Asahi - Japanese restaurant near the Night Bazaar: by Mark Whitman

There are dozens of Japanese eating places throughout the city, ranging from the ultra smart Tengoku, opposite the Mandarin Oriental, through to several in the Airport Plaza alone and many local and small, though excellent, places such as Tsunami, opposite Chiang Mai University on Huay Kaew Road.
Surely it must be the cuisine, alongside Italian, which comes after Thai as the most popular in Chiang Mai. No doubt someone will tell me that Chinese also belongs high up on the list but personally I have yet to find more than a couple of good examples here: they certainly seem less ubiquitous. Chinese food seems to have lost its popularity in the U.K. and maybe elsewhere, perhaps because of excessive use of MSG.
Even if you don’t know the restaurant under review – Asahi – you may well know the Japanese beer of the same name, and may well have eaten at other Asahi venues, either at Suvarnhabumi Airport or as far away as the U.S.A. and elsewhere. This one is decidedly nearer to us and can be found towards the top end (not far from the Chedi) of Sri Don Chai Road, with the Night Bazaar to the left and the French Consulate to the right.

Asahi sits somewhere in the middle price range for Japanese eateries in Chiang Mai and as you will know it is far from the cheapest food available, dependent as it is on ultra fresh ingredients and – at its best – super quality fish and meat. Even so, it need not break the bank balance and at Asahi they boast around 100 different dishes, with many at 80 to 120 baht.
It is an authentic example of the innumerable, very functional, restaurants to be found in its home country, though, thankfully, without the intrusive televisions which abound in those offering faster service. Asahi is spotlessly clean and offers good quality food in highly colourful and rather brightly little surroundings, with a somewhat Spartan feel to the tables and surroundings, reminiscent of a very up market canteen.
There are about 30 covers inside and a further handful on the little ‘patio’ outside facing the busy street. They also offer a private room for between six and 10 people. There is a sushi bar on the right as you enter with the red topped tables mainly to the left and a couple on the right past the counter.
I’ve visited it a number of times and always enjoyed the food. For me it is a good stopping off place for an early meal before the screenings at Alliance Francaise on Friday nights. One can park the car at the Consulate, wander back (a five minute walk) and still be in time for the 8 p.m. performance, with the pleasant service being utterly reliable but not over effusive.
Along with the many food choices, there is also a comprehensive drinks menu. Asahi beer of course but others including Singha (90 baht for a large bottle) are available along with imported vodkas and Sake: the former served ice cold and the latter ideally warm. They also sell wines, which I have never sampled, soft drinks and naturally Japanese teas, which I consider the best in the world.
Like other Asian cuisines, it is best shared. You might go for some sushi, freshly prepared, perhaps with a seafood topping or wrapped in nori seaweed. Or the tuna on sushi rice (80 baht). A particular favourite of mine is the fillet of salmon in salt and soy, cooked to perfection (120 baht). There is also raw salmon on rice, served in a bowl at 240 baht and other raw, finely cut white fish and tuna. There are soups, vegetable dishes, including simply served and delicious asparagus, grilled in butter plus tempura and other familiar choices.
All of the food is nicely presented on small dishes, with plenty of soy, shredded ginger and wassabee served on the side. It is difficult to suggest a price level, which depends so much on choice and quantity and, naturally, alcohol consumption. Between 300 and 500 baht with a beer and service would be a fair guide. Remember this is high protein good quality food and that does not seem unreasonable. You will find Asahi at 98/2 Sri Don Chai Road and they open from 5 p.m. every day. They also do home deliveries. Their ‘phone numbers are 053 275 323 or 084 150 0966.


Barbecued Citrus Garlic Prawns

Prawns are plentiful. Citrus is available all year round. And here’s a very easily prepared and quick dish (ready in 15 minutes - 10 minutes preparation and 5 minutes cooking, but don’t forget the one hour marinade) as an appetizer for up to 12 guests.
This is an easy marinade for prawns, delicious and succulent cooked on the barbecue.

Ingredients                serves 6
Olive oil                           125ml
Dijon mustard                  1 tbspn
Garlic, crushed                3 cloves
Juice of                          1 lemon
Juice of                          1 orange
Dried basil                      1 tspn, or to taste
White wine (optional)       2 tbspns
Tiger or king prawns         30 uncooked

Cooking Method
Shell the prawns and remove the heads, tails and the vein from the spine cutting down with a small knife. In a glass dish, mix together the olive oil, mustard, garlic, lemon juice, orange juice, basil and white wine. Add the prawns, and stir to coat. Place in a Ziploc bag and let marinate for 1 hour in the refrigerator, turning once.
Heat barbecue to high heat.
Thread prawns on to skewers that have been soaking in water for 20 minutes and cook on barbecue for 3 to 5 minutes, turning once, until they turn pink.