Enter a comfort zone at Comedara : By Farrah Praisal

With moderate prices, good quality and an attention to detail, Comedara is a good value and a good neighborhood choice for Thai food.

One would imagine that living in Thailand I would for the most part visit Thai restaurants the majority of the time. Because I have always been one who needs variety in dining and because Chiang Mai happily offers such a wide variety of cuisines and restaurants, this is not the case. Having been fortunate enough to grow up in a family who loved to dine out almost nightly I grew accustomed to pretty much never having the same style of food two nights in a row and I have maintained that habit through the years.

There are actually only a handful of Thai restaurants that I visit semi-regularly and Comedara is one of them. Located in an old colonial home, the series of dining rooms has a well-worn charm that includes an impressive bar and ethnic art on the walls. The home I am told is about 80 years old and used to belong to Chinese tax collectors. There is a bank sized wall safe that the owners claim has not been opened for years and it adds a bit of mystery to the venue. I have imagined all sorts of things in there and hopefully someday curiosity will get the better of them and we will discover its contents.
Additions have been made to accommodate both outdoor diners as well as a stage where very competent musical groups play nightly from 7 to 11 p.m. One of the things I like about this place is that the music is not deafening like some of the other river restaurants and you can actually hold a conversation and enjoy the music at the same time. You are encouraged at Comedara to fill out request slips for the band and on one visit I attempted to challenge them by writing some favorites from my youth like Lynard Skynard and Pink Floyd. I was pleasantly surprised when they successfully and joyfully dove into “Free Bird”, “Sweet Home Alabama: and “Wish you were here”.

The staff is friendly and efficient, and they go out of their way to accommodate diners. Language is not a problem and the captain, Mister Mix, is very capable of recommending and describing the dishes for you. It takes a while to work your way through the extensive menu and this is probably the only downside to the restaurant. Reading through the multi-page menu, which includes “Grandmothers favorites’’ a section of “Chefs recommendations ‘’ and another area of “Northern Thai Food” can be confusing. Dining shouldn’t be this challenging. A lot of editing and a keener attention to details would put Comedara on top.
Appetizers are plentiful. I’ve had the pork wrapped in wonton skins (80 baht) at several places, but they’re done right here so the shell is thin and crisp and the pork is warm and moist. It’s served with a honey dipping sauce. I also enjoy the vegetarian corn cakes at 60 baht. Lacy veils of crisp batter hug each kernel of sweet corn, exploding as you bite into them. They are best at the burn-your-tongue temperature, especially with the cool, vinegary cucumber salad served alongside.
You get the same celebration of tastes and textures with the many curries on offer. They come accompanied by traditional roti bread and they are delicious. When your waiter asks you whether you want things mild, medium or hot, if you say “hot” it might be the last word you utter for a while. Unless you are a true chili lover go for mild or medium.
There is a wide variety of soups and I seem to gravitate towards those on the Northern Thai food area of the menu. My favorite is cucumber stuffed with chopped pork soup. Cored out pieces of cucumber stuffed with seasoned pork in a clear, savory broth is a nice combination. The kitchen offers many fish dishes and on my last visit I found the deep fried catfish with turmeric (80 baht) interesting but slightly difficult to eat around the bones. Simple vegetable dishes like fried local spinach with oyster sauce or Chinese black mushrooms round out a nice meal.
I am curious why a venue lucky enough to be located along the river does not utilize the riverside but perhaps that is a future endeavor. All in all I think Khun Noi does a wonderful job and with so many good dishes and reasonable prices, Comedara is sure to remain a draw in the Chiang Mai dining scene. Be sure to have a peek upstairs at the art and sculpture in the gallery.
Comedara is located at 193 Charoenrat Road directly opposite La Luna Gallery. Additional parking is located in the rear. Tel. 053-248-751.


Fried and Braised Eggplant (Aubergine)

This is a Japanese recipe, but it is applicable anywhere, especially European food. The Japanese serve this as one course, while with other cuisines it is thought of as an accompaniment.

Cooking Method
Rinse the eggplants, slice lengthways then cut into 1 cm slices.
In the wok, heat 2 tablespoons oil and sprinkle in a few drops of chilli oil. Add around three slices of eggplant and fry on both sides, for a total of around 6 minutes. Remove from the wok and drain. Continue frying with more eggplant until all are fried.
Add chicken stock to the wok and bring to the boil. Add sake (or sherry), sugar and soy sauce. Add the eggplant slices, cover the wok and simmer for 10 minutes.
After this remove the cover and simmer for another 5 minutes, allowing the liquid to reduce.
For Japanese cooking, serve the eggplant slices in separate bowls and pour a little of the hot liquid over them.
For European cooking, place the eggplant on the side with a small amount of hot liquid poured over them. Goes well with steak.

Ingredients     Serves       4
Eggplant        2 large (or 4 small)
Sunflower oil                 5 tbspns
Chilli oil                            1 tspn
Chicken stock                  450 ml
Sugar                           3 tbspns
Japanese dark soy sauce 4 tbspns
Sake (or dry sherry)          1 tbspn