Good value eating:
by Mark Whitman
Ten recommendations…And your suggestions, please
With no seeming prospect of a high season this year in
Chiang Mai or indeed anywhere else, and not just in
Thailand, it seems that tightening belts might continue to
be the order of the day. Certainly restaurants have been
badly hit along with other areas of the tourist and
entertainment business. A few places buck the trend thanks
to a good location (think of Arco’baleno) or to a devoted
clientele or, of course, by offering exceptional value.
Many such places will attract only Thai customers or will be
modest eating places which do not really qualify for the
‘dining out’ label. What I have chosen is a selection of
just 10 restaurants which offer good overall value. This
does not mean that they are all modestly priced and cheerful
but each offers pleasant surroundings, attentive service
and, above all, good food. The order is random: though
possibly the last one on the list takes some beating for a
combination of good value and really attractive
surroundings, spoiled only by too loud music on occasion. It
is obvious that choosing fancier dishes or a bottle of wine
negates the above premise so please don’t write and tell me
that a meal at one of the following cost 600 baht a head
because it need not. I think most of those mentioned would
come in at around 150 to 350 baht (the farang suggestions
are inevitably more expensive). If you have any
recommendations please feel free…the Mail welcomes mail.
Wat Suan Dok: this impressive temple, on Suthep Road, has an
excellent vegetarian open air café, open during the day for
breakfast and lunch. The menu is wide ranging and the fruit
and other drinks especially ‘moreish’. The food is freshly
prepared and organic. Reckon on about 120-130 baht a head
for a healthy brunch.
Pasta Café on Soi 3, off Nimmenhaemeninda Road. This well
established Italian restaurant has a spacious feel to it
thanks to the adjoining garden. It has open air seating as
well as an inside air conditioned section. There are daily
specials but for real value choose one of the generous set
meals from 250 baht – but only if you have a good appetite.
Portions of all the food are large: I go for two starters.
Ney Ney, at the junction of Super Highway and Soi Taewan, is
a firm favourite of mine. It has mainly Thai customers for
no obvious reason since it is very accessible and super
value. They have good music, bright service and the food,
especially the fish and their deep fried Morning Glory and
Wing Bean Salad, is wonderful value. Reckon on 200 baht plus
with draft beer.
Café Pandau has relocated to 118/1-2 Tha Pae Road (Soi 3 Loh
Kroh) and they have extended their organic produce menu.
Open from 7.30 in the morning until late afternoon for set
breakfasts, pastas, and sandwiches with home made bread, as
well as lovely fruit and other drinks. The salads are good
too and the atmosphere is relaxed and the décor pretty.
Around 150 - 170 baht a head.
Kitchen Nimman, just opposite Hillside 4 at Fantanee Market,
Huay Kaew Road is run by Krit, an experienced and first
class Thai chef. Go for the specials on the board and for
the very fresh fish. This is a lively and friendly place to
eat in attractive surroundings with beer at very reasonable
prices. Slightly more expensive than some of those listed
but you can eat well for 250 to 300 baht a head, including
one of their delicious ice creams.
Pulcinella di Stefano. You will find this well known and old
established restaurant – one of several run by Stefano –
across the square from Thapae Gate. They do special menus
based around pasta at around 150 baht and cater for the
tourist trade. It is not especially elegant but offers a
friendly environment and plenty of decent food. Good value,
especially considering the location.
Lemongrass Thai Cuisine: I reviewed this restaurant only a
few weeks ago but think it is worth a mention again for
value and the pleasantly casual atmosphere. It has a fairly
large menu, with lots of choice and inexpensive beers and a
mixed crowd, including visitors to the Night Bazaar. Around
200 – 250 baht a head. You will find them near the Lanna
Hotel, on Loh Kroh Road.
Café de Nimman. This is just inside the area known as Rooms,
before the CMU off Nimmenhaeminda Road and, as I have said
before in these pages, for sheer consistency it has few
rivals in Chiang Mai. The menu is very extensive and there
is a main seating area outside and the smaller air
conditioned one which resembles a café inside with a small
bar area. Excellent Thai food and masses of drink options.
Around 250 baht with beer.
Taste from Heaven is one of Chiang Mai’s excellent
vegetarian restaurants that you will find at 237/239 Thapae
Road. They offer a lunch option at 99 baht. There are such
things as tofu burgers for those who want something that
‘hints’ of meat but plenty of tasty alternatives. Around 150
to 200 baht per person. Veggie food is very good in this
city and well worth trying even if you ordinarily eat fish
Sabaidee Santhitham. I reviewed this very attractive Lanna
style restaurant when it opened and after a dozen or more
visits since can see no reason to change my mind about any
comment made then. The décor is most attractive. You can go
there just for a drink at the bar or have a very good Thai
meal at around 200 baht per head, including beer. Find them
at 65 Santhitham Road, Chuang Puak and I seriously doubt
you’ll be disappointed.
This is a typical Spanish paella with chicken, pork and
seafood. Similar to the Thai khao pad talay, but the Spanish version has more
garlic, while the Thai variety has chilies.
Ingredients serves 4
Long grain rice 80 gm
Chicken breast pieces 50 gm
Pork collar butt pieces 50 gm
Squid fresh chopped 50 gm
Baby clams 50 gm
Shrimps 50 gm
Mussels 150 gm
Onion chopped 50 gm
Green bell pepper 10 gm
Green peas 10 gm
Garlic 10 gm
Parsley 20 gm
Tomato sauce 5 tbspns
Clean the mussels and
place in a shallow pan. Cover with water and bring to the boil. When
mussels are cooked (shells will be open) remove and save the stock.
In blender place parsley, garlic and some mussel stock and blend
into smooth liquid. In a large shallow fry pan, heat the olive oil
and sauté the chicken and pork until lightly brown, adding chopped
onion, capsicum, squid and baby clams and sauté briskly.
Now add the tomato sauce and rice plus two cups of mussel stock and
the blended garlic and parsley mixture. Mix thoroughly and cover and
cook on a medium heat until water evaporates (around 20 minutes).
Arrange the mussels, prawns and green peas over the top of the rice
and cover again. Cook on low heat for another 10 minutes.
Before serving place the Paella in a pre-heated oven (180 degrees)
for 10 minutes.