Art as food! It’s a craze I witnessed in San Francisco in the eighties but I had
really yet to see in Chiang Mai. Oh, maybe a touch here and there at venues like
“Le Crystal” or “The House” but nothing in a casual atmosphere with prices for
the average diner. There was some success in San Francisco in the genre, with
truly creative chefs at restaurants like “Flying Saucer” and “Café Kati” but on
the whole it turned out to be presentation over taste. This is not the case with
Nasi Jumpru in the JJ Market a few blocks down from the Superhighway. After
numerous visits over the past year the venue has proven to be consistent and
innovative with unique and delicious combinations unlike any I have come across
in our fair city.
Mister Noom, the owner, explained that the name is in fact Indonesian and means
“a mixing of foods”…and that it is indeed! The dining room is colorful with only
four tables inside and another four outside.
Chef Pui possesses a highly personal fusion style that is reflected in every
plate that comes out of his tiny kitchen. The arrangements are fanciful, and the
combinations of ingredients are imaginative. He seems to have a penchant for
mixing fruits with meats and seafood to create a truly mouth watering taste
The restaurant has a substantial menu with a healthy selection of appetizers,
soups, salads and entrees. I would best describe the cuisine as Thai fusion. Now
the word fusion in the food world has been used and abused over the last two
decades to signify anything that is not pure or anything that can not be neatly
classified into a traditional cuisine. In this case, that definition fits pretty
well. While the basic ingredients are certainly Thai, I can detect the influence
of Vietnamese, Indonesian and even western styles in the chefs beautiful
Among the appetizers for instance is a ham and cheese spring roll which is
literally ham and cheese rolled up and deep fried in a traditional spring roll
wrapper and served with a honey style dipping sauce. Sounds crazy huh? Don’t
knock it until you try it.
One of my personal favorites is a clear soup with a plethora of fresh vegetables
and a taste sensation hidden inside. Chef Pui has painstakingly removed the pit
from fresh longan and stuffed the center with shrimp. The explosion of flavor is
wondrous and though I have tried to duplicate the recipe at home I have not been
able to match the flavors accomplished in his kitchen.
Another favorite is the breaded prawns covered in tamarind sauce. The dish has a
whimsical bent, with bizarre plate presentations that immediately made my
friends smile. The breading is consistently crisp, never soggy and the sauce is
sweet but not too sweet for a delectable taste combination. This dish is one of
several that I call “vertical food”. The kitchen has creatively stacked the food
and topped it again with deep fried wisps of noodles and garnishes to make a
combination that is electric and the arrangements look like art on a plate.
Part of the joy of visiting Nasi Jampru aside from eating the food is just
sitting and watching plates come out of the kitchen. Because the menu is
extensive, and because I have favorites, I have yet to try even half the dishes
on offer. I enjoy seeing the little pallets come out of the kitchen and try to
remember them for next time, or sometimes even to try to identify what they are.
Some are quite elaborate and competition on the plate is always keen, but the
end result is impressive.
The servers are not exactly the best English speakers but they serve with such
zeal and desire to please that it doesn’t matter. I have always felt that a
genuine smile makes up for a lot in the service industry and you will find that
at Nasi Jumpru. The food can tend to come out of the kitchen unevenly and it’s
not unusual for several diners to have food while several do not. Some would
grow impatient at the wait between courses, but when food lifts your spirits,
what more can you ask? I for one prefer my food is delivered when it’s hot and
fresh as opposed to sitting under a heat lamp waiting for the other dishes to
finish. Besides that, the food here is all appropriate for sharing and with such
innovative creations everyone will want a taste.
With such creativity flowing from the kitchen I was a bit surprised (and sad)
that the chef has paid almost no attention to desserts with only some fresh
fruit and one traditional Thai sweet on offer but I guess if that is not his
strong suit perhaps best to leave it at that.
Being the first restaurant for this creative duo, they certainly should be proud
of their achievement in creating a unique and delicious addition to the Chiang
Mai dining scene. The restaurant is open every day for lunch and dinner.
Reservations are accepted and they do cater.
Nasi Jumpru is located in the JJ Market shopping mall at 44 Assadathorn Road
just across from Tesco Lotus and 2 blocks south of the Superhighway. Open daily
from 10:30-15:30 and 16:30-22:30. Call 053-231518 for information and