Le Crystal - Classic French style dining: By Danny B.
One of Chiang Mai’s premier restaurants
By setting itself up as one of the city’s
most elegant and expensive restaurants, Le Crystal must
expect to be judged by the highest standards available
within Chiang Mai and more widely in Thailand. It claims to
offer the ‘Finest French Cuisine’ within a breathtaking
setting. The question one must ask – and answer – in this
review is does it live up to its ambitions?
If I give you a full answer immediately you might not bother
to read on, so here are a few important preliminaries to
begin with. Le Crystal is solely a place for eating, with no
attached accommodation and probably no ambition to attract
those who might enjoy one of its collection of fine wines
without eating there. The accent is decidedly French,
although naturally there is a welcome element of local
ingredients and some ‘fusion’ aspect. The spacious high
ceilings and large windows give way to a lush garden terrace
facing the Ping River.
The immaculate linens, handsome cutlery, crockery and
glassware immediately give a sense of something special. The
staff seems to glide gracefully rather than walk and three
piece band provides a welcome diversion in the otherwise
This is what is known in the business as a ‘serious’
restaurant. It sets standards both in terms of presentation
and quality that few other places within Chiang Mai aspire
to. And let’s be honest, the prices reflect that ambition.
But the two friends from England that went to Le Crystal
with me on their last evening in Thailand considered it ‘not
expensive by British price levels, which are admittedly
among the highest in the world.
By chance we went there on a recent Friday evening when a
special set menu with each course accompanied by a different
French wine was the order of the day. Quite obviously the
price would – or could –be considerably less for the normal
menu depending on your drinks bill.
After the amuse bouches’ and a glass of chilled Champagne
served as Kir Royale, we were led through half a dozen
courses, each accompanied by a pre-selected and –it
transpired – appropriate French wine. The first course was a
duck liver pate, which my friends thought excellent but for
which I substituted a delicious Caesar salad. This was
followed by a ravioli with a lobster sauce. The wines here
were a Chablis and then a very slightly ‘sweet’ white
Bordeaux. A small bowl of pea soup with a perfectly poached
quail egg decorated with lumpfish caviar followed and that
in turn was followed by a refreshing sorbet into which was
poured a splash of Champagne.
There were two choices for the main course. An Australian
tenderloin medallion steak, served as wished but in a small
portion that might not satisfy a ravenous meat eater. I
opted for the superb pan fried snow fish. Here we were
treated to two red wines, a Claret and a slightly earthier
For pudding we indulged in a vanilla ice cream with hot
Morello cherries and other fruits in a light sauce. With
this, a small glass of fine Cognac was offered, before a
choice of coffee or tea. I went for a refreshing green tea
and we all declared ourselves well and truly indulged. It
must be added that each wine is served in moderation and
despite the added temptation of French bread and unsalted
butter none of us felt we had over eaten thanks to the size
and quality of the portions.
This was subtle French food in the main, less rich or heavy
on sauces and butter than would have been the case in the
pre-nouvelle cuisine days.
This was quality food served with slightly brisk precision
and accompanied by a whole series of excellent wines. The
execution by the skilled staff was near flawless.
The cost for this sumptuous evening included bottled water,
breads, service and tax and transportation – if you wish –
from your home or hotel. And here’s the rub. This particular
‘event’ cost no less than 3000 baht a head, putting it out
of most people’s reach for all but special occasions. But if
you are looking for a special occasion this is it.
Le Crystal French restaurant is open daily for lunch: from
11:30am – 2:00pm and dinner from 6:00pm – 10:30pm. They
accept all major credit cards.
The address is 74/2 Paton Rd., T.Paton, on the Ping River
750 meters north of the Superhighway. Tel. 0 5387 2890-1
Fax: 0 5387 2892. www.lecrystal restaurant.com
There are many variations of this recipe, but all of them come back to
potatoes and meat. Stewing beef cut into cubes is my preference, but you can
substitute lamb leg. Remember to serve it piping hot (pre-heat the serving dish)
just the way the womenfolk did to feed their men after a long day howkin’
tatties in the fields. This was a staple in Ireland and when the potato famine
came in 1845, it had catastrophic results for the Irish people.
Rosemary to taste, 1 clove, a bay leaf, celery stick, salt and ground
Chopped parsley, and 50gms pre soaked and boiled barley. Hint –
boiled rice is an acceptable alternative to barley.
Lightly cook the diced beef, onions and seasoning in a heavy-bottomed
pan in a little oil, until golden brown. Then add the stock and gently simmer
until tender, this takes approximately 1-1½ hours.
Add the potatoes and carrots, simmer until cooked about thirty minutes (test
with a fork), and then adjust the seasoning to taste.
Arrange attractively in a pre-heated earthenware dish and serve garnished with
barley and parsley.
Stewing steak or chuck