Café de Nimman - a byword for consistency : By Danny B.

“Food so good it’s addictive’

Last week I reviewed a large, noisy Thai pub-restaurant. Located off the Nimmanheiman Road and make no apology for moving about a kilometer further towards CMU on that same busy street to visit another venue which offers an entirely different dining experience.
Café de Nimman has a clever advertising slogan, ‘Food so good it’s addictive’. There is an element of truth in that emphatic statement since I am somewhat hooked on the place and return there regularly with a wide variety of people all of whom have enjoyed the experience. It has a number of virtues, of which more later, but let me offer the main one immediately. The food is consistent – both in presentation and quality. How many restaurants in Chiang Mai do you know that never let you down?
I have no idea just how many food and drink outlets there are on and around the sois of that immensely busy road between those of the Amari Hotel until it gives way to the park and various CMU buildings and the final little café at the Art Gallery. If you tried one a day from the stalls, coffee shops and wine bars right through to the up-market Lanna Restaurant or La Gritta I reckon you’d be well into the forthcoming leap year before you finished.
Then, of course, you would need to start over rather like painting the Golden Gate Bridge since there are new eateries opening or changing style and ownership every day and as I write, The Maze (version two) is nearing completion and very smart it looks too. Other less successful enterprises meanwhile are hungrily looking for potential new owners - but not, I suspect, Café de Nimman.
This is not, despite the name, a café but a fully fledged Thai restaurant divided into three sections: an inner, enclosed area which resembles a café, a larger open area and a narrow verandah, which is the place I opt for. The actual location is just off the main drag at the complex known as ROOMS (opposite the night club Warm Up) with its art shops, the Doi Chang coffee shop and the elegant Glass Onion wine bar. There is parking just off the main road and at the rear of the complex.
So far, so good. It is easy to find, reasonably spacious with about 50 covers and offers a huge menu of Thai food at reasonable prices. Before the food let’s look briefly at the liquid refreshments since that offers my one criticism of the restaurant. The house wine is drinkable but comes in minuscule portions representing poor value. Go for the bottles if you fancy wine or head for the beers, or the many soft options or bottled water at 15 baht. There are teas and coffees on offer but you might fancy crossing the narrow walkway and head for Doi Chang for a change of venue and softer seating.
Two friends and I opted for beer Singh (110 baht for the large bottle) and decide to try a couple of starters while we looked though the exceptionally well laid out menu which comes in Thai and English in a variety of sections. We ordered the appetizers first so as to avoid confusion. These were seaweed and prawn toasts and vegetable samosas, taken from a wide selection priced at 60 to 110 baht.
There are 40 salads on offer (including two for western palates – Caesar and ham) with most of them variations on a spicy theme. There are a further 40 one dish options from Pad Thai and various fried rice, spaghetti and noodle dishes. There are plenty of curries and soups, including spicy pork leg soup (180 baht) and an emphasis on New Zealand green mussels which appear in various guises from appetizers through to main course.
We selected a Tabtim fish cooked with Thai herbs (160 baht), also available in other ways, including black pepper and garlic.
Also stir fried vegetables in oyster sauce and an adventurous omelet. A prawn dish with noodles and Ma-Ma, Chinese style plus a large bowl of steaming rice completed the meal. With three beers it came to 900 baht including a tip to the helpful waitresses.
Oddly, despite this really extensive menu, there are only three puddings on offer for dessert, including tiramisu but no ice creams or sorbets, although there is a mysterious sounding ice on bread which we passed on. Unsurprisingly it gets busy, especially mid evening. We arrived at around 8:30 and opted for an aperitif at the Glass Onion until a table became available. No hardship in that.
Café de Nimman is one restaurant that seems to be keeping its head well above the buoyant waters of the main road, whilst many around it are losing theirs. Hopefully gimmick free concentration on value and quality are always likely to be in fashion. Next week a complete change of location and a stab at luxury dining.


Chinese Chicken with Ginger

A very simple traditional Chinese dish that is a world favorite. Simple to prepare (10 minutes) and simple to cook (10 minutes), and all the ingredients are available locally. If you cannot find Chinese rice wine, then use sherry. (Cheap sherry!)

Cooking Method
Remove any skin from the chicken breast fillets and then slice thinly and dry on a towel. Set aside
Heat the oil in the wok and cook the onion until transparent, then add the ginger root and garlic, stirring well. Now add the chicken, rice wine, sugar, honey, both soy sauces and ginger syrup. Bring back to the boil and continue until the liquid is reduced by half, and then transfer to a pre-warmed serving plate and sprinkle with spring onion as the garnish. Serve with steamed rice.

Ingredients                    Serves 4
Chicken breast fillet                  500 gm
Vegetable oil                          2 tbspns
Onion finely chopped                 1 large
Ginger root, fresh finely grated 2 tbspns
Garlic finely chopped                1 clove
Chinese rice wine                     150 ml
Sugar                                      2 tspns
Honey                                   2 tbspns
Light soy sauce                     2 tbspns
Dark soy sauce                      1 tbspn
Ginger syrup                          1 tbspn
Spring onion chopped      1 as garnish