Lanna Restaurant at the Amari Rincome: By Brian Baxter

‘Thursday night is Asian buffet night’

A few months ago I reviewed the excellent La Gritta Italian restaurant at the Amari Hotel and promised to return early in 2008 to check out the Lanna, which adjoins the main building and offers a more casual dining experience. I must confess to cheating slightly, since I went there deliberately on a Thursday evening where between 18.00 and 22.00 they offer what is styled as an Asian buffet night at an all inclusive charge of 450 baht per person. I guess that’s an excuse to sample their regular menu for review later this year.
Part of the reason for choosing the buffet was because I was hosting a birthday party on February 28 for a young friend, Jack, who was also leaving for Sweden for three months just two days later. It meant that we did not each have to choose dishes and the price was containable, (except, of course, for the beers consumed by 11 thirsty Thais - and me), and the atmosphere more relaxed.
The style of the Lanna is less grand than La Gritta, with its burnished wood and subtle lighting, but each has a friendly ambience, which comes through a long established quality of service and that sense of professionalism which makes diners feel at ease. In the Lanna, the rattan chairs and tables are well spaced and the lighting is brighter, an altogether necessary thing with a buffet spread amongst several ‘stations’ throughout the restaurant, which involves customers wandering about choosing from the tempting displays.

Like all buffets there is no point in going there unless one is reasonably hungry, since the price is set and here it is somewhat above average. There are many places that offer buffets, especially in hotels, but frequently these are only open at midday and personally I do not enjoy lunches so I am not much use in that area. Something for a future reviewer to investigate, perhaps? The buffet at the Lanna offers food from Thailand, India, Japan, the Philippines, China and Indonesia and, as I mentioned, these are positioned throughout the large room, with the pad thai cooking station on a balcony. There is also a very tempting central section devoted to puddings, Thai sweets and ice cream, which, I noted was very popular with the staff of B-Beez, offering as it did a somewhat unusual selection for the Thai customers.
One of the most popular offerings was the Peking Duck, which was generously cut on request and another was the Japanese station with its appealing sushi, along with the super hot wasabi and soy sauce. I found the Indian food very good, as I feel it does not spoil by being kept on hotplates, and it included a useful selection of vegetarian options. In fact, you would be hard put not to find something, indeed many things, which suited your palate and a nearby group of Italians certainly proved the point.
The staff were attentive and plates were cleared with commendable efficiency, glasses filled with astonishing rapidity, (and emptied, it seemed, in the same manner!), and the only inevitable ‘complaint’ was for spicier offerings from my Thai friends. I pointed them in the direction of the lemon grass salad, which certainly had more than enough heat for most people. I guess that most visitors would be more than satisfied with the level of spiciness on offer, but perhaps one dish from two or three of the countries represented could be marked up a notch or two with an appropriate warning sign.
You will find the Lanna directly to the right of the main entrance to the Amari, on the first floor above a group of gift shops. Their normal menu is available throughout the week for lunch and dinner. This ‘special’ event is only available on Thursday evenings.
Amari Rincome Hotel, Rincome junction, at the top of Nimmenhaemenda Road.


Gai Pad Prik (Chicken with chilli and basil)

This is another Thai “standard” that can be seen offered in most restaurants as chicken, pork or beef. If chicken, as in this recipe, is not favoured in your household, substitute either of the other meats. It is a very simple stir-fry, and the only real secret with this dish is to keep the ingredients moving in the wok and do not overcook. All the ingredients are readily available locally, and you can adjust the spiciness with the number of chillies you use. This dish can also be adapted to substitute seafood such as shrimps, fish fillets or squid.

Cooking Method
Over a medium heat fry the garlic and chillies in oil until fragrant. Add the chicken and stir-fry quickly until just about done. Do not overcook as chicken becomes dry. Add the rest of the ingredients, except the coriander leaves, and continue the rapid stir-fry and heat through.
Transfer to a serving plate and garnish with the coriander. Serve with steamed rice.

Ingredients                  Serves 4
Chicken thigh,
cut into bite size pieces           2 cups
Minced garlic                        2 tbspns
Red and green chillies sliced 2 tbspns
Cooking oil                              cup
Basil leaves                            2 cups
Fish sauce                          3 tbspns
Sugar                                   4 tspns
Coriander leaves chopped     2 tbspns