Buffets are big business:  By Brian Baxter

A wide range on offer in Chiang Mai

Like many people I have an ambiguous response to the ‘traditional buffet’. All too often they end up an excuse for lazy management or for chefs to cram as many people into an area as possible, put an excessive amount of at best mediocre food onto side tables and then charge diners a high price for serving themselves.
At the other end of the scale, it can prove an opportunity for a range of fine dishes – many cooked to order (after all who says buffets should be platters of cold cuts, salads or simmering tureens of boil in the bag chicken?) allowing one to sample many different foods from a national cuisine, or perhaps a range of nationalities.
By coincidence I went to three buffets in recent weeks; one was a ‘special event’ at D2, the second was the Hillside 4 charity launch at the Amari and the third was a lunchtime gathering of the Long Yang Club at the Grand View. The last was an exception for me since I don’t ‘do’ lunch, but since they offer it at 150 baht inclusive it was inexpensive enough to try. I can now see why it is very popular with those people who enjoy a main meal during the day. All very presentable and the dining area was immaculate.
The Amari event was a one-off and the numbers – 150 – made a buffet inevitable. The staff coped well but you might easily be persuaded to try their special buffet nights at the adjoining Lanna Restaurant, which offers several stations, each representing different Asian foods. Some dishes are cooked to order, also included is Thai food on the terrace. Very relaxed.
Certainly the best such meals I have had were at Moxxie’s at D2, on a ‘Japanese evening’ and, at the end of August, their ‘Italian dinner’. This was relatively quiet as we went on Friday and they were repeating the promotion the next evening. There were ample chances to select food at leisure and to try small portions of many different salads, starters and various delicacies, plus having pasta cooked specially, a selection of cheeses and some delicately poached fruits to round off a super evening. Not cheap at 899 baht, but then, quality and such service can never be ‘cheap’.
The same may be said of Le Crystal, which has been offering splendid buffet evenings on the last Saturday of the month – ending on September 27. I went to their June event and it was pretty special; but then, at 950 baht, so it should be. The only problem is a comparative lack of space, but as the wide terrace is used for the main hot dishes there was ample room to make a selection.
The opposite is certainly true at the Shangri La, which I visited very recently on one of their concert evenings. Another one is scheduled for this month, with music by Ellington and Gershwin, at a great value 550 baht for the concert and the buffet supper. It is open every lunchtime and evening for food only – my quibble is the size of the dining area. If one is seated well away from the displays then it is quite a trek back and forth and one often has to disturb people. The alternative is to stack up a plate with food-something I hate. The food looks so unappetizing and the diners look greedy.
I am told that the Holiday Inn has an especially good Sunday brunch with roasts, if that is your thing, but I’ve not tried it. However they have a special Seafood Buffet planned for Friday, September 26, which sounds intriguing. Perhaps Kantary Hills will repeat their experiment that I reported on a few weeks ago.
So, keep your eyes open for the many ‘specials’ and learn which hotels and (fewer) restaurants make a habit of offering buffets. In a small group they can be fun and some are remarkable value if you are hungry enough.
My colleague Neil Robinson is taking over this column for a few weeks from September 16 – so thanks to him in advance.


Thai Crab and Prawn Pie

This recipe makes for a very unusual kind of pie. Forget the steak and mushroom, this is a healthy, fast and easy to make seafood pastry pie recipe which makes a great side dish, lunch or meal for a family dinner.

Cooking Method
Preheat oven to 400 F (200 C). Roll out the thawed pastry until it is thin (around 0.5 cm) and line the inside of a pie dish, leaving enough for the lid of the pie. Set aside.
Combine crabmeat, prawns, lemon grass, ginger, cream and milk. Season according to taste. Spoon mixture into the pie. Make sure that the mixture completely fills all the pie dish.
Moisten edges of pie shell with half of the beaten egg. Put on pastry lid and crimp edges to seal.
Using remaining egg, brush lid to glaze. Bake for 45 minutes or until golden. Serve hot with a light salad and white fluffy rice.

 Ingredients                 Serves 4
Thawed short crust pastry      250 gm
Canned crabmeat, drained      2 cups
Jumbo tiger prawns, chopped,
shelled and de-veined             2 cups
Pickled lemon grass and ginger chunks,
finely chopped                     1/3 cup
Full cream milk                     cup
Cream                                 cup
Egg, beaten                                1