Traveler’s rest: By Epicurean

Too early for a flight, just missed one or waiting to get home from Chiang Mai Airport? Well, Suan Paak Restaurant is close at hand if you happen to be hungry. Located immediately next to the Airport Plaza shopping complex, Suan Paak serves an excellent menu of Thai food in a northern styled building surrounded by beautifully landscaped gardens.

A team of well-trained waiting staff will show travelers or anyone else who enjoys good food, to a table beside an indoor pond – festooned with floodlit water plants - where a fountain’s gentle splash blends into the sounds of soft northern folk music. Or if preferred, cross a rustic wooden bridge into an air-conditioned dining room.

In the main restaurant, coloured lanterns hang from a pointed wooden ceiling, well-seasoned tree trunks divide the tables and on the wall between the shuttered windows, a list of specials has been chalked up artistically on a series of small blackboards.

And for a bird’s eye view, a VIP eating area has been built on a balcony overlooking these pretty surroundings.

For a light start to the meal, cashew nuts or northern Thai sausage is on the list of appetizers, or try kung chae sa mun phrai – fresh prawn seasoned with fish sauce, garlic, mint and a hint of coriander, accompanied by shallots, spring onions and bitter cucumber.

Starters also include a selection of soups such as bean curd and minced pork, spare rib and shitake mushroom and a wide variety of spicy tom yam.

The journey through the menu becomes increasingly exciting. For a salad, banana flower bud and minced pork can be thoroughly recommended, and noeu kham wan – beef with chili, garlic, mint leaves, lime and fresh kale is well worth the experience.

Continue on to some old favourites like chili sauce complemented with fried short mackerel, vegetables and shrimp paste and lon tao chio – fermented soy bean, coconut cream, minced pork and fried vegetables.

There’s green curry, country curry, mat sa mun and phanaeng; omellete Thai style or a version with deep fried catfish topped with fried sliced shallot, mango, fried chili and tamarind sauce.

On Fridays at Suan Paak, northeastern or Isaan food such as laab, som tam and kai yang is available. On Saturdays, kaeng thai pla, phat sa to kung and other dishes from the south can be savoured, and Sundays offer northern cuisine including chin som mok, yam chin kai and kaeng hang le.

Suan Paak also provides a choice for vegetarians, and of course, there is a list of desserts and ice cream. For beverages, diners can choose from beer, soft drinks, herbal concoctions, fruit shakes, milk, tea and nine types of coffee.

And what better after that than a walk outside among the palms and bamboo, or stretch out in a sala by a pond in the garden for awhile.

Dishes at Suan Paak range in price between Bt60 and Bt150 – Bt250 for large or special portions - and beverages from as little as Bt35. The kitchen is open from 11 am to 9 pm, there are facilities for disabled people, and the restaurant can be contacted on 053 904 201.