Le Crystal - Steak House :  By Brian Baxter

New venture by one of Chiang Mai’s premier restaurants

The most important thing to not about this smart new brasserie style restaurant is that its name is not given in full above and anyway it is rather misleading. Although prime imported and domestic steaks do feature heavily on the menu they are only a fraction of the dishes on offer in its extensive (almost too large) menu.
There are ‘signature dishes’, pastas, 18 Thai choices and as many appetizers from the home country, plenty of fish and other choices. Plus numerous salads, eight soups and other starters, and a wide range of desserts. So, the dozen plus steaks, including one from Japan, are only part of the range. Non meat eaters will find plenty of choice although strict vegetarians will not find much to choose from, since even the pastas do not offer a choice without fish or meat. Still, a vegan heading for somewhere branded a steak house is an unlikely proposition.
Many readers will know or know of Le Crystal in its grander form. This well established French-orientated restaurant with its spacious verandah and gardens leading to the river and its lofty dining room offers fine food and wines and commensurate prices. They offer many special events and gourmet evenings and at present are having “last Saturday of the month buffets”, ending September 27. Even so, it could hardly be counted as a regular dining out venue for the majority of us, especially if you take advantage of their collect and return taxi service which allows one to indulge in some their excellent wines and digestives.
Acknowledging that, the owner has wisely decided to offer an alternative, with good food and a well stocked bar but in decidedly less formal surroundings. The good news is that the staff and service are as friendly and efficient as in the ‘original’. So there you have it. A bright and breezy ‘steak house’ situated in the heart of JJ’s Market, offering some sixty covers at large and comfortable tables. There is an adjoining coffee shop and bakery and they are already building an extension on an upper floor. There is a band which proved a little intrusive for us oldies but they play well and, to be honest, this new venture is aimed at the ‘younger crowd’, the Thais and farangs who go, for example, to Mo’C Mo’L. In which case noise goes with the territory.
As mentioned the menu is extensive. I went last week with three friends (just a few days after its official opening) and we barely managed a very modest cross section of the choices between the four of us. Still it was enough to convince us that the food was well presented, in good sizes portions and that the surrounding were immaculately clean, well lit and that service was prompt. Our starters included three salads, two with oil and balsamic vinegar dressings (offered on the side) and the third a Caesar salad (a little too heavy on the anchovies, said my friend). My indulgence was deep fried camembert. This was the highlight of my meal, with the cheese ripe and the crispy coating exceptionally light and ‘oil free’. A rather large portion of spaghetti vongole which followed defeated me half way through.
Two of the other diners went for the pork knuckle with a modest helping of sauerkraut and mashed potato. The meat seemed to fall off the bone and was exceptionally plentiful. Our Caesar salad fan went for a steak (dubbed roast beef) and it seemed to be tender and not over cooked. He’s a polite type of fellow so no further comment was forthcoming. But I noticed the plate was empty.
Two of us went for a single scoop of ice cream but the choice was oddly limited. It was vanilla or rum raisin. Or rum raisin or vanilla. Or I suppose vanilla and rum raisin. Any way you cut it they’ll need to do better for us ice cream addicts. There are plenty of alternatives, especially courtesy of the adjoining coffee shop and some more extravagant choices plus a huge variety of specialist teas and coffees. With the meal we could not resist the rare opportunity in Chiang Mai of draft Stella Artois, a good beer from Belgium, producer of probably the best beers in the world. There were two other choices on draft and a selection of drinks, including wines available from Le Crystal, which would fill the rest of this page. We ended up having spent 600 baht a head, including plenty of bottled water and some rolls (white only) and butter, service and the food and drink.
I look forward to a return visit and can foresee that this bright and glossy eatery will become a popular place with both farangs and Thais. The coffee shop and restaurant both open at 11 in the morning and the latter stays open until 1 am. The address is 44 Atsadathorn Road and the telephone number 053-224-123.


Sri Lankan Tomato Chutney

Chutneys are condiments that can add that little sparkle to any dish. This is a Sri Lankan Tomato chutney which is easy to make; however, do not make large quantities as these chutneys do not store well.
To peel tomatoes easily, dip tomatoes in boiling water for one minute. Remove tomatoes and set aside to cool enough so that you can handle them. Gently pierce the skin of the tomatoes with the tip of a sharp knife. Loosen the skin with the knife and peel away.

Cooking Method
Take the skinned tomatoes, halve them and remove the seeds and the juice and then chop very finely. Rinse and seed the chilli and then chop it finely. Be careful not to rub your eyes while doing this.
Put all the ingredients in a bowl and stir well and then leave stand for 15 minutes.
Now puree by putting it in the blender or food processor for a short time.

Large ripe skinned tomatoes   4
Green chilli                            1
Spring onions (chopped)         2
Ginger root (finely grated)       1 tspn
Salt                                     tspn
Ground black pepper pinch
Lemon (lime) juice                 1 tbspn
Coriander leaf (finely chopped) 1 tspn