Chiang Mai Restaurants
: By Brian Baxter
A reader asks for ‘six of the best’
When the Mail’s editor forwarded a reader’s request for the
a list of the six best eating places in the city my response
was - inevitably - ‘not possible’. Partly because I am
unfamiliar with so many of the hundreds of choices and also
no parameters were given. Six Thai, six farang, six fusion,
six luxury, six local…?
So instead a considered selection within broad groups and
one over riding criteria. They are all restaurants in which
I feel comfortable, whether I am with a group, with locals
or with visitors or in a few cases alone. A word of warning
if you don’t fancy paying fancy prices - by which I mean
anything from 1,000 baht up (way up if you choose fine
wines) - then skip the first group. The rest vary from the
very cheap to the moderate. There are quite a few Thai
recommendations but if you fancy an Italian for a change or
other nationalities there are also several choices.
A quick trawl through the back issues of the Mail
(www.chiangmai-mail.com) will supply most of the information
needed. There are too many named to offer locations and
phone numbers etc and many have their own web sites. A
couple may not have been reviewed in these pages and
certainly Chez Daniel and Osteria Wald - one established,
the second new - will be featured in future weeks. Apologies
to those omitted and to regular readers who will find old
friends mentioned again. But the words “I’ve never had a bad
experience or a poor meal there” means that one has found a
mini treasure. Any other suggestions or criticisms? If so
please write in.
The other criteria are the usual: value for money within its
‘style’, service, ambience and the quality of the food based
on two or, preferably, more visits.
Luxury or up-market: These do not include the often fine
restaurants at five star hotels, such as The Four Seasons
and the Mandarin Oriental, which need little further
recommendation. In this group the slightly odd one out is Mi
Casa, only because it is less formal than its main
competitors. A Spanish restaurant run by a lively husband
and wife team, it offers top quality ingredients and an open
air (covered) setting and is very popular with resident
farangs. For international cuisine try The House, within its
elegant building it offers impeccable service and a mildly
‘twee’ atmosphere, and some of the best food around-
especially the tuna. Great for romantic evenings or special
For French food either Le Crystal or the more formal Le Coq
d’Or will deliver the goods - at a price. The former has
some tempting special events and promotions but as always
the plus plus element in these fancier venues can hike up
the price. And finally for some of the finest Japanese food
then head for Miyuki at that oasis of calm in the Night
Bazaar, the Royal Princess Hotel. Gracious service,
excellent ingredients and a slightly formal atmosphere but
not intimidating. If you are in a small group opt for one of
the private rooms.
Thai: The potential list would fill the entire ‘paper but
here are a few that come into the ‘middle’ area in terms of
cost, with menus offered in English as well as Thai and with
chefs willing to adapt the level of spiciness for those who
want less heat.
The enormously popular Mo’C Mo’L next to the CMU attracts
young Thais for its value, good food (they also serve
limited European and Japanese dishes but I’ve never
bothered), the music, delightful setting (opt for the
lakeside setting) and energetic staff. There’s an even
larger menu - a book too far? - at Café de Nimmen in the
Rooms area and this is a great favourite with Thai friends
who praise its authenticity and who enjoy its unpretentious
style. Good value.
Almost immediately opposite you will find Maze 2, and not
far away its bigger brother Maze1 (which I slightly prefer
although to be honest the menu is the same). They open at
10:30 until late and are useful for breakfast too.
They have just the right blend of casual stylishness and
good food to make for an above average evening out. However
if you fancy somewhere a little more sedate then go to
Daalaaba, which attracts customers from the American and
British consulates and the odd celebrity. The food is
readily adapted to suit gentler palates and the spacious
building and fancy linen give it a more formal though not
prissy atmosphere. Classic Thai food.
A Mixed Bag: A round up of a few mid priced alternatives.
Price according to choice, appetite and alcohol consumed.
Remember wine is over taxed in Thailand and many restaurants
have high mark ups. The newly opened Osteria Wald (next to
the Twin Peaks condo) must be the most authentic recreation
of an Italian restaurant in the city. All it needs is to
fine tune the service (friendly but still ‘learning’) and it
will give the many Italian eateries here a run for their
money. Georgio’s - not far away - offers a more bustling,
‘trat’ atmosphere and excellent food in often crowded
surroundings. More fun, perhaps? Up to you.
Two contrasted French restaurants are worth a visit too. The
long established Chez Daniel offers ‘home made’ ingredients
and authentic Normandy fare, whilst the centrally located
St. Germain des Pres features inexpensive flexible ‘menus’
within a bright brasserie style setting. There’s an
attractive roof top bar there and this is a feature of the
newly opened U Hotel which also has a ground level
restaurant with a mixture of Thai, basic ‘European’ and
other food, including several pastas. Golden rule (as always
in Thailand) avoid the ‘fast’ food. And finally if it is
‘fusion’ food you want then make the short trek from town to
the always reliable, The Green Mill. A short drive to Lanna
Hospital soi for a comfortable setting offering top quality
ingredients, a range of good wines and welcoming service.
Personal Favourites: If my partner and I want a special
evening out then it will almost certainly be one of two
places, with first choice going to Moxxies at D2 - casual
enough to be ‘comfortable’, smart enough to be a treat.
Fusion food (possibly the menu would benefit from a little
update) and a few special events such as the forthcoming
buffets on 29 and 30 of this month. The service is smart,
the space attractive and the cocktails super. Prices? Well,
let’s face it nothing is going to be cheap in ‘designer’
hotels. And the same goes for Chiang Mai’s most elegant
boutique hotel, The Rachamankha with its wonderful courtyard
restaurant, offering Thai and European ‘fusion’ food with
Burmese elements. A quiet place (sometimes a small group of
classical Thai musicians), with discreet service and fine
wines, it is rather ‘special’.
And at the other end of the scale, if not one of those 20 or
so listed above, it has to be either Nimmen Kitchen by Krit
off the Huay Kaew Road or Ney Ney. Krit has not long been
open and has already established a friendly presence in his
new restaurant, which has recently opened a lunch bar with
Thai salads and boasts a new roof over the verandah area.
The specials board changes regularly and the food is always
tasty and fresh and the welcome warm. And as for Ney Ney
along the Super Highway… well readers may be tired of my
extolling its very real virtues. Noisy, often crowded, with
plentiful, tasty food and draft beer this is a smashing
place to go out in a small - or large - party. For fun,
lively service and value it has few equals.
Spicy Crab and Scallop Soup
This is a lovely soup to serve as a starter
for any meal. It is an interesting and very easy to prepare soup with the ginger
giving the spicy tang. It is not a quick soup, however, as it is necessary to
let the soup stand to take on the subtle flavours. If you do not have a can of
chicken soup, you can substitute 400 ml of chicken stock. If you wish, you can
add other seafood items such as calamari to the broth.
Place scallops and butter in a saucepan and gently sauté for
2 minutes. Remove scallops and set aside.
Place all remaining ingredients, other than crabs, in the pan and simmer covered
for 10 minutes. Allow to stand for one hour, then remove the bay leaf, add the
scallops and crabmeat and bring up to heat and then serve immediately.
Ingredients Serves 2-4
Scallops (fresh shelled)
Ginger finely chopped
Lime juice from