DINING OUT - ENTERTAINMENT

Le Crystal

We recently took a “Sentimental Journey” to some of our favorite places, where long ago and far away we knew beautiful restaurants serving fine French cuisine in romantic settings overlooking the water. Combos of musicians strummed softly in the background, never distracting us from the food or conversation. But our journey didn’t take us across the ocean or to any city other than our own Chiang Mai.

The restaurant that brought back the wonderful memories is the beautiful Le Crystal on the Ping River. The building, reminiscent of Lanna heritage, would be comfortable in any grand city. It’s spacious and contemporary, with windows stretching its height and warm wood wrapping around it. It was designed to be an elegant restaurant, and you feel that elegance when you walk through the doors.

There are two levels plus outside on a deck overlooking the garden. Upstairs is a private dining room that seats ten. Tucked into a corner downstairs are tables for those who want to enjoy a glass of wine and listen to the music undisturbed by the movement of waiters. Ask to see the wine cellar. The wines come from all over the world, but the country most represented is France. Notice the cigar humidor. Notice the collection of liqueurs.

We began our dinner with a selection of appetizers – foie gras terrine, salmon tartar, pea soup with frog legs, and Caesar salad mixed tableside. The foie gras was served with braised grapes and the dish was drizzled with port wine and jelly. This was a creamy foie gras, not a rustic one, although I find each style appealing. It is priced at 890 baht. Fresh Atlantic salmon tartar soon arrived, surrounded by a bed of chilled, raw zucchini and a plate decorated with just enough mustard and olive oil. This dish was fresh, fresh, fresh, and priced at 320 baht. The waiter rolled a trolley to our table and began to prepare a Caesar salad. The baby romaine was crisp, and the salad included all of the classic ingredients in generous portions. This salad is priced at 250 baht. Last to arrive was a generous bowl of creamy pea soup. A poached egg was centered in the soup, and a small spoonful of caviar rested on the egg. Roasted frog legs surrounded the poached egg. Gina deftly downed the caviar before any of her fellow diners noticed it. The soup is unique, hearty, and priced at 420 baht. The appetizers we tried were delicious and are highly recommended.

Tiny servings of mango sorbet cleansed our palates, and we pushed bravely on.

Our Main Course selections included duck a l’orange, grilled skate wing, and seafood bouillabaisse. The duck was tender and the sauce delicious. Although not an unusual dish, this one was very well prepared and quite tasty. It is priced at 420 baht and served with potatoes and steamed vegetables. The skate wing challenged us until a team member explained that skate is a type of small stingray, one of those feared creatures we spent many summers avoiding as children swimming in the bay. The “wing” was served roasted on a bed of chili beans with a light butter sauce, and was an equally challenging eating experience. It is filled with edible cartilage, or the meat can be removed by simply scraping a fork down it. We enjoyed this new eating experience. The skate wing is priced at 590 baht. The seafood bouillabaisse, priced at 650 baht, was filled with fresh seafood that floated in a thick, rich sauce. It was quite nice. Then we had a rare treat. The owner arrived at our table and asked if we would try the sole Veronique, a filet of fresh sole served with a rich cream sauce and topped with fresh peeled grapes. Priced at 450 baht, this was our favorite dish of the evening. It was incredibly rich, flavorful, and delightful.

But we weren’t allowed to end our meal without a sampling of desserts. A warm chocolate souffl้, Tokaji mousse, and a tasty cr่me brul้e with a fun touch were served. The cr่me brul้e sat on a caramelized sugar “spider”, but we thought it looked more like a tiny spacecraft. Desserts are priced from 180 baht, and not a spoonful was left.

Le Crystal also has an extensive coffee, tea and special coffee menu. We never got there, so, of course, we must try again.

Le Crystal, 74/2 Patan Road, Muang, Chiang Mai, Tel. 053-872-890-1, Fax 053-872-892, email [email protected] rant.com, [email protected] stalrestaurant.com, www.lecry stalrestaurant.com. Open daily for lunch 11:30 a.m. until 2 p.m., dinner 6:30 p.m. until 10:30 p.m. Transportation available from any downtown location. Special menu at lunch every day that starts at only 320 baht, and on holidays. Email for further information.