Tsunami; popular Japanese Restaurant and Sushi Bar: by Mark Whitman

Given the large number of Japanese living in Chiang Mai, it is no surprise that they are well catered for in terms of restaurants and other necessities of life – including golf. There is even a golf equipment shop named The Samurai opposite Central, Kad Suan Kaew and many people, not just Japanese, will have enjoyed the recent Lanna- Japanese Festival.
Go, too, into the Ring Ping Supermarket near Airport Plaza (and incidentally the Japanese consulate and the Far Eastern University) and you will find a mouth watering range of Japanese food, not to mention a fabulous selection of Sake. Just how many restaurants there are in Chiang Mai offering their cuisine I don’t know but they range from the little hole in the wall variety through to the plush Tengoku de Cuisine with everything in between, including several in Airport Plaza alone. If you locate a copy of the Dining Guide (available free and updated every two months) there is centre page spread and map showing some 35 places, nearly half of which are concentrated in the Huay Kaew Road area. There is even one on the ground floor of the Condotel in which I live, a building very popular with the Japanese, many of whom seem inseparable from their golf bags.
Although I’ve enjoyed three (working) visits to that extraordinary country, I would certainly not claim to be any sort of authority on either their food or culture, and like many people I lapse into the usual clichés: one that it will be expensive, second that it is based around sushi, tempura and fish (plus expensive steak) and third that it is famous for freshness and quality. Like all such generalizations there is some truth behind them. But it certainly does not need to be expensive, nor does it begin and end with those moreish sushi. True, freshness and quality ingredients are crucial but then this is true of all food, although with some national foods this may be ‘compensated’ for by very slow cooking and diligent use of strong spices and seasonings.
Having said all the above I might as well contradict one assumption: namely that these many restaurants actually cater for the Japanese ex-pats and long term visitors. In fact Japanese food is immensely popular with Thais and the restaurant under review is packed with locals. On my most recent visit (with a Thai) I was, I think, the only farang there and there seemed to be less than a handful of Japanese in the whole place.
Tsunami has expanded considerably over the past couple of years and at around 8p.m. you may even have to wait a short while to get a table, despite the fact that they can now accommodate around 70 people at a combination of the sushi bar at the front and the two rooms with benches for four and six to the rear. At the bar you will be able to watch the chef dexterously creating sushi and this may be the best seating if you are alone. Inside, the clientele seems mainly young, students or office workers (though that may be just a sign of age on my part) and can be noisy. It is very much an ‘eat and go’ environment, so any wait is short. The service is efficient, polite and quite rapid if only because some of the dishes are pre-prepared and some are naturally uncooked. Sharing is certainly the best option and if you want a healthy, tasty and quite quick meal then Tsunami is perfect. Expect to pay a couple of hundred baht a head with modest drinking.
In short a busy, affordable restaurant, where – oddly – they serve only Thai beers and none from Japan and no sake or other spirits or wine, although there are plenty of soft drink options which seem more popular with the young customers. This is, compared to the bright, breezy and overlit venues in Airport Major, a much more attractive environment in which to eat. It has the leisurely or characterful feel of Nine Lives, but is still a ‘local’ eatery. Most of the dishes are priced between 50 and 90 baht and you will find delicious sashimi, a wide range of sushi, excellent grilled salmon and so on. With a large Singha beer between us our bill came in at 450 baht including a tip. Not expensive for a good selection of ultra tasty good quality food. You will find Tsunami Sushi bar at 8/19 Huay Kaew Road, which is about 200 metres up from the big junction with Canal Road. They are next to the Acer offices and it is a brightly lit, busy place spilling over to the pavement. Phone: 087 1899 338.


Thai-style Spanish Garlic Prawns

Garlic prawns are generally thought of as a Spanish dish, and is the type of food that everyone in the party has to have, with the pungent and all pervasive odour of garlic! This variation is interesting, as the addition of the coriander seems to take some of the pungency away – particularly of the “next day” variety.
Many brands of fish sauce are available at our local supermarkets, but I recommend the Tiparos brand as having a cleaner taste than some of the cheaper ones.

Ingredients              serves 4
Garlic, crushed                  8 cloves
Coriander root minced       2 tbspns
Fish sauce                       2 tbspns
Brown sugar                     2 tbspns
White pepper                      ½ tspn
Prawns, shelled de-veined  500 gms
Oil for frying

Cooking Method
Remove the shells, heads and tails from the prawns and de-vein. Prepare a marinade by mixing together the crushed cloves of garlic (best accomplished by hitting the clove with the flat side of a Chinese chopper), the minced coriander root, fish sauce, brown sugar and pepper. Add the prawns and leave to marinate for one hour.
In the wok, heat 2 tablespoons of cooking oil, add the prawns and their marinade and stir-fry for 3-4 minutes until the prawns are just pink. Stir in the juice of a lemon and serve immediately in four small crockery soup bowls, pouring the liquid equally over each one.