Girasole: By Danny B.
Classic Italian - but with a veggie accent
Many readers will know Stefano’s well established La
Gondola, at the River Ping Condo, with its attractive
setting; live music evenings (including the owner and, on
occasion, a guitar duo). It has a deserved reputation for
decent Italian food, a pleasant ambience and efficient
Two or three months ago they opened an offshoot in the
center of the old city, at Kad Kiang Vieng, which is a
shopping complex a little way down the Walking Street, on
the left heading away from Thapae Gate and just after the
Yamaha showrooms. There on the corner you will find the
brightly lit Girasole restaurant.
There was a suggestion that this would be a vegetarian
version of La Gondola but this is not strictly accurate.
What they offer is an adapted version of the original, with
an added pizzeria, to include veggie versions of many
dishes, alongside a short vegetarian menu. Meat and fish
eaters certainly need not go hungry, but it offers a degree
of flexibility that many people will welcome. No more
frantic searching of the menu if you’re a veggie and no more
pained expressions from the carnivores when they – all too
occasionally- agree to enter a strictly vegetarian eatery.
There are plenty of Italian places in Chiang Mai, alongside
the ubiquitous pizza chains. So does the Girasole offer
anything original? Well apart from those aspects outlined
above and the useful location (which is minutes from the AUA
and therefore useful for a pre or post Thai lesson or
concert meal) the answer is probably not. But then when did
you last enter an ‘original’ Italian restaurant outside of
New York, London or Italy itself?
No doubt most customers will originate from the many guest
houses and hotels in the area, but Chiang Mai residents who
visit the local bookshops and the walking street and
surrounds will find it useful, especially if they have
visiting friends who want a change from Thai food.
The restaurant divides into three sections. The small main
area, which is cool and has a Mediterranean feel via its
colors, photographs, tiled flooring and close seating, is
supplemented by an outside area, housing the pizza oven and
a courtyard area to the rear comprising of about 60 covers
Unlike its spacious big brother on the river it is not
designed for leisurely eating. The setting and atmosphere
are city-functional rather than lazily romantic, but you
don’t feel rushed or deafened by noise, despite diners
scraping their steel chairs on the tiled floors.
Importantly, what of the menu? Since they are open from 11am
until 11pm and no doubt expect causal visitors, alongside
those looking for a full scale meal, there are drinks in
abundance from bottled soft drinks to fresh juices and
punches and coffees. Alcohol ranges from beers (Singha is 60
baht) to a variety of cocktails (100-150 baht) and house
wine at 90 baht a glass, with the white a better bet than
the red. By the bottle it rises to 3,500 baht, although
Pinot Grigio is 950 and Barbera d’Asti is 1400. My feeling
is that water, a beer or a glass of wine might be the better
The starters include various breads, soups, eggplant with
cheese and the delicious Crochette di Patate (100 baht),
which my sturdy photographer and I shared. The main course
section boasts an abundance of pizzas and nearly as many
pasta options, plus various risottos (all within the 150-200
baht range). The meat and fish dishes climb to a modest 250
baht and come garnished.
Ice cream lovers are in for a treat with eight single scoop
choices, plus a range of fancier options. Just add the usual
suspects, tiramisu, chocolate mousse and the rest and you
are ready for that espresso.
We arrived at about 8:30pm on a mid week evening and found
it pleasantly busy but not frantic. My companion opted for
the Four Seasons pizza, which came with plenty of toppings
on a crispy base. I went for the Risotto Fromaggio, which he
declared un-photogenic because of its bland whiteness. Like
many things in Thailand looks were deceptive (and
deceiving?) and it lived up to my hopes being dense and
creamy with excellent cheese. I followed with a refreshing
scoop of lemon ice (30 baht) and our bill came in at 750
baht including service, with two beers and a glass each of
the house wines for yours truly.
In my opinion Girasole lives up to its own and our
expectations and whilst I would not declare it to be the
restaurant that Chiang Mai is waiting for I would certainly
regard it as a sensibly priced addition to the Italian
repertoire. The staff- with at least one seconded from La
Gondola – were polite and smiling. So no surprises there
Girasole is located in the new Kad Klang Vieng plaza on
Ratchadamnoen and Ratchaphakinai. Tel: 053-276-388.
Gai Pa Lo - Thai Five-Spice Chicken Soup
Five Spice is not really Thai, but is Chinese and can be found at most
Chinese supermarkets. This is basically a chicken and tofu soup, with the
addition of the Five Spice in the chicken marinade. It appears to have a number
of ingredients, but it is simple to make.
In a bowl, combine chicken, coriander root, garlic,
pepper, five-spice powder and soy sauce. Mix well and let marinate for 15
Cut the tofu tube in half lengthways and then cut into one inch pieces.
Now heat the oil and sauté the marinated chicken until cooked and fragrant.
Bring the water to a boil in a pot. Stir in chicken, tofu, bamboo shoots, fish
sauce and sugar. Cover and cook over low heat for 10 minutes or until the eggs
absorb some of the liquid (the eggs will turn brown). Remove from heat and serve
hot with cooked rice.
Coriander root minced
(Rak Pug Chee)
Ground white pepper
Dark soy sauce
Hard-boiled eggs, shelled
Bamboo shoots (sliced)