The Spirit House: By Brian Baxter
Atmospheric bar and restaurant on Viangbua Road
I woke up the morning after a visit to The Spirit House
thinking of menus. A little odd you may think, but bear with
me, please. Steve, who runs the restaurant with his Thai
partner, and does much of the cooking, has a special way
with a menu - something of a rarity in Chiang Mai compared
with conventional places.
For example, take Café Nimmen or Mo’C Mo’L. They have huge,
book-like offerings. A vast array of choices, bewildering on
occasion. How many times have I heard a farang say in such
places, ‘You choose’. Shifting the responsibility to a Thai.
Then there’s Eat at U Hotel which I reviewed recently. They
have dinky little boards held up invitingly by a member of
staff. Nothing printed. At Krit’s they opt for a large menu
and supplement it with a notice board for ‘specials’, St
Germain des Pres is something of a model. They print their
offerings (changing several each month or season) in French,
English and Thai in clearly defined categories. On the other
hand the otherwise commendable Arco’Baleno prints an
extensive menu very clearly but offers no Thai translation.
I wonder what an Italian would make of a Thai restaurant
which opened in –say – Milan and chose to print off its
offerings only in Thai. Clearly the French do not have a
monopoly on arrogance.
I noticed recently whilst visiting Maze 2 that they had
improved their menu. It was too bulky before and there were
many duplications within different sections. Now it is
clearly laid out and had photographs of the different
dishes. Not a bad idea in a tourist area, although not much
use in a place near Thapae Gate which I went to recently
where the pictures did not match the words! That place has
been around too long to change but Moxxie’s at D2, (which is
a model of how to run a restaurant in a hotel), had the
sense to change their menu from the wildly impractical
silvery version with its self-coloured lettering—now the
menu prints black on white. It looked elegant before. Now it
is readable. The House makes no concessions to readability
with its subdued, romantic lighting but they offer
individual little torches which add a touch of camp, as does
the even more subdued Chedi.
Anyway, by now you might have got the point that menus vary
greatly, so I won’t list more. And what has this got to do
with Steve at The Spirit House? Well, he doesn’t have one. A
menu, I mean. He has a little board at the entrance which
lists a few choices and once you are seated and have been
given some iced water and offered one of the very
inexpensive drinks, (best value is a large beer Singha), he
offers a little scrap of paper on which are the day’s extra
offerings. A home-made soup, a pasta dish, corn on the cob
or one of his delicious puddings. He will then – rather
over-optimistically I feel – assure you that if there is
nothing on either the board or paper you fancy then he will
prepare something that you ask for. I am not sure how many
people take him at his word.
To be honest I think few people go to The Spirit House in
search of haute cuisine. About the same number who look for
spiritual enlightenment I guess, and probably with as much
success. They might sensibly go there for one of the sweets.
On the last occasion four of us chose, (actually, there was
no alternative except fresh fruit which we also had), the
latest creation. It was what we in England might call a
trifle. In Italy a tiramisu and anyway in truth it was
neither. Just a delicious approximation to both. featuring
sponge, liquor, cream, raspberries and chocolate shavings.
Spirit House. Open daily on Viangbua Road.
So why go? Well it’s handy if you are heading for a drink at
The Garden Bar or visiting friends at the near by Viangbua
Mansions or are simply in the area. Or, if you want to buy
one of the opera DVDs or second hand books on offer. Or one
of the intriguing artefacts decorating the large space. Or
are going to one of the occasional concerts which are held
Or, of course, if you want a cheap and cheerful meal. The
staff are friendly, if mildly disorganised, the seating and
rustic tables are reasonably comfortable and the background
music wafting through decent speakers is usually from the
baroque period, sometimes later. But not much later. With a
beer and two courses and a tip you should spend around 200
baht and it would be churlish to complain about the cost.
One member of the last group I went there with craved more
organization and muttered something about computers and
updating the ‘system’. I think he rather missed the point of
this somewhat exotic eating place. And I’m 100 per cent sure
that what the world does not need is a computer to take the
place of any human being, least of all an amiable one trying
to offer something just a little out of the ordinary in
Thod Mun Gai
(deep fried chicken cakes)
This is an interesting variation on the more
usual fish cakes (Thod Mun Pla). Like its fish counterpart, it is important not
to overcook, as the final dish can get rubbery in texture. It is also important
to drain the chicken cakes well as otherwise they can be unacceptably oily.
In a bowl combine the minced chicken with the pounded
coriander, garlic and pepper. Now add the egg and knead thoroughly. Add 100 gm
of bread crumbs and continue mixing. Now add the salt, sugar and fish sauce and
continue to mix well.
Shape into balls and then roll in the remaining breadcrumbs until they all have
an even coating.
In a deep frying pan heat the oil over a medium heat. Slightly flatten the
chicken balls and deep fry quickly until golden brown. Remove and drain well
over paper towels.
Serve hot with your favorite dipping sauce.
Pounded coriander root,
garlic and pepper
Chiangmai Mail Publishing Co. Ltd.
189/22 Moo 5, T. Sansai Noi, A. Sansai, Chiang Mai 50210
Tel. 053 852 557, Fax. 053 014 195
Editor: 087 184 8508
E-mail: [email protected]
Administration: [email protected]
Website & Newsletter Advertising: [email protected]
Copyright © 2004 Chiangmai Mail. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.