Rico de Rica: by Mark Whitman

Japanese Restaurant with some Spanish influences

When one of the best chefs in Chiang Mai (Marco of Chez Marco) recommended Rico de Rica to me I knew that, at the very least, it would be worth a visit. That is something of an understatement. This small and stylish eating place is worth marking off as a regular dining out venue. It is basically Japanese but with an intriguing dash of Spanish ‘fusion’ in the menu: an unusual combination.You will find it at the Nimmenhaemen end of Soi 5, about a hundred metres down on the left.
By chance, shortly after I had eaten there for this review I met an American friend who lives in one of the splendid town houses at the bottom of this pleasant soi and when I mentioned the restaurant he said with a certain satisfaction, “Oh, yes a wonderful place, one of the best kept secrets in Chiang Mai’. I consoled myself with the thought that even a so-called ‘guide’ to restaurants can’t know every place in town. It is fairly ‘new’ and already popular. The friendly owner told me that well over half of his customers are Japanese (a good sign in itself), with the rest mixed between local Thais and farang and a number of tourists.
The restaurant has all of the qualities I look for in a dining out recommendation: excellent food, attractively presented, a welcoming ambience and efficient service good value and an accessible location. Many places can boast two or three of these, this has all four plus that indefinable extra – charm.
As the heading notes, the menu is primarily Japanese, but there is a welcome not too obtrusive extra in the form of Spanish tapas and other European influences: for example the beef sashimi uses meat imported from France. The drinks menu is also cleverly thought out. There are just three types of beer on offer, Asahi dry from Japan, along with Singha beer and Heineken (average 75 baht).You can have sake by the bottle or in a small carafe (180 baht) and there is a modest selection of wines at very sensible prices. Apart from non alcoholic drinks there is also a special section devoted to superior whiskeys (mostly malts) from Japan, Scotland and North America. These, too, are sensibly priced given the quality. The whole feeling of the restaurant smacks of intelligent planning and thought, which is a welcome change from the slapdash attitude of many restaurants one visits.
The actual restaurant is quite small. There is a terrace at the top of a few steps with seating for about a dozen or more people and accommodation for another 20 inside, plus a sushi bar to the rear. The décor is attractive and the tables a decent size. The tableware has that simple elegance we associate with this cuisine.
So far so good. And, most importantly, the food is top class and the prices more than reasonable. When I think of the cost at some of the ‘rivals’ in town (those overlit commercial outlets in Airport Plaza for example) I know that the 40 or 50 dishes on offer here represent exceptional value. The sushi tapas (Japanese or Spanish) are around 80 baht depending on the choice and they wonderfully fresh and come in generous portions of about eight or nine pieces. These are daintily served with ginger and wasabi on the plate and a little bowl of soy sauce on the side. Nothing unusual there perhaps but it is a nice ‘start’ to the proceedings.
Naturally beef is not the only sashimi and the tuna is priced at 220 baht. Grilled pork and spare ribs are served with a Sicilian Barsamico sauce and there are an abundance of fish dishes on offer. These include grilled salmon and the lightest deep fried prawns I have ever tasted. There are soups, including Miso, and salads plus many other choices, which make me look forward to another visit soon. The unusually named Rico de Rica is open daily (except Mondays) from 5:30 pm until 11pm. 5/3 Soi 5 Nimmenhaemen Road. Tel: 053 213 121 or mobile 083 863 9964.


Honey Mustard Chicken

Chicken breast is one of the most nutritious, easily prepared ingredients in the home kitchen. The Honey Mustard gives the flavor to this dish. The addition of the garlic just heightens the flavors. If you want to give it an “Asian” flavor, sprinkle with chopped coriander before serving. An ideal main item for a dinner party at home.

Ingredients                                 serves 6
Butter                                                   1 tbspn
Olive oil                                                 1 tbspn
Chicken breast halves skinless/boneless          6
Sour cream                                               1 cup
Milk                                                       1/3 cup
Honey mustard                                     2 tbspns
Garlic crushed                                       2 cloves
Green onions chopped                              ˝ cup
Ground black pepper                           as garnish

Cooking Method
In a large skillet or even the wok, over medium heat, melt butter with olive oil until it begins to sizzle; add chicken breasts. Cook over medium high heat, turning once, for about 15 minutes or until chicken is browned and fork tender.
Remove chicken from skillet; set aside. In the same wok add sour cream, milk, garlic and the honey mustard. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until sauce is smooth and heated through. Pour sauce over chicken, garnish with green onions, sprinkle ground black pepper liberally over them and add coriander if desired.