Da Mattia Restaurant : By Brian Baxter

Classic Italian - and the best Tiramisu in town

One of the pleasures of having friends visiting is showing off aspects of Chiang Mai - not least its range of eating places that must be the envy of all other cities in the Kingdom, excepting only the much larger capital. Two friends were here for a longish stay and we set ourselves the enviable task of finding somewhere to enjoy a good evening meal, without repetition and with the accent mainly on Thai food. About ten days in, a plaintive voice suggested ‘somewhere without chillies, please’. As any reader of this column will know, my thoughts immediately headed towards Italy and a few hours later we were seated in the comfortable and friendly Da Mattia, which is presided over by a chef-proprietor, and offers some of the most authentic and best quality food to be found here.
We decided on wine with the meal, almost a prerequisite of Italian dining, and were a little daunted by the prices so we settled for a litre of the house red (480 baht) - quite pleasant it is, too. What a pity that the tax on wine is so ridiculously high and that mark-ups are also steep. The menu itself is large and offers the usual range of pastas, pizzas and classic starters and puddings, plus a good selection of fish and meat dishes. A word of warning - portions are ultra generous so consider sharing a first course to leave room for a home made sweet. In the event, we indulged ourselves and my fish salad, with a good quality dressing, came on a vast platter - simple, perfect and fresh.
My friends went for baked green mussels and a plate of cold cuts that were equally generously served and pronounced ‘excellent’.
For the main course, I went for risotto with cheeses, and deliciously creamy and filling it proved. My companions went for spaghetti carbonara and pizza (pasta dishes are around 180-200 baht). All were happy eaters.
What may only be called sheer greed tempted us to the puddings and two of us chose a single scoop of ice cream, pistachio and chocolate. The other choice was tiramisu and this was declared the best any of us had tasted. Once again the portion was large.
The chef hearing our groans of delight and pain (how often those go together!) offered us a digestive and we settled for a small grappa. I must mention that he had no idea that the meal might feature in the Mail as I did not take notes and the paper’s photographer was lighting up the town elsewhere. The gesture seemed typical of the establishment, with its attentive staff who speak good English.
The restaurant divides into two simple areas, an outside courtyard and an inner area of similar size. Tables are well spaced unlike traditional trattorias and all dishes are cooked to order with many home made ingredients. On an earlier visit a Thai friend and I were asked how we would like our pasta cooked and found that Prosecco was served by the glass as an excellent aperitif.
You will find Da Mattia in the first turning past the new Shangri-La Hotel, on the left at the top of this attractive soi which features many shops and places to eat. They close on Sunday but are open for lunch and dinner throughout the week. Our total bill with wine and service and an indulgent meal came to 900 baht each. It would easily be possible to eat well for half that with a little more restraint than holiday makers normally exercise. Certainly I shall be heading back there and will save room by sharing that sweet dish!
Da Mattia: Chang Klan Road. Tel: 053 274 062.


Vietnamese Spring Rolls

Vietnamese spring rolls are always a favorite, as opposed to the deep-fried Chinese style. The Vietnamese variety is easy to prepare, and all ingredients can be found in Asian (super)markets.

Cooking Method
Bring a medium saucepan of water to boil. Boil rice vermicelli 3 to 5 minutes, or until al dente, and drain.
Fill a large bowl with warm water. Dip one wrapper into the warm water for 1 second to soften. Lay wrapper flat. In a row across the center, place two prawn halves, a handful of vermicelli, basil, mint, coriander and lettuce, leaving about 5 cm uncovered on each side. Fold uncovered sides inward, then tightly roll the wrapper, beginning at the end with the lettuce. Repeat with remaining wrappers.
In a small bowl, mix the fish sauce, water, lime juice, garlic, sugar and chili sauce. In another small bowl, mix the hoisin sauce and peanuts. Serve spring rolls with the fish sauce and hoisin sauce mixtures.

Ingredients Serves              2- 4
Rice vermicelli                           50 gm
Rice wrappers (20 cm diameter)         8
Large cooked prawn, peeled, deveined
and halved                                        8
Thai basil chopped fresh               4 gm
Mint leaves, chopped, fresh      3 tbspns
Coriander leaf, chopped, fresh  3 tbspns
Lettuce leaves, chopped                    2
Fish sauce                                 20 ml
Water                                         60 ml
Lime juice                               2 tbspns
Garlic, minced                           1 clove
White sugar                            2 tbspns
Garlic chili sauce                       tspn
Hoisin sauce                           3 tbspns
Peanuts, finely chopped              1 tspn