Salsa Kitchen & Miguel’s Café: comparing two Mexican restaurants  

The Salsa Kitchen.

Neil Robinson
During almost 30 years in California and on occasional visits to Mexico, I ate Mexican food on many occasions. I thought it was about time to review a couple of the fairly few Mexican restaurants in Chiang Mai. Both Miguel’s and Salsa Kitchen had been recommended to me, so these seemed like good places to start.
Miguel’s is on the outer moat road, north of the Thapae Gate, but closer to the corner than to the gate. It is easy to recognise from the prominent front, featuring a bright red chili impaled on a fork - see the photo. There is a convenient parking lot next door. Inside, the space is fairly utilitarian-a feature not uncommon in Mexican restaurants.
Food is ordered from the counter. The menu includes all the common Mexican standbys, such as tacos (60-90B), burritos (110-200B), enchiladas (60-70B), fajitas (160-290B) etc. You can also order burgers and other sandwiches, but I did not try these. Drinks include beer and rather watery margaritas. Servings are large.
For my taste, I found the food somewhat lacking in a distinctive or interesting flavour - different items seemed to taste rather similar. It is probably unfair to expect that Mexican food here might compare to the better among the Mexican restaurants in California, in view of the much greater choice there. But, if you are looking for standard Mexican fare, with large helpings at reasonable prices then Miguel’s has it. The telephone number is 053 874 148.

Miguel’s Café.
Salsa Kitchen has been open in Chiang Mai about five years, but relocated to Huay Kaew Rd only a few months ago. It is close to Central and directly opposite to the Shell station, in a small row of interesting restaurants that include the well-established Lemon Tree and the more recently opened Sushi Corner (both of which have been reviewed in the Chiang Mai Mail recently). There is parking at the Shell station across the street.
The menu is extensive, including appetizers and salads and soup, and with a wider range of Mexican dishes than Miguel’s. There is also a separate Caribbean food menu, although I have never tried this.
The restaurant is air conditioned, with a pleasant atmosphere and prompt service. Most of the customers seemed to be farang, which is not particularly surprising, although my Thai companion, who had never before eaten Mexican food, really enjoyed it, saying that some items reminded him of Burmese dishes.
The first meal I ate here we started with Mexican bruschetta (89B) - not something I have seen in a Mexican restaurant before. It turned out to be sort of a tangy salsa without much liquid, served with wedges of thin and clearly home made tortillas. The next time, we tried the crunchy sweet potato fritters (89B) as an appetizer. I expected fried potato wedges, but in fact these were sweet potato cakes served with cilantro pesto. Not only was the flavour interesting and suitably appetizing, but they were also attractively served.
Indeed, unlike in most Mexican restaurants, where food presentation seems to be low on the list of priorities, all the food we ate in Salsa Kitchen was well presented. My only regret is that I was hungry and forgot to take a photo of the fritters to include here before sampling them. As with the bruschetta, these sweet potato fritters are not something I have seen in a Mexican restaurant before, but I wish they had been.
Both times I ate here I went for their special - shrimp tacos (149B). These were full of tender shrimp wrapped in thin tortillas which were softer than usual in a taco. Again, not quite like those you would expect in a Mexican restaurant, but delicious. I should also mention the excellent refried beans which came with them.
We tried the vegetarian nachos (109B), appetizing both in appearance and flavour. These came with three “sauces” on the side, a mild salsa, a hot salsa and a yoghurt/sour cream mix - this last again an item that is not quite the usual in Mexican restaurants. The chicken chimichangas (139B) had a fine flavour of the marinated chicken.
I cannot finish this review without mentioning the margaritas. These were served with a plate of salt and lime slices and at 209B for a 600ml pitcher or 309B for a litre, excellent value. I would describe the margaritas as good, rather than great. What is great however is the margarita pie (59B), another item that I have never before seen in a Mexican restaurant. This consists of margarita frozen on a cookie crumb base, rather like eating partly frozen cheesecake with a kick - and wholly delicious.
Between these two places, Miguel’s offers standard Mexican fare. Salsa Kitchen on the other hand offers a tasty, innovative, different take on Mexican food. If you have read this far, I am sure you are in no doubt which I personally prefer. But what about you - what is your favourite Mexican place in Chiang Mai? Please let me know at: [email protected]


Bacon and Cheese Stuffed Potatoes

This is a favorite in many families and the stuffing is very simple. The cheese topping under the griller makes this dish, in my opinion, and vintage cheddar is my favorite, having enough flavor, not to be outdone by the bacon. Unfortunately this is not a quick dish to prepare, as it requires some time in the oven, so is one that you should plan for, rather than a spur of the moment decision.

Cooking Method
Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees.
Wash potatoes well, rub all over with salt and bake for one hour in the oven.
While potatoes are baking, chop up the bacon into small pieces and quickly fry, making sure the bacon still remains soft.
Remove potatoes from oven and cut into halves. With a spoon, carefully scoop out the majority of the potato, leaving the skins intact. Mash the scooped potato flesh with milk and butter, stir in the bacon pieces, onion and pepper and return to the potato skins.
Return the stuffed potatoes to the oven and bake for 10 minutes, then sprinkle the cheese over the top and bake on high until cheese melts.
Serve immediately.

Ingredients    Serves 4
Potatoes                   4 large
Bacon chopped, fried 100 gm
Onion, finely chopped 1 medium
Green pepper             1 small
Cheddar cheese grated 50 gm
Milk                           125 ml
Butter                         2 tbspns
Salt                            1 tbspn