Gina Hahn

A small storm has rolled into Chiang Mai and settled on Huay Kaew Road in the University section. Itís called ďTsunamiĒ, and Chef Poln and his helpers turn out fresh, delicious sushi and sashimi that is very well priced by anybodyís standards. Itís not easy to find the first time; youíll go right by and never notice this unassuming little restaurant. But people are definitely finding it every night, and in abundance. If you donít arrive quite early, you may have a bit of a wait. But donít give up. Once orders are placed they arrive at the table in short time, so tables turn over quickly.

Tsunami opened only a little over eight months ago. The chef lived and worked in Tel Aviv for six years, and gained English language fluency there as well as culinary skills. Itís fun to watch him wield his knives, so sit up front by the cooking area if thereís room. The interior only seats about two dozen diners, but the tables and chairs are actually comfortable for the farangs who come in with ample room to cross and uncross their legs. And hereís a bonus for little neighborhood restaurants: the waitresses actually greet and welcome their customers, then thank you on the way out. A nice touch.

We were happy to be the first diners on a recent evening. It meant we had a choice of tables and a chance to study the menu without feeling rushed. We ordered hot green tea (15 baht), and then set about trying to decide between types of sashimi. Other drinks on the menu include bottled water at 10 baht per bottle, an assortment of fruit juices at 15 baht each, coffee (hot or iced) at 15 baht per cup, and beers ranging from a small Heineken at 40 baht to a large Heineken at 70 baht. Singha and Leo beers are also available.

We ordered two types of sashimi, octopus and salmon, and we ordered California maki. They arrived at the table together, and it was difficult to decide which to try first. A quick stir of the wasabi into the soy sauce, chopsticks poised, Gina went for the maki while her fellow team member tasted the sashimi. Then we reversed course and compared notes. The sashimi was fresh and cold, but not frozen, a problem recently encountered at a hotel sushi bar. The maki was a delight of flavors and textures. When sashimi and sushi are what you crave, that first bite is incredible. Sashimi at Tsunami is priced between sixty and ninety baht, and includes five individual pieces per plate. Maki sushi is priced between thirty-nine and eighty-nine baht. Our California maki included eight pieces at eighty-nine baht.

Our tempura shrimp was served, as was the gyoza. Both dishes were hot and fresh. The shrimp were served in a basket lined with absorbent paper, a nice touch. While the dipping sauces were quite nice, Gina will confess to preferring the non-traditional (for these dishes) wasabi and soy sauce mixture. The Dining Out team considered the tempura shrimp to be among the best preparations of this dish in town. Tempura is priced between thirty-five and forty-nine baht. Our dish included five large shrimp. Gyoza is priced at thirty-five baht per serving, and also included five pieces.

Tsunami also offers set menus of sushi and sashimi at 100 to 180 baht per plate, as well as teriyaki sets at sixty-nine to seventy-nine baht per plate. Other a la carte dishes include curry at thirty-five baht per dish and ramen noodle dishes at thirty-five to forty-five baht.

This is how you find Tsunami: itís in between Lanna 3 Condominiums and the Canal Road intersection on the same side of Huay Kaew Road. Look for the bright red lanterns and the happy diners.

Tsunami Restaurant, 8/1 Moo 1, Huay Kaew Road, T. Chang Puek, Muang, Chiang Mai. Telephone 07-189-9338. Open daily for dinner only from 5:30 p.m. until 11:30 p.m. Closed on special holidays. Parking on the street after 7 p.m. or on nearby sois before. Take out available. Go early before the crowd gathers, or phone for reservations.