“Flavorful authenticity at a reasonable price” is the best
way to describe my impression of the recently-opened Italian restaurant, Da
Mattia, located in Chang Klan Plaza (adjacent to the Shangri-la Hotel building
site on Chang Klan Road about a kilometer south of the Night Bazaar).
This authenticity makes it a welcome addition to the dining scene in Chiang Mai,
because so many of its competitors, both Italian and otherwise, have sadly
succumbed to the customer-driven imperative of “taste modification” to suit the
local palate. Given the need to pay the rent (and the salary of the expat
owner), I hope Da Mattia sticks to its principles and preserves for connoisseurs
the opportunity to savor Italian flavors almost as they can be enjoyed in Rome,
where the chef originates and has worked for many years.
reason why preserving flavorful authenticity in Chiang Mai is such a challenge
is because doing so requires that a significant proportion of the ingredients be
imported, which usually results in higher prices than the cost-conscious local
consumers wish to pay. Stefano, the chef at Da Mattia, says he’s pitching to the
“mid to upper income market”, but he’s careful to provide a range of options
from a price point of view, with entrees ranging from 120 baht for a tasty
spaghetti carbonara to 250 baht for fish dishes. Pizzas, which are of medium
size, range from 150 to 200 baht and can easily be shared by two people as a
supplement to a nice appetizer or dessert. The wines are all Italian, which may
frustrate some people who prefer a wider choice, but they help preserve the
“authentically Italian” feel of the dining experience.
An example of what quickly made me feel that eating at Da Mattia would be “a cut
above” in terms of the typical local dining experience was the fact that the
service staff responded immediately to my request to turn down the volume of the
background music so that my friend and I could talk; the chef himself asked us
if we wanted the air-conditioning level adjusted; and the waitress approached us
after we had placed our order to inquire if we wanted our pasta “al dente” or
not. All of these gestures told me that the owner and staff were genuinely
interested in our comfort and satisfaction.
A final hallmark of the restaurant was the chef’s creativity. In Italy, local
trattorie offer creative seasonal specialties to entertain the palates of their
regular customers. By chance, I ordered an appetizer which amply demonstrated
the chef’s grasp of this concept. His sautéed potatoes with forest mushrooms
took perfect advantage of Chiang Mai’s abundance of seasonal mushrooms to create
a tasty treat (flavored with rosemary) that was warm, rich and not at all oily.
Similarly, the pepperoni pizza had a melt-in-your-mouth consistency, which
stemmed from the use of stewed tomatoes on a thin crust with cheese and sausage:
very different from Neapolitan and Sicilian pizza, and ample proof of the chef’s
skill and creativity. Buon Appetito!
Da Mattia restaurant is located in the Chang Klan Plaza, 191/10 Chang Klan Road.
Indoor and outdoor seating is available. It is open Monday through Saturday with
lunch served from 11:30am-2:30pm and dinner served from 5:30pm-10:00pm. For
BBQ’s are always very popular. People like to stand around the BBQ (men in
particular) with a beer, and chat. This recipe allows plenty of chat time, and
also uses a can of beer, so keep one aside for the beer batter. The only secret
here is to select the best, plumpest prawns from your supplier or supermarket.
Around 8-10 cm long after removing the head is a fair indication, and fresh is
best with seafood.
Remove head and de-shell prawns. Split prawns
lengthwise down to tail with a sharp knife, but do not remove tail. Combine lime
juice, salt, curry powder and ginger in a small bowl. Add prawns, cover and
refrigerate for at least 2 hours. To prepare coconut coating, lightly toast
coconut on cookie sheet at 375 degrees for 3 to 5 minutes. Set aside. In another
bowl, mix beer, flour, white pepper, sugar and paprika to make the batter.
Heat oil in heavy pan. Dip prawns in batter and fry until brown. Roll
immediately in toasted coconut. Serve with dipping sauce of your choice.
Large prawns, de-veined, tails on