The Riverside Pub and Restaurant:  By Brian Baxter

A handsome and successful re-vamp of an old favorite

You might well think that the above heading refers to a recent encounter with an acquaintance or friend of long standing who has gone in for a face lift, a couple of nips and tucks and some body building routines. Not far off in some respects since the extensive re-vamp of the long established Riverside has had just that effect. After 20 years plus on their prime Ping River site they had to forgo a large area of land when the lease expired. Rather than sit back and manage on a third of the space, they have spent the past few months in a transformation of the former venue. The result is something like an extra 100 covers.
To be honest, when the Mail’s snap-shooter suggested that I might go to the restaurant for my first review after Neil’s excellent tenure, I nearly said ‘what’s the point? I wrote about it enthusiastically just a few months ago’. Fortunately, I did agree on the visit if only to keep him happy and it saved me having to locate a new place immediately on return. Also it could hardly be regarded as a hardship.
The first impression is, of course, of a new style eatery, since it is now on both sides of the busy Charoenrat Road. Importantly though, the extensive menu has remained intact and the prices seem to be the same. The staff are as numerous and energetic as always and service amazingly rapid for such a large restaurant. No wonder on the Friday night in question that the joint was, as the saying goes, jumpin’.
In that remark lies my only complaint. They employ three different bands (not playing at the same time, Charles Ives style) and a pianist on Sunday. Two are on duty most of the time, one on each side of the road and pretty energetic they are too. The small bar on the riverside has always been exceptionally noisy and the young crowd who frequent it seem oblivious to the assault on their eardrums or the need to strain their larynxes. In the new area the larger bar also boasts a brassy group and this is a slightly less claustrophobic setting but still noisy. Happily there is a most attractive garden area at the rear, replete with a soothing waterfall and lush plants, eminently suited to us oldies.
This section and several of the other dining rooms which seat about 20 people are worth booking if you actually want to talk to your dining companions. The same naturally goes for the now reduced riverside area which borders on the river and boasts a romantic view of the passing traffic and the bridges. Some of the other eateries along this busy road offer equally good - and now larger - seating areas. Although it is a part of town which attracts many tourists for its galleries, art shops, cafes and restaurants it was noticeably busier with Thai customers than farangs last week. A sign of the low season, which seems to be the lowest for many years. Time for Thailand to start welcoming visitors a little more openly and to mount a full out public relations campaign to bring back visitors that are heading to nearby destinations.
As already mentioned, the food has not changed from my last review or from any of my previous visits. Portions are still exceptionally plentiful. The vegetarian spring rolls are among the best in town, the shredded mushrooms with sesame seeds and basil leaves are superb and the wide range of fish dishes are good by any standards. Starters are mainly around 80 to 100 baht, mains about twice that and although it is predominantly Thai, the menu offers a few western dishes. There is a decent wine list, plenty of bottled beers and beer on draft, with all the usual extras - both soft and hard.
After 24 years in business it is hardly surprising that the restaurant is well run and popular, but it is encouraging to be able to report that the extension has not deprived it of any of its former quality. They have wisely turned their loss into an advantage and look set for another two decades. Not that I’ll be around to witness it!
Next week a new small local restaurant which has very recently been opened by Krit who formerly had a highly successful place on the Nimmenhaemen Road. It will be my turn to tell our cameraman where to point his lens and having paid a quick visit to check out the new place, which is across the road from Hillside 4, off Huay Kaew Road I feel another enthusiastic review coming on. Very different in style but isn’t that what makes eating out in Chiang Mai such a pleasure?
The Riverside, 9-11 Charoenrat Road, Tel 053 243 239 or 053 246 323.


Chicken Fajitas (pronounced ‘fahitas’)

Fajitas equals fun. A tortilla wrap with onions, capsicums, guacamole, cheese and salsa. The fun comes as every time you can make it differently, and personally it is the guacamole/cheese with the chicken that is the best. Another tip - don’t overfill the tortillas.

Cooking Method
Mix all marinade ingredients and leave the chicken in it for one hour.
Peel the onion and slice with the grain and slice off sections around 1 cm wide. Take the capsicum, deseed and sliced lengthways into 1 cm wide strips.
Heat a large cast iron pan or griddle to high and add a teaspoon of olive oil. Quickly fry the chicken strips and then turn down the heat to medium and add the onion and capsicum, stirring until the onion becomes translucent.
Serve immediately with shredded cheese, salsa, shredded iceberg lettuce, sour cream, guacamole and warm flour tortillas. (Hint for warming tortillas - put in microwave over a paper towel for 20 seconds on high heat.)

Ingredients        Serves 4
Chicken breast
(sliced thin strips)         500 gm
Yellow onion                 1 large
Capsicum                    2 large

Juice of                         1 lime
Olive oil                      2 tbspns
Garlic, peeled, minced 2 cloves
Jalapeño pepper
finely chopped                    ½
Coriander                    ¼ cup