Osteria Wald: By Brian Baxter
The ‘comfort zone’ takes on a new dimension
Last week I mentioned the ‘first thing’ I looked for in a
restaurant - a sense of welcoming atmosphere and a use of
space that immediately says ‘you will be comfortable here’.
I don’t mean simply in the narrow sense of chairs and tables
or temperature control and lighting but that feeling which
resembles meeting someone for the first time and thinking
that this person could be a friend - not just a passing
acquaintance. All of which ramblings brings me to a new
Italian restaurant in Chiang Mai. (No, I didn’t think the
City needed a new Italian eatery either - but please read
The Osteria Wald has just that above quality. Enter its
calm, unpretentious dining room (flanked by a little shop
selling wines and goodies to the right) and you sense
immediately an authenticity and ‘rightness’ about it, as
though the surrounding new buildings, including the Twin
Peaks Condo, were intruders on this small oasis.
Italians have a way of pushing themselves to the front,
demanding attention. This Osteria seems to achieve it
without any arm waving and shouting and emerges to the fore
as well mannered, smart and friendly. It’s a grown up sort
of place, for all sorts of grown ups.
And what - you are thinking - about the food? No good
recommending anywhere if the food is not good or the prices
are ludicrously high. Well the good news is that the food
(much of it imported directly by the owners) is not good, it
is excellent and that prices are - for now - more than
reasonable given the style and location and certainly
considering the generous portions. I hate to be pessimistic
but I can foresee price rises once they are established and
a high season (hopefully) arrives.
It is not a large space - perhaps 30 plus covers - and they
have resisted the temptation to crowd tables together.
Theses are covered by immaculate green checked cloths, the
chairs are supportive, the cutlery, glass ware and generous
salt and pepper mills and large holders for good quality
olive oil and balsamic vinegar are all attractive and
functional. Plates of crisp breads are offered with chopped
tomato side dishes soon after one is seated and other breads
and mineral water follow swiftly.
On my most recent visit each of us was presented by a
mini-bowl of delicious pasta (small shells, the name of
which I forget) which had been poached al dente in vegetable
stock and then tossed in garlic and olive oil. Now what is
the Italian for amuses bouches? On the same occasion I
decided not to have a starter but was tempted by a rocket
salad listed as a special on one of the blackboards. When my
companion’s starters arrived I was presented with a taster
bowl of the salad with its wonderful green leaves, cherry
tomatoes and a good dressing. This level of service, without
sycophancy or ostentation should certainly ensure it a
regular clientele. If you want a short hand version I’d put
it up with Giorgio’s (different atmosphere) and la Gritta
(different price range) as standards to judge it by.
The large menu is a little confusing at first with two
sections for starters, one of their ‘own’ and a second
devoted to classic dishes. The same goes for the ‘mains’,
the fish and meat dishes. The pizzas and numerous pasta
(around 130 - 240 baht) are spread through the centre pages.
A friend pointed out the absence of soups, which was a
useful observation since I don’t enjoy soup as part of a
meal. An odd omission. But there seems little else missing,
with its range of puddings, fine wines (including a wide
selection for desserts), a well stocked bar and the best ice
cream I’ve tasted in the city.
Of the starters I enjoyed their very fresh salad with tuna
and on another occasion a Thai friend and I shared the
abundant fish salad, with capers and a classic dressing. A
small complaint on that occasion. We were presented with our
main courses before we had eaten the first and although it
was getting late (10ish). I think this was bad timing rather
than a desire to hurry us along. Certainly I don’t enjoy
‘fast food’ in any shape or form. And whilst in a ‘critical’
vein I’d welcome a notch up from their perfectly drinkable
house wine in terms of wine by the glass. Perhaps just one
choice or a red and white from the wine list? Still they
offer two choices and the slightly more expensive ones at
270 per half litre found no detractors. There are of course
plenty of soft drinks and beers on offer.
The range of pastas is quite formidable. Fellow diners
praised the Puttanesca, although one Thai thought it too
salty because of the bacon. A question of palate rather than
degree, perhaps? Certainly I enjoyed other variants,
including one with a piquant sauce, another simply with
chilies, garlic and oil and a third with very fine spaghetti
in a light tomato sauce. Large servings in all cases. They
serve pizzas and one friend chose one from the list and
pronounced it fine. No surprise there. Another Thai friend
found the pork with a rich tomato sauce and vegetables
excellent. And it was good value at around 250 baht. There
are steaks, fish stew and myriad other choices. And don’t
forget to leave room for that ever so refreshing ice cream
or sorbet - how about lemon grass and ginger or raspberry?
Or the ubiquitous tiramisu which is served generously enough
There are a number of specials on the menu and these are
listed as taking 25 to 30 minutes from ordering time. So
make up your mind quickly, place an order sit back with a
starter and a glass of wine and enjoy the wait. On average
you should pay around 300 - 400 baht for a starter, a main
of pasta, and that ice cream, including house wine, water, a
range of breads and service.
Osteria Wald can be located in the soi just before the
Shangri-La Hotel at 187/10 Changklan Road. Tel 053 234 102
or 053 232 103. Open daily 11:30 - 14:30 and from 18:00 -
22:30. Closed Mondays.
Spicy Potato Wedges
Potato wedges are a very popular family dish.
They are also good to serve with pre-dinner drinks, but this recipe adds just a
little something more to the oven fried potato, with the addition of capsicum
Preheat oven to 375, oven racks in the middle.
In a medium bowl toss the potato wedges with the olive oil, the finely chopped
capsicum, a few big pinches of sea salt and a liberal sprinkling of black
pepper. Arrange the potatoes cut side down on a baking sheet. Place in the oven
for 30-35 minutes, tossing the potatoes with a metal spatula half way through.
While the potatoes are baking, squeeze the lime and set the juice aside.
When the potatoes are cooked through, remove them from the oven, taste, and
adjust the seasoning. Add more salt and pepper to taste. Serve in a big shallow
bowl, sprinkle the Parmesan and coriander over them and drizzle with the lime
juice and present immediately to the guests.
Serves 4- 6
Small potatoes, cut into wedges 750 gm
Capsicum (bell pepper) 1 medium (red)
Extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Parmesan cheese, grated 1/3rd cup
Coriander chopped as garnish