St. Germain des Pres…comes to Chiang Mai
: By Brian Baxter
Brasserie style restaurant in the city center
Considerable thought, care and –I would
guess – expense have gone into the launch of this smart new
French restaurant. After just a couple of months, the
attention to detail is already showing dividends and I think
that this nouveau garcon on the block will soon establish
itself as a popular haunt both for resident farangs and for
the throngs of tourists to be found in the Moon Muang Road
and Thapae Gate area.
It is resolutely French in both food and style, so don’t
expect to see many Thais in evidence. Nor, unless, they
adapt the menu a little, is it a venue for vegetarians since
in typical Gaelic fashion all of the main dishes are for
flesh eaters only.
Last week I mentioned four criteria needed for a successful
eatery, quality of ingredients, the skill of the chef, the
service and that less definable aspect, the comfort or
atmosphere or, since we are in French territory, ambience.
Certainly the quality of the food at St. Germain could
hardly be faulted. They have wisely – for now at least –
decided on a limited menu, which will change each month, no
doubt dependent on the availability of ingredients and upon
the chef’s enthusiasms.
At present, they offer five starters, five main courses and
seven puddings plus a cheese plate. The menu is clear and
informative and given in French, English and Thai. All
starters are 170 baht, main course which come garnished are
255 baht, while desserts are a modest 75 baht and the cheese
understandably is more costly at 180. You are invited to
combine courses (even the starter and dessert at only 215
baht) and choosing more than one course ushers in a small
There is a short, modestly priced, wine list and beer Singha
among other drinks is just 70 baht. French bread and carafe
water are served at no additional cost and any tip is at
your discretion. Prices include tax so there are no hidden
‘extras,’ no sign of the ubiquitous ‘plus, plus’ which may
send the bill into the stratosphere.
The Mail’s photographer plumped for the Duck Liver Terrine
as a starter and the appropriately coarse looking pate came
with some salad, good quality olives (I took a couple whilst
he was outside smoking), gherkins and olive oil for the
bread. A rapidly demolished plateful signified either his
approval or the desire for another cigarette. Probably both.
I and another friend opted for the smoked salmon wrapped
around a mousse of avocado. The salmon was excellent,
although the fruit had been zapped a little too zealously
for my taste – the avocado would have been better left with
some very small chunks to give it some texture.
As a main course, two of us went for the salmon steak with a
tasty leek and cream sauce. A slightly more generous helping
of that to accompany the firm and well cooked fish would
have been welcome. There was half of a baked ‘jacket’ potato
as further garnish. Just right. The second dish chosen was a
duck’s breast, glazed with honey and a red wine sauce, plus
a little ramekin of onion jam, with potato on the side. The
duck came cooked the rare side of medium, French style.
Being in favor of meat incinerated old English style, my
friend found it ‘a little rare and not quite hot enough’,
although the meat itself was perfect. Chacun a son gout.
Two of us went for a dessert. One opted for the éclair with
vanilla ice cream and hot chocolate sauce and I for the
lemon and lime sorbet. Very refreshing and the flavor was
certainly enhanced by the generous splash of vodka poured
over it. So no major complaints. Portions were adequate, the
food good quality and the service attentive, if a little
rapid with the entrée coming hard on the heels of the
With the meal my companions had a total of three beers and
yours truly, purely in the course of duty you understand,
tried a glass each of the very drinkable house red and white
wines. The bill with a tip came to 1800 baht and given the
above comments can only be described as very reasonable. Opt
for the main course and a pudding and drink only water and
you’ll escape for just 295 baht. Move over to the real St
Germain area of Paris and that amount (around six Euros)
won’t pay for the sorbet.
So how would I rate this fledgling addition to the surging
tide of restaurants in Chiang Mai? After all the French take
two things more seriously than the rest of us - food and the
cinema so I am very much on their side. Certainly the Chef
knows his job and is sourcing his ingredients well. The
service, once relaxed, is charming and Thai polite. The
seating (there are about 60 covers with more outside so even
in high season it should not be too difficult to find a
table) is comfortable and there is ample parking on the next
door site of a former petrol station.
As yet, it lacks an authentic signature, a definite
atmosphere. It helped when the pop music gave way to some
attractive French chansons and a few other happy customers
joined us. The bright lighting, pale grey tablecloths and
light chairs give a cool feeling so it is as much a modern
style French restaurant as the advertised brasserie, despite
the presence of such stalwart classics as soupe de poisson,
boeuf bourgignon and mousse au chocolat on the menu.
Within a few weeks I am sure they will have perfected the
casual yet stylish dining out experience they are aiming
for. Certainly I think they deserve your custom and I am
already looking forward to sampling the December menu.
St Germain des Pres Bar-Brasserie
4/1Ratwitti Road, Chiang Mai (just off Moon Muang Road,
along from Thapae Gate)
Tel. 053 289 556-7 (at present only open evenings)
Grilled Beef Kebabs
Kebabs are a world favorite. A glance at the menu in most restaurants will
usually show kebabs in there somewhere. In English, the word kebab usually
refers to ‘shish kebab’. In its current meaning, the phrase is essentially
Turkish in origin, and tradition has it that the dish was invented by medieval
Turkish soldiers who used their swords to grill meat over open-field fires. The
Turks ate well.
Cut the meat into 2.5 cm cubes, and the green bell
pepper into 2.5 cm squares. Combine the lemon juice and the chilli powder and
place in a large Ziploc bag. Now place the meat, bell pepper, mushrooms, onions
and tomatoes inside, close the zip and invert several times to mix and then
place in the refrigerator for two hours.
Remove from refrigerator and thread the ingredients on to four large skewers.
Place under the griller and grill for five minutes, turning regularly and
basting with a little oil. Serve on a bed of steamed jasmine rice.
Green bell pepper