Five Firm Favourites

Brian Baxter
Last week, in the final dining out column of the year, I listed five worthwhile newcomers to the Chiang Mai scene with the hope that they will survive the predicted economic tribulations of 2009, which look pretty certain and made more certain thanks to the activities surrounding government house and the airports.

A goodly supply of draft Leo is always on tap at Ney Ney.
This week, five established eating places which have enough loyal customers to buck the trend. They are the quintet that have been consistent in what they offer and that to me is the main criterion for a ‘favourite’ place... no variations in quality, service, prices and so on.
No apologies to those who have tired of my mentioning them over the past many months. Especially to the reader who complained that this column favoured a particular middle-ranking hotel, known for its Sunday buffets. I’ve never actually mentioned it except in a passing critical reference since on the two visits I’ve made there, during the evening, I found the service casual, the buffet poor and the atmosphere cold (physically too) and unappealing.
We read what we want to read, I guess. Anyway a first mention for the five this year and the last for a long time as I am having a long rest from this particular column.
Moxies at D2: Still my favourite. Yes, The House is more elegant and also serves fine food, other restaurants and some grand hotels offer quality and service. But put simply, if I am asked where – in Chiang Mai – would I like to go for a convivial meal with all the ‘buttons pushed’, it has to be Moxies. Simple as that; the space and feel of the dining area, the superbly trained and charming staff, the overall value and the quality of most of their fusion food. Go for the fish and the excellent starters and it can be near perfect. Around 1,000 baht and up, depending on choices and alcohol consumption. The buffets are the best in town …by far.
Ney Ney: In complete contrast and depending on my mood and company, my alternative choice would be this bright and cheerful local eatery which has the same overall ‘qualities’ as the above but in a completely different setting, ‘style’ and price level. I went there for my Christmas evening dinner and by around 9 p.m. it was quite full of happy eaters (I was the only farang), with excellent live music and cheerful staff. There were ten of us and the bill with service and a goodly supply of draft Leo came to 2,300 baht. Normal expenditure - under 200 baht per person.
Arcobaleno: Last week three of those listed served Italian food in various ways. This well established restaurant has been around for many years and never fails to please. The service is friendly, the tables well spaced, the good quality food is reasonably priced. It ‘feels’ right, not overly serious, yet not frivolous. One goes there for some peace and quiet, not the bustle of Ney Ney nor the modernist elegance of D2. There are crisp white linens and an extensive menu of classic Italian dishes with the accent on ‘home made’ ingredients and decent wines. Expect to pay 500-600 baht per person with a tip and some wine or beer.
Mo’C Mo’L: Of the two remaining venues (both Thai, although this one offers Japanese and European choices as well), this is by far the bigger and attracts lots of middle class Thais and some farangs to its stylish setting, with its attractive ‘lake side’ position. Parking is easy and there is excellent live music plus a fancy drinks menu, with plenty of chances for showing off with premium Scotch and other pricey stuff.
I go there for the lively atmosphere and the excellent food which seems fairly priced. The service can be a tad erratic on busy nights, but the seating is comfortable and the space huge. Expect to pay around 500 baht a head with beer or house wine, but considerably more should you fancy Blue Label Johnnie Walker.
Café de Nimmen on the busy Nimmenhaemenda Road is quite different, but offers, in the opinion of many Thai friends and some farang, some of the very best, most reasonably priced Thai food in the whole of the city. It offers a vast menu, a small wine measure and cheap beer. It steers a middle path, being neither a typically ‘local’ eatery nor a ‘smart’ restaurant (see above), but rather a comfortable, quiet setting with a small interior, a terrace and a main section. Consistency is the key note. Portions are good (this applies to all of the above) and you can expect to pay around 300 baht a head, inclusive of beer and a tip.
You will find further details of these places on the Chiang Mai Mail website as they have all been reviewed. Some have their own website. I know there are scores of other choices and I leave my successor to find some of them in the coming months. In the meantime happy 2009/2552 and good dining in Chiang Mai and elsewhere.

Arcobaleno offers fine Italian cuisine in a stately and tranquil setting.


Pumpkin Soup

This week’s recipe is from the PILC recipe book called “Our International Secrets” and came from Anna Timlin. It is no ordinary pumpkin soup, as it has garlic, chilli and coriander through it, to give a spiciness to the smooth blended mixture. This pumpkin soup is described as “excellent to serve as a starter at a dinner party.” Incidentally, you can purchase this cookbook from the PILC.

Cooking Method
Fry onion, garlic, chilli and coriander for 5 minutes.
Add pumpkin and fry another 5 minutes.
Pour in water and add the stick cubes and salt. Simmer covered for about 15 minutes.
In a mixer, puree in batches until smooth.
Heat the soup before serving and serve with bread.

Ingredients                    Serves 10
Olive oil                                  2 tbspns
Onion (finely chopped)                    1
Garlic (crushed)                     2 cloves
Red chilli                                   ˝ - 1
Coriander stalks chopped      ˝ tspn
Pumpkin in pieces                     1.3 kg
Water                                      1.2 liters
Knorr chicken stock cubes              2
Salt                                       1 tspn