Nine Lives: by Mark Whitman

Atmospheric Japanese- Thai Restaurant near Chang Puak

This charming and characterful little soi restaurant is mainly ‘Japanese’, with a dash of Thai. But don’t expect the ubiquitous tempura and sushi and other standards, the menu is more original (and far cheaper) than many eating places claiming this cuisine. It is easily found in the soi just past the Jiffy (formerly Jet) garage on the left, heading from Huay Kaew Road before you reach Chang Puak market and main road. Further details below.
The immediately noticeable thing about Nine Lives, along with the cat motif, is the unpretentious and cosy atmosphere which strikes one on entering. There are paintings and photographs on the walls along with notices. The wooden benches and chairs are at large and solid tables. There is a bar to the left and a table inside the door with information leaflets, including details of their own activities.
The attractive but not intrusive background music (modern jazz and similar) reflects the casual air and is a welcome contrast to the over-loud level of some (even good) restaurants. I don’t wish to suggest that this is an amateur night out, far from it. The staff is welcoming and prompt and the menu is clearly laid out (including many photographs) and the prices exceptionally reasonable. If you stick to the freely given mineral water expect to pay around 150 baht a head for a plentiful and tasty meal.
I originally went at the instigation of this paper’s Bridge correspondent and was pleased at the recommendation since, although it is easy to find, it is just as easily missed being tucked in a small soi that one tends to pass by in a car or on a motor cycle. I went first with my Thai partner and again later with another Thai, both of whom approved.
On the first occasion we opted for drinks (which sent up the price, though not markedly so). We had Singha beer (50 baht), which I prefer to the rather dry Asahi from Japan. There are also other beers on offer, along with cocktails, spirits and soft drinks and tea or coffee. Given the choice we went for a carafe of warm sake (170 baht for 250 cc.) and very good it was too.
Our food came in pleasant fits and starts, neither rushed nor dilatory: first to arrive was a little dish of fried strips of mushroom. Now I must say that I do not enjoy these edible fungi when they are lightly cooked, finding the slippery texture unpalatable. But here they were crispy and rather chewy – and very’ moreish’. They and the next up dish of Wabane (seaweed salad) were each 50 baht and made delightfully contrasted ‘starters’.
Our main meal comprised rice wrapped in a light omelet. Mine was plain, my friend’s with chicken and both were very substantial – one would be enough for two moderate eaters. With them we had a spicy dish of stir- fried morning glory with garlic and chili (50 baht), a plate of little sprat-like fish and a somewhat larger grilled fish. This feast with a tip came in at just 600 for two. As you’ll see half of this was accounted for by the accompanying alcohol.
Everything was freshly cooked to order and a couple of choices were made from the daily specials, listed on a little blackboard. The service was very friendly and attentive. Nine Lives is not large and seems to cater for people who drop in for a casual meal or just for a drink at the bar.
On Wednesdays they have live music with two different programmes; one starting at 7 p.m. and the second an hour later. There are also infrequent film screenings and discussions, which are advertised in advance, The most recent - a 40-minute movie, attended by the director, was on September 9th so I guess another will be scheduled soon. These are free.
Nine Lives seeks to be an easy going dining out experience as well as a local meeting place. On the Sunday evening I first went it was quiet and I would imagine that it has a regular clientele. It deserves to be better known and was a little busier on a later weekday. Certainly I can see it becoming a regular eating venue for food that is just slightly out of the ordinary and exceptional value.
You will find them at 242/14 Manee Nopparat road. T. Sriphum. A. Muang Chiang Mai 50200. As mentioned above, the lane is quite small and is on the left facing the moat as you head in to town from the end of Huay Kaew Road, a few hundred metres down and immediately past the large Jiffy petrol station. Telephone 053-404-455.


Nam Sod (Thai Spicy Pork Salad)

This week’s recipe is a traditional Thai salad. It is a spicy salad, but you can decrease the amount of chilies if desired. Great with cold beer!

Ingredients                              Serves 6
Ground pork very lean                2 cups
Salt                                          1 tspn
Ginger finely chopped                 1 tspn
Lime juice                                  6 tbspns
Roasted peanuts                        cup
Chopped red onions                    cup
Red chilies coarsely chopped     1 tbspn
Lettuce and cabbage leaves, washed and dried

Cooking Method
Combine ground pork, salt and lime juice. Place in a piece of clean and moderately dampened muslin or cheesecloth. Squeeze many times to extract as much liquid from the pork as possible. Reserve this pork liquid in a saucepan and simmer over low heat until only about three tablespoons remain. Add the ground pork and cook just until it is no longer pink.
Remove from the heat and sprinkle peanuts, ginger, onions and chilies. Toss together lightly and set aside. Arrange lettuce and cabbage leaves in a serving dish and spoon the pork salad into the center. Serve immediately as an appetizer with the lettuce and cabbage leaves.