Five newcomers to the
Chiang Mai scene…
For what is the last ‘food’ column of 2008 –
and, incidentally, my penultimate dining out piece –
here is a ‘round-up’ of five venues opened in Chiang Mai
during the past year. Next week will feature a further
five old favourites. Hopefully all ten will manage to
weather the economic gloom that has descended upon the
world during the past year or more and which seems to be
affecting Thailand in general and Chiang Mai in
tasty treat at Hot Chilli.
The key to the success of the newer places is friendly
service, a pleasant ambience and good food, with value
according to the ‘category’ of the restaurant. It really
is no good expecting ‘cheap’ food in a five star hotel
anymore than one would expect to pay a thousand baht for
a Thai meal in Nimmanhaeminda Road. The ubiquitous ‘plus
plus’ and the insane taxes on wines make that
impossible. So, two of the ten mentioned this week and
next are fairly pricy, but are still – in my opinion –
worth the extra. Others in their category are not and if
it were not the ‘season of good will’ I would happily
list my ten places to avoid. Another time, perhaps.
It seems there is no end to the number of decent (and
some exceptional) Italian restaurants in Chiang Mai.
Three out of the five new ones fall into that group. The
most ambitious is Favola at Le Meridien, which I
reviewed only a few weeks ago and found equally good on
a recent visit. As noted then, its quality is dependent
on superb ingredients and original cooking, plus the
elegance of the presentation. The service is a little
over-attentive. Note that they have stopped opening at
lunchtimes. You can expect to pay 1200 baht upwards with
wine, service and tax, and you will find it at this
large hotel, near the night bazaar.
Osteria Wald opened a few months ago and has more modest
prices, but also an ambitious menu and a charming
interior. One really feels as though one has been
transported to Italy, except for the charming Thai
staff. They also import many of their ingredients and
have a good wine list plus over-expensive cocktails.
This restaurant has established itself firmly on the
local scene and has never disappointed me on around ten
or more visits. 187 Changklan Road. Phone 085 234 102.
Finally, again Italian, but with a Thai chef, the
eponymous Billy, to be found in a little eatery at 20/3
Kampaengdin Road. Phone 086653 0962. This tiny hole in
the wall restaurant has proved very popular over the
past few months and often its 20 plus seats are full,
but a few minutes’ wait will ensure pleasant service and
an inexpensive meal with most Italian favourites on the
menu, pizzas and pastas and a few ambitious dishes.
A larger venue with a not dissimilar ‘dining out’
experience can be found at Krit’s Kitchen Nimmen, off
Huay Kaew Road, just opposite Hillside 4. Phone 053 895
199. This too has a chef owner, also Thai. But Krit –
well known as a good cook from earlier restaurants –
specializes in his native cuisine and runs a very
friendly and accessible eatery. Prices are exceptionally
modest for the quality and freshness of the food and I
eat there regularly, choosing invariably from the
specials board, which changes weekly.
Also Thai, but larger and with fancier décor (but very
sensible prices) is Hot Chilli, which opened about five
months ago and like the others listed has been reviewed
in the Chiang Mai Mail with enthusiasm by myself
and has – happily – lived up to that earlier
recommendation on recent visits. You will find this
stylish restaurant down Ratchadamnoen Road, past the AUA
buildings and heading away from Thapae Gate. They share
a garden with Il Girasole, have a very attractive bar,
and an open kitchen above which they proudly proclaim
that no MSG is used in their cooking. Other restaurants
please take note.
Next week: five well established restaurants
which continue to offer ‘the best in Chiang Mai’.
Tom Yum Goong
This is a simple recipe to make in the traditional manner,
and incidentally, is probably one of the best known Thai dishes in the world.
The Thai recipe calls for the heads to be left on the prawns, but if cooking for
predominantly non-Thai friends, remove the heads (and the shell) before cooking.
This recipe also shows you when to intervene in checking the seasoning. The
final taste should be spicy-sour and a little salty.
In a saucepan boil the chicken stock, then add the
lemongrass, lime leaves and mushrooms. Add the prawns and
cook for around 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the
chillies, coriander, lime juice and fish sauce and allow to
stand for five minutes. Now check the seasoning, adding more
lime juice or fish sauce, or breaking up the green chillies
if more spiciness is required. If required, place over the
heat for one minute before serving with steamed rice to eat
this in Thai style.
Prawns, shelled 12 medium
Mushrooms, halved 150 gm
Kaffir lime leaves
Lemongrass chopped 3 stalks
Chillies, small green