Lemon Tree :  By Neil Robinson

Reliable, superior Thai food at reasonable prices

I have eaten at Lemon Tree on Huay Kaew Rd. many times. The atmosphere, like many Thai restaurants, is rather utilitarian. What keeps me coming back is that you can rely on the food always being at least good, and often very good, coupled with the reasonable prices and the fact that most of the customers are Thai. There are some Thai restaurants with predominantly farang or tourist clientele, which makes me suspicious. I only recently found out that there is another branch of Lemon Tree, off Nimmanhaeminda Rd., so I decided to try this before writing a review.
The second branch is in Chiang Mai University’s International Centre. It is larger than the Huay Kaew branch and the clientele looked to be exclusively Thai (a good sign). The menu appeared identical to the Huay Kaew branch, with one unfortunate (for me – I like beer with Thai food) exception. This exception is that they cannot serve alcoholic drinks because they are on university property. The atmosphere is equally utilitarian – neither branch is the place for a romantic tryst.
I went there with a Thai companion. We ordered four dishes – more than ample for two. Deep fried pork ribs, soft shell crab with black and fresh pepper, two types of mushroom in oyster sauce and young coconut salad. We drank fruit drinks. The best dishes were the soft shell crab and the salad. As I bit into the soft shell crab, it was first spicy hot, then came the peppery flavour (which I really like), then the mild, but still tasty crab. This is a dish not to be missed if you do not mind spicy food. If you eat the coconut strips from the salad by themselves, then they have a slightly sweet, firm and crisp texture. Eating all the ingredients together, I realized what an excellent mix the salad was, with spices, minced pork, shrimp and tasty basil combining in a way that makes Thai food such a successful cuisine.
The deep fried pork ribs were a little less crispy and tasty than those I have eaten at the Huay Kaew branch. The meat, though fairly tender, was rather fatty. Eaten together with the accompanying crispy shredded garlic however, the flavour was very good (although most savoury items taste good with crispy shredded garlic!). The mushroom dish, including both regular (het hom) and golden needle mushrooms, was quite mild, but did offer two quite distinct mushroom flavours. The service was friendly and efficient. The cost, for more than ample food, came to a little over 200 baht per person.
If you are looking for authentic (judging by the popularity with Thais and the verdict of my Thai companion), tasty Thai food, at very reasonable prices, either branch is a good place to try. To get to the branch in the International Centre, drive down Nimmanhaeminda Rd. from the Amari Rincome. Pass the Chiang Mai University Alumni Association on your left and turn left just after this and just before the fitness park. Drive about 100 m and you will see the International Centre on your left behind a fountain. The Huay Kaew branch is on Huay Kaew Rd., quite close to Central at Kad Suan Kaew and opposite the Shell station. It is close to the Sushi Corner restaurant, which I reviewed last month. I’d like to hear from you on your experience of this restaurant. Please contact me at: [email protected]


Roasted Tomato Soup

Tomato soup is a standard on almost every restaurant’s menu, with some being very ‘daring’ and suggesting that a swirl of orange juice be added to the soup just before serving, but this week’s recipe is much more than that. It elevates tomato soup to gourmet!

Cooking Method
Preheat the oven to 375F. Arrange the tomatoes, skin side down, on a baking sheet. Coat the bell pepper and onions with olive oil and put them on another baking sheet along with the garlic, place the pepper skin side down as well. Give both sheets a light showering of salt, then bake until the tomatoes start to collapse and the onions start to brown and caramelize, about 45 minutes. Peel the garlic and place the roasted vegetables into a blender or food processor. Blend in a cup of the stock until the soup is the desired consistency. Add the paprika and more salt if needed - adjusting to your taste.

Ingredients                             Serves 4
Tomatoes, quartered                                   5
Red bell pepper, seeded and quartered  1 large
Yellow onions, peeled, quartered      3 medium
Extra-virgin olive oil
Garlic, unpeeled                               5 cloves
Rock salt to taste
Vegetable stock                              2-3 cups
Paprika to taste