DINING OUT - ENTERTAINMENT

Arcobaleno

Those of you who remember the owner/chef from Babylon Restaurant will be delighted to learn that his widow and children have opened a new restaurant in Tambon Watgate. Arcobaleno, is managed by his daughter, Elena Magni Methawut, and located in a spacious, newly decorated, old house with abundant parking in the garden. And thatís just the happy beginning. The food is delicious, just what you would expect from this family. The Dining Out team recently made a lunchtime stop at the days-old restaurant. It turned out to be a treat.

The ample menu features a page of signature dishes; beef and salmon carpaccio are listed, along with riso pilaf primavera, rice with fresh vegetables. The special dishes range in price from 180 baht up, and you can even order Australian beefsteak. But, given the authentic Italian options, we never even gave steak a second glance. We placed our orders, and then homemade bread with fresh herb butter was placed before us. What an irresistible aroma! The herbs are organically grown on the family farm in Lamphun. You can taste the freshness.

We began with a rich crab au gratin at 150 baht and gambini, a fabulous shrimp and mushroom combination in a wine sauce at 200 baht. One of our diners is particularly particular about seafood, and both met his approval. The crab au gratin was a delight, and the gambini, which was served with smooth, creamy mashed potatoes, was a meal in itself. Of course you can also choose a mixed salad at 60 baht or the always-delicious caprese at 100 baht.

The pasta menu seemed endless, and the vegetarian offerings appealing. Two spicy dishes caught our eyes, spaghetti Dicuolo (Devilís spaghetti), which features the spice from hot peppers, and spaghetti Putanesco, which also includes a little spice. But we read on. Fettuccini, cannel-loni, ravioli. The sauces and meats and vegetables were comprehensive, and the pasta homemade. Most of the pasta dishes are priced at 140 to 160 baht. The exception is the pasta with imported salmon from Norway, priced at 220 baht. We chose the pasta special: fettuccini, salmon and mushrooms in a cream sauce. It also comes in a fresh tomato and herb sauce.

The maitre dí, whom we knew from the ďold daysĒ at Babylon, briefly joined us. Where, we wanted to know, do you buy this wonderful seafood? He shops for it personally, every day, at our own Kad Muang Mai. He knows his vendors. Each item is inspected, smelled, eyed like the professional he is. Only when he is satisfied does he present it to the chef. The results were obvious.

The menu features several soups at 60 baht each. We did not sample any of them, but found the mixed seafood particularly interesting. We concentrated again on the vegetarian offerings, which appeared to be a delicious menu whether you are vegetarian or simply want a change of pace. The gnocchi malfatti - gnoc-chi combined with spinach, ricotta, parmesan and mozzarella cheeses and served with either a cream or tomato/herb sauce - sounded wonderful, but so did the eggplant parmigiano. Vegetarian pastas are priced at 120 to 160 baht.

Main meat dishes include chicken, beef, pork and fish. We simply could not resist the pork chop served with a mushroom and wine sauce and fresh steamed vegetables. Iíve never encountered such a huge pork chop, and the mushroom sauce was so tasty that we ordered another roll to sop it all up. The vegetables were served al dente and delicious.

We examined the menu for desserts, determined and dedicated as we are. There is zabaglione, that amazing cooked custard, for two at 120 baht. And homemade ice creams at 30 baht per serving. A souffl้ glac้ with Grand Marnier is listed, along with spumoni and tiramisu. We ordered the tiramisu. The presentation was lovely,
and the tiramisu, which was served with a generous dollop of whipped cream, was the best Iíve had in Chiang Mai.

Arcobaleno, 60 Na Wat Ket (the first soi off of Kaew Nawarat Road), open daily at 11 for lunch, again at 6 for dinner. Spacious, reservations not needed except
for large tables, plenty of parking. Telephone 053-306-254.