Chez Marco: By Brian Baxter

Proving that size and location aren’t everything

PLEASE don’t stop reading when I tell you from the start that this modestly sized ‘bistro’ is based on Loi Kroh Road, a location which might put you off from trying the delicious French and Mediterranean food which is the specialty of the young chef-proprietor Marco. That street contains at least two of the worst restaurants in Chiang Mai, among other tourist traps and one would normally head through it in a rapid tuk-tuk or other wheeled transport. Instead, stop the vehicle a couple of hundred meters on the left, brave the bedlam and go into Chez Marco.
There are just a dozen seats in the front section and a further dozen or so inside this simple oasis. The style is simple, with pleasant wall decorations and a variety of notices offering the style of food which can be found in cafes from the chef’s origins in the South of France (Antibes to be precise). Tapenades, charcuteries, bruschetta and so on. Ideal for a modest meal, with a beer or coffee.
Importantly, there is a more ambitious menu which qualifies it for the ‘dining out’ column and this is enhanced by the friendly service, casual ambience and reasonable prices. The regular menu is supplemented by daily specials and on my recent visit (it has only been open three months) this was what tempted me.
The suggestion was for a two course meal, consisting of carpaccio of tuna followed by a mousse au chocolat (225 baht).
My companion and I decided on an adaptation of this idea, opting for the tuna as a generous starter.
This proved to be as good a version as any I have tasted (except my own, which also features vodka and crushed coriander seeds) and the sublimely fresh fish was cut into see-through slices, with a marinade of olive oil, lemon, seasoning and finely chopped shallots. It came with a garnish of crisp lettuce and freshly cooked pommes frites. I chose a spaghetti arrabbiata (95baht) to follow and this proved to be genuinely spicy, steaming hot and too plentiful to finish. It was worthy of any of the Italian restaurants I recently listed.
My companion enjoyed the tuna and then returned to his origins with two of the handful of Thai dishes on offer: Tom Yam Goong (60 baht) and fried rice with chicken (55 baht), which he said were ‘aroy!’ Marco admitted that they were cooked by a Thai. A wise man, who knows his limitations.
His specialties are regional (French) food and the menu includes a faux filet and two other steaks, with a choice of classic sauces, an Assiette Provencale (225 baht for a large selection of dishes), various pastas, including a lasagna, salads and stuffed vegetables. The desserts include the mousse which we shared and Cinnamon Apple Pie (65 baht), or a cheese platter (130 baht).
Wine is available by the glass or bottle and apart from soft drinks and local beers he offers a couple of imported varieties, including Leffe from Belgium. As a modest bistro style eaterie the wines by the bottle are limited, but include a couple from France, Chile and other countries.
The food belies the surroundings and I would suggest that if the meal I had were transferred to a glossier restaurant and served at a less functional table most of us would be complimenting the cook and ourselves at finding such a good meal - at three or four times the price Indeed it would be a pleasant but unexpected find if one was touring southern France or around the San Remo area. Here in Chiang Mai it is doubly welcome. So be brave, shrug off the notion of the nearby bars and head down there before some smart entrepreneur decides that the premises and the prices need drastic expansion.
Chez Marco. Open daily, from 2 p.m. until after midnight.
15/7 Loi Kroh Road. Tel: 053 207 032.


Chicken, cheese and mushrooms

This is another easy recipe. Mozzarella cheese is plentiful in the supermarkets. Choose whichever mushrooms you prefer.

Cooking Method
Flatten chicken breast halves until thin. Dredge chicken breasts through the flour. Heat 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat and cook chicken for 4 minutes on each side, until tender. Remove chicken to a shallow baking dish and sprinkle lightly with salt.
Add 1 tablespoon butter to skillet and sautÚ mushrooms until tender. Arrange mushroom slices on top of each piece of chicken and cover with a slice of cheese and sprinkle cracked pepper over them. Place chicken breasts under a hot griller until cheese is melted and serve immediately.

Ingredients Serves           4
Boneless chicken breast halves 4
Mushrooms sliced           100 gm
Mozzarella cheese         4 slices
Flour                               ╝ cup
Butter                          3 tbspns
Salt and cracked black pepper, to taste