Kantary Hills Restaurant
: By Brian Baxter
Dining room in a smart new hotel and apartment block
to readers: this is a complicated review to write since it
involves two visits to the Kantary Hills within a matter of
days and takes into account the opinions of four additional
people on the first evening and seven,(no duplications), on
the second. The overwhelming consensus is that the special
‘Italian Buffet, (of which more later), was a complete
success and that the conventional menu offers good value and
quality farang food, provided one sticks to the set menu.
Still with me? Good, since it gets a little complicated now.
Back to the buffet. This was a crowded one-off event which
proved a great success and enjoyed a quick repeat on 25
July. Offering excellent value at 420 baht this was
something that could easily feature as a regular part of the
restaurant’s ‘promotions’ – especially if the Italian chef
can mastermind the proceedings. The buffet was very
generous, exceptionally fresh – the poached salmon was a
highlight – and decidedly up- market along the lines offered
at D2 or the Amari Rincome on occasions and not those tired
lunchtime efforts which abound in second rate hotels.
Luckily the Kantary ‘Grill’ is compact enough to make the
trek to the food stations easy and, with just 40 or so
covers inside, it is not that crowded. True, the buffet
lacked a couple of spicy items that might have endeared it
to Thais, but then the overall theme was meant to be
Italian, even if it was mainly the ‘starters’ which
reflected this with Parma ham and melon and so on. The
Italian Chardonnay/ Pinot Noir made a good accompaniment and
the three friends who chose an Italian red echoed our
sentiments. Unsurprisingly, this elevated the bill into
another area – but then, decent food without wine is, well,
rather less ‘decent’—as though one is parading on a beach
without proper beach-wear. Simply not done.
I returned to K.H. to sample the ‘real’ menu a few days
later because it seemed pointless to review it via a event
which may not be repeated. This time I was with one farang
and two Thais. At a nearby table were three farang and one
Thai, also friends, who were lavish in their praise of the
set menu – especially the beef, which was featured as a main
course choice. Although wary of the opinions of two of them
who smoke so heavily that it must make tasting anything a
problem, ( intercourse smokers into the bargain), I know
that they eat out regularly enough to make comparisons
worthwhile. The situation was a little confused though since
the menu offers the 4 Course at either 400 baht with local
beef or at 650 with imported. They found it difficult to say
which was the better.
Those who know about such things assure me that Thai beef is
invariably poorer in quality to start with than good
‘foreign’ beef and, more to the point, that it is
slaughtered and then enters the food chain far too quickly.
Beef should – like venison or wild birds such as pheasant –
be hung for a couple of weeks, perhaps more. This accounts
for the dislike of that meat by the majority of Thais who
find the smell repugnant and complain that beef upsets their
digestion. The ‘imported’ steaks which were served at the
Kantary were, quite probably, from either Australia or the
Argentine, (it was not stated), which - if you simply must
eat dead cow – is a reasonable choice. Not in the class of
the true luxury of Kobe beef from Japan, nor prime Angus
from Scotland but good by most international standards.
Back to my table where the farang who opted for the imported
filet mignon was pleasantly surprised by the quantity, (two
fillets), and quality. It certainly appeared to cut easily
and despite looking a tad over cooked it was soon demolished
along with the jacket potato and vegetables and a reduced
wine sauce. He also enjoyed a salad, followed by asparagus
soup and found room for the pudding, which from the spoonful
I tasted seemed bland and creamy in the true tradition of
those ‘cake- style’ sweets in which the Thais specialize.
My Thai friends and I searched the remaining menu and,
sadly, they fared least well, including a salad, some baked
clams, a sea food spaghetti and a fried chicken dish. I did
rather better with a penne with a rich tomato sauce – with
some chili added. My ice cream was also fine, but the fruit
salad which came with the ice chosen by one Thai had been
far too long in the fridge and was far from ‘fresh’. Odd in
a country where gorgeous fruits are so readily available.
Now for the strange part. Once the orders were made we
discovered another menu. Marked vegetarian, it was not
offered originally. On it were a fairly wide selection of
Japanese, European and Thai dishes – several of which could
have been adapted to include fish or meat. Why not
incorporate these into the main menu or at least offer these
choices alongside the conventional set menu and other farang
food? There were plenty of Asians at the Kantary. Or is Thai
food somehow considered less ‘acceptable’? One hopes not.
In general, then, a favourable impression with room for
small but important changes. A definite plus is that the
basic prices, certainly for food, are reasonable given the
ambience, which hovers between Moxxie’s at D2 and The Chedi
without the style of the former and the pretentiousness of
the latter. As one would expect the staff were attentive and
pleasant and the seats were comfortable. Although slightly
small the tables are well enough spaced and besides the main
eating area and bar, there is a verandah with a further 20
plus seats and a private room for between 12 and 18 guests
The surrounding building looks decidedly elegant and has
been ‘home’ to at least one member of the Royal Family which
must indicate a very high standard. On the first evening we
went there the actress and political activist Mia Farrow –
over here for conferences and seminars - was dining in the
private room with colleagues. In short it is aspiring to be
a new ‘in place’ for the City. If so it should soon learn
that placing on an already crowded table a large box of
condiments with such ‘delicacies’ as HP sauce, tomato
ketchup and pre-prepared mustard may be acceptable in an
American diner but is not quite the thing for somewhere that
also claims to be ‘ Chiang Mai’s most sophisticated bar and
restaurant’. One day, perhaps. Not quite yet.
Nimman Bar and Grill at Kantary Hills Hotel. Open daily.
Phone 0-5322 -2111
Steamed sea bass
While you can get steamed sea bass at almost
every seafood restaurant, this recipe is actually Chinese. Being flavored
lightly with salt, ginger, scallions, wine and sesame oil it has a little more
Wash the fish in cold water and wipe dry. Make three parallel
diagonal slashes on each side of the fish, slicing through to the bone. Rub the
fish all over with one teaspoon of sea salt.
In a mortar, pound the ginger to a paste with a pinch of sea salt. Rub some
ginger paste into the slashes in the fish.
Mix the remainder of the ginger paste with the soy sauce, wine and half a
teaspoon of the sesame oil. Rub all over the fish and let marinate for 10 to 20
Now place fish in steamer and cook 15 to 18 minutes until it is opaque
throughout and flakes easily when pulled with a fork.
When the fish is almost done, heat the vegetable oil and the remaining half
teaspoon of sesame oil in a small skillet until very hot. Remove the fish from
the steamer and pour the hot oil over the fish to glaze it and serve the fish
immediately from the plate.
Sea bass, cleaned and scaled 1 kg
Ginger freshly minced 2 tbspns
Dry white wine
1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
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