Making you an offer you can’t refuse

Mark Whitman
There’s something reassuring about ‘fine’ dining in a well-run restaurant, where all the elements needed for that experience fuse in an unostentatious oasis of calm and civility. For a couple of hours hedonism rules and the noisy outside world is held at bay. Nowhere, that I know of in Chiang Mai, trumps The House for just that experience. The key is in its lack of ‘showing off’. If you’ve got IT, then unlike the character in The Producers, there’s no need to flaunt it.
I reviewed this restaurant enthusiastically about a year ago, and apart from a ‘make- over’ of the ground level dining room little has changed, except for some developments in the main menu. They are about to start work on the private dining room and the ‘lounge area’ upstairs, but the adjoining Ginger & Kafe is still going strong and the tapas menu is available. Adjoining the bar area is a smart new design shop, Nomad. None of this affects the actual dining room, so why another review if the overall concept had not altered?
It’s simply that they have responded to the low (low!) season by introducing monthly specials. The current one has just ten days to run, although from August 1 we are promised a new one and possibly some ‘extras’ in the way of drinks. The July set menu offers four courses, plus tea or coffee and a choice of red or white wine at just 900 baht, including tax but subject to a 10 per cent service charge.
I’m aware that around a thousand baht a head is above the norm for the great majority of us who enjoy dining out, but, should you not have visited The House, this is a chance to enjoy a full scale meal there at more modest cost. Naturally the excellent a la carte menu continues and you can take your own wine with a corkage charge of 300 baht.
As mentioned, this menu is set, offering only a choice between fish or meat as the main course. If I have one criticism to make, it is the lack of choice in the second course, which is soup. This is purely personal but I would have enjoyed the chance of a salad at this point, which is less filling before a substantial main dish. I doubt whether a choice at this stage as well would tax the kitchen too much.
On this visit, I and my friend and occasional photographer Neil (he of Bridge to Paradise note), were presented with the special offering, tartare of tuna, soup, either pork or red snapper, then panna cotta with raspberry coulis, tea or coffee. The red and white wines by the glass were from the Argentine.
The menu is deliberately listed rather starkly, since it seems attractive enough to stand on its own, as both balanced and interesting. The excitement as always is in the detail. It was preceded by a variety of breads and rolls, accompanied by two contrasted dips and some herb butter. Mineral water was served with an amuse bouche of seared tuna - excellent.
The tartare, looking elegantly lonely, came perched on a large and gleaming white plate and was a classic of it kind: the finely chopped raw fish, mixed with equally fine onion and peppers in a spiky dressing that, together with the salt and lemon, effectively ‘cooks’ it. The pumpkin soup was generously served, piping hot and was lush, creamy and rather filling. We had both opted for the breaded snapper and the cut of whiter-than-white fish was properly cooked so that it was moist and flaky but well heated through. It rested on a bed of spinach, with scalloped potatoes around it. The sweet panna cotta, drizelled with the slightly sharp sauce, rounded off the meal before the option of tea or coffee.
The white wine we chose was a Chardonnay, served lightly chilled rather than cold, which went perfectly with the starters. Now I have to be honest and tell you that the meal was further enhanced by the generosity of Neil who had brought along a full-bodied Chilean: a Cabernet Sauvignon, to be precise. This saw us through the meal including the arrival of a stunning chocolate cake.
When the talented guitarist moved into Happy Birthday, I glanced around to see who was the celebrant, only to find three charming, singing waiters heading in my direction, with a cake bearing a mercifully discreet single candle. Heavenly. Both the choir and the cake! And only a couple of days early…
As you’ll gather, the meal was special throughout, but that alone might not elicit a glowing review, especially without the extra wine and pudding. However, let’s add that the service is impeccable: friendly and solicitous though never intrusive. The room is one of the most attractive and comfortable dining areas in the City, with good sized tables, well spaced and subtle though no longer dim, (a slight fault before the redecoration), lighting. There are smart artefacts, enhancing the ‘mock library’ style.
The music is provided by the resident classical guitarist and contributes to the relaxed mood. Given all of the above, plus the central location and the parking area in the grounds, The House offers a rare combination of convenience and elegance. The present specials add exceptional value as well. And although I have not sampled it, since I am not a ‘lunch person’, you could alternatively try the next door Ginger & Kafe for their midday special of Thai food at 300 baht if you prefer to eat during the day.
You’ll find them, (and Nomad), at 199 Moonmuang Road, only a few hundred yards from Thapae Gate. Telephone contact is 053 419 014 and the main restaurant opens at 7p.m.


Scrambled eggs - pure and simple

It is amazing just how many recipes there are for scrambled eggs, and whilst adding cheese, onion, ham, bacon and countless other ingredients may sound enticing, nothing beats a nicely cooked, fluffy scrambled egg.

Ingredients       Serves three
Eggs large         6
Low-fat milk       6 tspns
Salt                   3 dashes
Butter                1 tbspn

Cooking Method
Heat a large non-stick frying pan to a setting just above medium.
In large mixing bowl, whisk the eggs with the milk and salt. Beat vigorously for two minutes.
Melt the butter in the frying pan. As the very last of the butter is liquefying, add the egg mixture.
As the egg mixture begins to cook, break up the larger pieces with a wooden spatula and push towards the center of the pan.
When there is no more runny mixture, allow the eggs to cook 15 to 25 seconds longer and serve. Add salt and pepper to taste.
By the way, you can use soy milk instead of low fat milk, and a pinch of baking soda will make the scrambled eggs even more fluffy.