Romantic relishes: By Epicurean

For that romantic evening let half a dozen minstrels serenade you and your loved one with soft country music at Baanrai Yarmyen. This rambling wooden restaurant, set among a mini forest of twisted tree trunks and overhanging branches, provides a rustic ambiance and traditional northern Thai food.

Thread your way through the foliage to a table by the lily pond, fountain, stream or waterfall, glowing in restful illumination; where the melody won’t drown the sweet talk and lovers can watch the reflection of candlelight dance in each other’s eyes.

Music is one of the main ingredients of this popular eatery, with a style that ranges from Lanna to bluegrass. The show starts at around 6.30 nightly, when talented singers are accompanied by guitar, mandolin, double bass and banjo, played by a band of gifted instrumentalists.

Baanrai Yarmyen is not just a place for lovers to meet. Its soothing surroundings and entertainment complement a thrilling menu, which attracts families, friends and even royalty. The service here is cordial, fast and efficient, and the food delicious.

Apart from the usual northern Thai favourites such as som tam, gang hung lay, laab and sticky rice, adventurous gastronomes can move into uncharted waters by ordering a portion of rot duan – bamboo worms; mang man – flying ants; or kied tod – deep fried jumping frog.

Or why not start with a jiew kai mod nam – a northern style soup with red ant eggs – followed by kob tod kra tiam priktai – deep fried frog with garlic and pepper, served in a special sauce?

I sat with my wife, Nong, near a dimly lit Lanna-style water mill, which tapped away like a very slow heartbeat, and ordered gingerly with a safe chicken curry and cooked ground pork with herbs. But the grinning waitress said that we should go for the barbecued bee nest in banana leaf, and how could we refuse.

Having got our feet wet, we pushed out the boat and asked for kang pak waan – a vegetable curry with ant eggs. Nong informed me that the noodles in the dish were part of a test. Their failure to soften during the cooking process would mean that some of the vegetables could be inedible. But of course ours were okay.

For drinks, there is a reasonably large selection of alcoholic beverages, and I chose beer, while Nong picked avocado and passion fruit from an exotic list of juices.

Baanrai Yarmyen is not the kind of place you want to rush away from, so while we listened to the music, we sipped our drinks and nibbled our desserts – Nong with mixed cereal and ginger and I had conventional ice cream. Among other sweet delights, coconut jelly dumplings and taro in black sesame, both in coconut milk, were also on offer.

After paying a bill of just under Bt500, Nong and I left Baanrai Yarmyen feeling we had not only experienced delightful food and very good entertainment, but also a gastronomical expedition.

Baanrai Yarmyen can be found at 14 Moo 3, Jaroenraj Road, Tambon Faham, Amphur Muang, Chiang Mai 50000. Contact by telephone on 053 247999, 053 244796, fax on 053 852519 or email [email protected] The kitchen is open from 11 am to midnight.