The Gallery: By Brian Baxter

One of many restaurants on the riverside at Chiang Mai

Inevitably, the River Ping and its views and passing traffic attracts visitors and residents. Just as inevitably the area boast innumerable restaurants, bars and shops - especially notable are the ‘antique’ centers. There is a fairly short stretch of the Charoenrat Road which boasts quite a selection of the best of all of these and within walking distance of each other you will find The Gallery, The Brasserie, Comadora, Best View and The Riverside. And before you say anything, yes, I know, they are large, slightly impersonal and attract hordes of tourists. You may well be sharing the ample space, though not a table, with a coach party of people from Hong Kong or Taiwan. But if you go on the late side of 8.30 and eat at a civilized time you will avoid the crowds.
I have eaten twice at The Gallery in recent weeks and whilst the above holds true I can only report that both I and the people I went with (a mixture of Thais and farangs the first time and only farangs the second) all enjoyed our food, which was promptly served and reasonably if not cheaply priced In common with other places The Gallery offers more than just the main restaurant. You approach it either through a large shop (hence the name) offering attractive northern Thai goods and fabrics. Or you can go through the adjoining bar which features jazz groups (often very good ones) later in the evening. There is a barbecue area and this in turn leads into an upper dining area and a second one which has a large number of tables stretching down to the river’s edge.
On the most recent visit I must confess that I nearly went away, daunted by the sheer numbers of people eating there. But the five of us sat down and by the time our draft beer Singh had arrived (160 baht a liter) our order had already been taken and within minutes a steady stream of delicious food began arriving.
The menu is large, but sensibly shown in both Thai and English in various main sections. There are “International” offerings, a vegetarian selection, countless Thai dishes, the Khantoke dinner (a style of Northern Dining with a range of dishes priced at 450 baht for two people) and there are quite a few puddings, mainly based around generous portions of fruit and ice cream (60-100 baht). The large wine list begins at 850 a bottle and runs up to 2,500 baht, and there are cocktails (from 120), local and imported beers, plus sake and many soft options.
As you might expect the service is efficient rather than personal but the mainly young staff keep on the move and we had a most attentive waitress who looked after our meal with unobtrusive ease. We managed quite a few courses beginning with a spicy tuna salad, some shrimp cakes, a Tom Yum Goong and some vegetarian spring rolls. The chicken with cashew nuts, steamed fish, a curry (or was it two?), stir fried vegetables and morning glory with garlic were accompanied by large tureens of rice and a seemingly endless supply of beer in jugs. Quite how some of the party managed the fancy ice creams remains a mystery. With service we each faced a bill of 600 baht and there were no complaints. On the previous visit the bill had been less and the only complaint came from the two Thai diners who found a couple of dishes too bland. So be warned ask for your food spicy or you may find yourself asking for the prik nam plaa.
As I remarked earlier, The Gallery, and its equally busy counterparts up and down the riverside, tends to cater for the many visitors to the city who come for ‘an evening out’ as well as for the food so not, perhaps, the restaurant for a quite meal a deux. You can find it at 25/29 Charoenrat Road. Tel: 05324 8801. And they open every day until late.
(Note: So busy was I a couple of weeks ago writing about The Mail’s ‘policy for dining out’ that I left off the phone number for the excellent The Green Mill, at the bottom of Lanna Hospital Soi. They can be contacted on 053 210 999 or 053 212 400).


Spanish onion omelet

Omelets are always popular, and with eggs being so cheap at present an omelet is a good way to feed a family. This recipe is different from the usual Thai omelet, and is a pleasant change. The addition of garlic and coriander deviates from the standard recipe, but does add more flavor.

Cooking Method
Heat olive oil in the frying pan or wok, and fry the finely chopped onion and garlic and then cover for 20 minutes. After this, stir and continue cooking slowly until it is a puree (about one hour).
Divide the onion and garlic mixture in two and add half to each of two bowls containing two eggs beaten with the coriander leaf and a generous amount of salt and a good dash of ground black pepper.
Reheat the frying pan, adding a very small amount of oil if required, and cook the two omelets individually, turning once to cook both sides.

Ingredients Serves           2- 4
Onions, very finely chopped    7 cups
Garlic finely chopped            2 cloves
Olive oil                                 cup
Eggs                                            4
Coriander leaf chopped            cup
Salt and black pepper to taste