‘Veggie’ lunch – Italian supper
Recently, we had to go and arrange our visas for a trip
to Cambodia so thought it would be a good opportunity to
make a visit to Aum bookshop and restaurant, right
next-door to the Black Canyon coffee bar at Thaphae
Gate. Aum’s has gradually morphed from a bookshop with a
few tables for food and drink into a restaurant on the
ground floor with a bookstore upstairs. Why is it that
drinking and eating, coffee, juices and food and
perusing books seem to go together so well? Could it be
that they all involve sitting quietly and cogitating?
We entered the restaurant to the sound of the Mammas and
Pappas. Looking around, we realized we had indeed gone
back to the 1970s. The restaurant seats about 26 inside
with a few seats outside facing Thaphae Road. There are
free copies of the Bangkok Post and The Nation to read.
No Chiang Mai Mail, though! The immediate feeling
is that this is a place for a cheap, wholesome,
leisurely lunch with maybe an hour or so left to sift
through the bookshelves upstairs.
The menu lists most dishes between 40 and 50 baht with a
full vegetarian breakfast including fresh coffee and
fresh orange juice at 100 baht. The amazing and unique
Indian salad is just 40 baht. Also listed are spring
rolls, tofu and vegetable tempura, all of which we have
tried in the past and found delicious.
From past experience we knew the specials on the
blackboard were reliable, so I ordered a veggie burger
and chips (fries) with cheese and mayonnaise and my
companion ordered Khao Soi (spicy creamy curry with both
soft and fried noodles). There were 4 staff rushing
around and the service was ultra quick. I had barely a
chance for a quick poke around upstairs before the food
arrived; all at once and all hot. My companion reported
that the Khao Soi made from tofu and mushrooms was
delicious. The portion was very generous and served with
a side dish of pickled cabbage and shallots. My burger
comprised a hot toasted wholemeal sesame bun filled with
lettuce, tomato, cheese, onion and a vegetarian patty.
The chips were big, rough-cut homemade affairs. Decent
china and good quality cutlery were the finishing
touches (no melamine bowls and plastic spoons here). The
food was excellent, not at all greasy or oily.
The lunch came to 130 baht for the two of us. Just time
for a look round the book shop upstairs where there are
some seats and small tables. Best of all, the books are
very reasonably priced – a Richard Dawkins in good
condition for 160 baht. Aum is open from 8 a.m. to 8
p.m. daily. All in all, a restaurant very well worth
visiting, even if you’re not a ‘veggie!’
Pasta Café’s owner, Khun Boo trained at the Oriental
Hotel in Bangkok and then opened a small café (just 8
tables) along Nimmanahaeminda Road about four and a half
years ago. She ran this first Pasta Café for about 8
months. The simple menu was based on salad starters,
western style pasta and wine by the carafe. It was,
obviously, a winning concept! The next step was the
conversion of a house into today’s Pasta Café, with its
international cuisine. Set in a garden with parking out
front the restaurant has a modern, Italian feel. When it
first opened, I thought that maybe its simple clean
lines, uncluttered walls, subdued lighting and soft
music would soon degenerate into noise and chaos. But
no! Kuhn Boo and her business partner have retained
their original concept. The staff are smart and well
trained, the garden setting perfect for a quiet dinner
and the inside area with air conditioning is there if
you want it. They now have 25 tables with seating for
about 80 people and a staff of 14.
Khun Boo recently showed me round the kitchen. When I
was a student in the West I worked in many restaurant
kitchens at the weekends to make enough money to see me
through university. None of the kitchens I worked in
came anywhere near the quality of the Pasta Café’s. It’s
huge and spotless, with stainless steel everywhere, a
huge overhead extractor system and clean and tidy
storage. But, how about the food? Surely, with all this
cleanliness and tidiness the food is going to be boring
The menu is extensive starting with 15 appetizers and 8
salads. The Caesar salad (95 baht) is a popular dish. I
can understand why! Good fresh cos lettuce, lots of
quality parmesan cheese, huge portion. A lot of people
order it as a main dish. My personal favorites are the
warm, grilled vegetable salad (110 baht) with olive oil
and balsamic vinegar and the rocket and feta salad (145
baht). Prawn cocktail salad is unusual in that it is
served in a large bowl. The portions are as salads
should be but rarely are – substantial. Someone once
said that you can always judge a restaurant by its
The pasta menu is huge with 10 vegetarian pasta dishes,
10 non-vegetarian pasta dishes and 15 seafood pasta
dishes. Prices range from 95 up to 195 baht with
Spaghetti Pomodoro Seafood at 245 baht. This last dish
is superb, but all are good.
If you’re still hungry, 11 main courses and a small
selection of Thai food are offered. I would especially
recommend the pork chop at 195 baht; and also the most
expensive dish on the menu, the fillet pepper steak at
400 baht. Okay, its 400 baht but this is KU tenderloin
beef from San Kham Pen, comparable to Japanese Kobe
beef. It’s the best (and most expensive) beef you’ll
find in Thailand, aged for about 30 days, and is very
tender and full of flavour. In conclusion, the food is
some of the best quality, affordable, Western food
you’ll find in Thailand.
The house wines, both red and white and served by
carafe, are very good value for money. This is not a
cheap restaurant by Chiang Mai standards, but
considering the generous portions, the reasonably priced
wine and the sheer quality of the food, it’s wonderful
value for money. Pasta Café is on Nimmanhaeminda Road,
Soi 5, Tel. 053 357 310.
Steamed ginger egg dessert
This is a very different dish, coming originally from Japan.
It is a light and sweet dessert and the presentation of this is important, as it
is with most Japanese dishes. The strawberry can be substituted with any fruit
In a bowl mix the finely grated ginger root, sugar, sake,
two tablespoons warm water and corn flour. Stir until the
sugar has dissolved.
In another bowl beat the eggs and then whisk in the sweet
ginger mixture and then divide into four small dessert
dishes and cover each dish with aluminium foil.
Prepare the steamer with several liters of water and bring
to the boil. Place the dessert dishes in the steamer and
cover and cook for 10-12 minutes.
Remove from the steamer and remove the aluminium foil. Slice
one strawberry for each dish and place on the top of the
cooked egg mixture and add the mint leaves as garnish.
Ingredients Serves 4
Ginger root (grated)
Sugar 4 tbspns
Sake (or sherry) 3 tbspns
Corn flour 1 tbspn
Sesame oil 1 tbspn
Mint leaves 4
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