Arcobaleno: By Brian H. Baxter

Cool, calm and collected - are you sure it’s Italian?

Shortly before Christmas, I wrote briefly about six of the better Italian restaurants in Chiang Mai. Some time in the not too distant future I hope to write about another six, since there is a good range to choose from. At the top of the earlier group was Arcobaleno, by virtue of its name. It would, in truth, come near the top of most lists by virtue of its qualities, even if it were called Vesuvius. Not that such a name would suit it, there are not likely to be eruptions - even in the kitchen - in such a well run eatery. No, the name, which I am told means “rainbow”, suits it much better.
Not that there is much color to be found in the restaurant. In fact, a few splashes of brightness might not be a bad thing, to brighten the slightly minimalist tone. It is a laid back place, not heavy on atmosphere, no background music and, thankfully, no ebullient waiters suggestively brandishing large pepper mills! Not even a chef “gracing” tables with his presence asking whether the pasta was al dente and not waiting for an answer.
Here we have a calm, efficient, friendly and rather polite venue, providing good quality inexpensive food - much of it home made or home grown. As a result it has a dedicated following of Thais and farangs who eat there regularly. It seats about 60 people at well spaced tables, with white tablecloths and napkins. You may come for lunch or dinner and, rather oddly, they open from 10 am until 2 pm and again from 5 pm until 10 pm. Do people eat that early? Americans perhaps?
The menu is extensive and almost exclusively Italian, with very few concessions to other western food and no Thai food, which is fine since few places which offer all things to all comers have any real personality. My only criticism of the menu, which is very clearly laid out, and to which photographs have been recently added, is that it is entirely in English. This has caused some problems when eating there with Thai friends and it seems a tad discourteous to the host country.
The menu is too comprehensive to go into in detail since it offers a full range of starters, including soups, salads and a range of more interesting dishes, my favorite of which is the grilled vegetables. They come attractively spread on the plate in thin strips, having been griddled with a coating of olive oil and cost 120 baht. I have them with a little extra oil and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese. Sometimes, for a change, though, I choose their excellent Caesar salad, also 120 baht. Another dish popular with friends is the crab served in a steaming dish with cheese and the option of salmon. Be warned - this is almost a meal in itself and rather rich.
Main courses too are numerous, with pasta in every shape and variety and costing around 240 baht depending on the sauce. There are plenty of vegetarian options, including delicious macaroni with four cheeses, egg plant with tomato sauce and a cheese topping, and a decent spaghetti arabiata. There are pizzas, risottos and of course more ambitious options from the meat and fish selections. Although everything is cooked to order service can be a little rapid on occasion and in such a restaurant I find it odd to have my main course placed on the table whilst I am still enjoying a starter. I have never understood people who seem to be in a race to see who finishes eating first.
I’ve found that portions are quite generous, but I usually manage room for one of their sensibly limited range of desserts or, better still, their home made ices. Personal favorites are the honey-ginger sorbet, the black prune ice cream and at present - the best mango ice cream you are likely to taste. For - as the theatrical saying goes - a limited season only and not to be missed. As you would expect, there are plenty of drinks on offer including good quality wines and house wines served by the glass at 140 baht. An attraction is the provision of rolls, bread sticks and carafe water which is provided as part of the service, not a costly extra. Prices listed include tax. You will find Arcobaleno at 60, Nawatgate, A. Muang, Chiang Mai 50000. There is ample parking in front of the restaurant and although reservations are not usually essential you can telephone on 053 306 254 or 086 672 1532.


Orange Teriyaki Fish

Teriyaki sauce gives its own particular flavor to any dish, so this recipe is good when using the local white fish fillets, which tend to be less flavorsome than the more expensive imported snow fish or cod. This dish then depends for the bulk of its flavor on the marinade. This procedure is best done in a plastic “zip-lock” bag, into which you place the fish and the marinade. Turn it over several times to let the marinade get on all sides and then place in the refrigerator for at least one hour, but three or four is better. It is very simple to cook after the marinade process.

Cooking Method
Combine the marinade ingredients in a small bowl. Place fish in a zip-lock bag and pour marinade over fish. Marinate for at least one hour in the refrigerator.
Remove from the marinade and place fish on heavy duty aluminum foil. Season with salt and pepper. Arrange onion slices over fish. Seal edges of aluminum foil and place on grille at medium heat. Grill for 20 minutes turning once or twice.

Ingredients                            serves 4
Orange juice                               1 cup
Teriyaki sauce                            cup
Soy sauce                                  2 tbspns
Ground ginger                             1tspn
Tabasco sauce                           1 tspns
Honey                                        2 tbspns
Garlic crushed                            1 clove
The rest
White fish fillets (your choice)       750 gm
Onion thinly sliced                      1 medium
Salt and ground black pepper to taste