom kha gai was spicy and had a slightly sweet taste. The Dining Out team particularly enjoyed this dish. The chicken was nicely cut and the aromatic mixture of spices filled the air with reminders of our first encounters with lemon grass. We were delighted by the paak boong fai daeng, that deliciously green vegetable that can be either the best or the worst of dishes. If it is overcooked or leftover hours ago from the lunchtime crowd, this vegetable should be part of a compost pile. But if freshly prepared, it’s creamy and delicious. And ours at the Lemon Tree was creamy and delicious. Paak boong fai dang, morning glory in oyster sauce, is priced at 45 baht. The stir-fried Chinese mushrooms with fresh shrimp were placed before us. The mushrooms were earthy, and the shrimp fresh from the market. This was one of our favorite dishes, and worth a trip to Lemon Tree to savor on a regular basis. This dish is priced at 60 baht. We also had a dish of fresh stir fried vegetables, and again basked in the availability of fresh vegetables at the markets in Chiang Mai. Our most expensive dish was fresh tilapia fish served with a sweet and sour sauce at 140 baht. The fish was deep fried whole but the meat was tender and easy to serve. The sauce could more accurately be described as sweet and spicy, and there wasn’t a drop left on the plate when we finished. Good fried rice accompanied our meal.

The restaurant offers an assortment of beverages from bottled water to fresh juices and fruit shakes, from wine coolers to beer. Water is a modest 8 baht, the fresh fruit shakes are 20 baht, and a large Heineken beer is 75 baht.

Don’t leave the Lemon Tree without trying one of their unusual pastries. Blueberry and lemon cheese pies feature good pastry filled with a thin layer of cheesecake and topped with glazed fresh fruit. They’re reasonably priced at 35 baht, and quite enjoyable. Ice cream is also offered, and prices begin at 15 baht per scoop.

The Lemon Tree, Huay Kaew Road across from Central Shopping Mall. Open daily from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. Telephone 0 5322 2009, 0 5340 4411. Take-out and home-delivery available. Reservations are usually not needed, but you may have a brief wait for a large table. Parking in any of the big lots nearby, or on one of the side streets.