Vol. VIII No. 5 - Tuesday
February 3 - February 9, 2009



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by Saichon Paewsoongnern


DINING OUT & KHUN OCHA'S COOKBOOK
 

La Favola’s new Sunday Brunch

The Perfect Combination

Robert Law
I love buffet meals – tasting a bit of this and a bit of that – and then going back to the items I like the most for the ‘chow down.’ I have a friend who would rather choose her food from a menu and then have it served to her.
Favola, the ‘upscale’ and literally ‘upstairs’ Italian Restaurant at Le Méridien Hotel has put together the perfect combination, with their ‘Sunday Brunch,’ debuting recently to a full house of over 100 diners – each expressing amazement at the amount and quality of the food being laid out before them.
The price of 770 baht per person (plus 10% tip and 7% VAT) includes coffee or tea, a wide selection of starters and desserts – with a large range of choices from a printed menu in between. Menu items are prepared to your preference and served by competent and attentive service personnel. A wine cellar is stacked with choices, or a generous cocktail is 210 baht, and a three-piece jazz ensemble performs throughout the meal.
Executive Chef Gustavo Maurelli, together with the F&B managers, have combined the best of both the Buffet and Menu concepts. On the beautifully- presented starter table I counted no less than 14 selections. Prepared portions of seafood, vegetable salads, green salads, cheeses, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, artichokes, salami, prosciutto and other meats, were all frequently refreshed so that rarely was a service plate depleted.
I chose my favorites and returned to the table to find various breads – Focaccia, Lavash, bread sticks, and dinner rolls, complimented by three butter choices: one each infused with sun-dried tomatoes, pesto, or chick pea puree.
Already feeling somewhat overwhelmed, we were presented with the menu and had the daunting task of choosing from 36 individual dishes arranged in 10 categories.
These are not buffet items – they are individually prepared, large portions, although I was told that if I wanted to do more sampling, the chef would prepare smaller-than-normal portions of my choices. I didn’t dare.
The menu itself was beyond the wildest expectations of any over-eater. Six choices of egg dishes, each served with oven roasted potatoes, Caesar Salad or mixed salad with balsamic dressing, three choices of soup – I chose mushroom, very thick and creamy – four choices of ricotta, all of which were delicious, five choices of fresh, homemade pasta, also delicious, with my choice being the ravioli with sautéed spinach and ricotta cheese with a creamy presto sauce. Also on were four choices of pizza, two of calzone, one fish and three meat dishes. My chosen meat dish was spring lamb shank braised in Chianti and served with soft herbed polenta and vegetables in natural jus. I used to live in New Zealand and often had lamb shank – prepared from someone’s grandma’s recipe. None of which was as good as the ‘falling off the bone’ lamb shank served today.
The dessert table featured no less than 20 choices – from fresh, cut fruit to tarts, small pies, and Favola’s signature dessert, Tiramisu.
I have not written many reviews for this column – but each of them has been positive. If I didn’t like the restaurant, I just didn’t write about it. I have overheard people comment that reviews are always äpositiveä since this is a commercial newspaper and editorially will not allow critical comment. While I have never tested that theory, I can tell you I have never written a critical review because I wouldn’t want to waste my time. I want to write about positive experiences, leaving bad restaurants to find their own way to extinction.
Continuing on a positive note, in a short conversation with the food and beverage manager, I asked who he had identified as the ‘target group’ for this brunch. His response was: ‘The resident Chiang Mai community. It is no secret that business is down, so we are trying to put together something attractive for the residents.’ Bravo and kudos to the management team. While Chiang Mai’s hotels, resorts and spas were built to serve the tourist, too many often seem to arrogantly dismiss the market that lives here week after week.
I strongly advise that you try this Sunday brunch. I have eaten at every hotel buffet in town, from hotels with no stars, to hotels with too many stars. I have eaten at the finest and the worst restaurants in Chiang Mai. I don’t know why earlier buffets at Le Méridien didn’t succeed, but congratulations to La Favola for knowing when a format is not working, and creating a new one. With this combination of buffet and menu options, they have created a perfect combination.
The Sunday Brunch will continue to be served between 11.30 p.m. and 3 p.m., as long as demand dictates. Make a reservation on 053-253-266 if you are planning to go. I suspect the positive comments resulting from this successful opening event are going to ensure a full house every Sunday for weeks to come. The Le Méridien is located on Chan Klan Road; underground parking and/or free valet parking is available.

 

Pork with Five-Spice sauce

A traditional Chinese dish this week, and you can substitute beef or chicken for the pork. It can be served with fried egg noodles instead of steamed rice if you wish, but poured over the egg noodles and garnished with coriander makes this a very flavorsome dish.

Cooking Method
Mix together the garlic, salt, ginger, soy, sugar and Five-Spice until the sugar is dissolved. Cut the pork into small bite-sized pieces and add to the mixture and leave for 15 minutes in the refrigerator.
Heat the oil in the wok and add the meat mixture, quickly stir-frying for two minutes or until the pork changes color. Add the stock and bring to the boil.
Mix the corn flour with one tablespoon water and slowly add to the wok, stirring constantly, until the sauce is slightly thicker.
Serve immediately.

Ingredients                          Serves 4
Lean pork                                 350 gm
Garlic clove crushed                  1
Salt                                          ½ tspn
Fresh ginger root grated             ½ tspn
Dark soy sauce                         1 tbspn
Sugar                                        1 tspn
Five-Spice powder                      1 pinch
Sunflower oil                              1-2 tbspns
Beef or chicken stock                 150 ml
Corn flour (cornstarch)                 1 tspn



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