Tawan at the Centara Duangtawan Hotel: by Mark Whitman

Busy restaurant bucks the trend in the city centre

During the past year I have remarked here and in Life in Chiang Mai on the lack of business in hotels, restaurants, shops and entertainment venues. How then can one explain the success of the Tawan restaurant on the second floor of this large hotel? Partly, of course, because of the location near the night bazaar and also the fact that the hotel itself is unusually busy.
Even so, a regular turnover of 250 customers and twice that number at the weekends is worth investigating as I did on a recent Saturday evening where they have a lavish buffet. This is also offered on Friday evenings and Sunday lunchtimes. On other evenings there is an a la carte menu (Thai) in operation.
At the weekends the food on offer (there are at least 50 dishes so please do not expect a full list!) is mainly Japanese, plus Thai, Chinese and Korean in about that order. Plus a cooking station (I tried the sea food flambe with Thai herbs) and a large section of desserts, including excellent ice cream.
The pricing is kept simple with four options, based on the buffet. The most popular is at 310 baht with tea and mineral water. You can opt for the food with a glass of wine or with sake at 450 or as we did with free flow draft Singha beer (490), all subject to plus plus.
The appeal of the restaurant seems to be in the relaxed atmosphere, the range of food and the fact that there is plenty of it, freshly offered on a non stop basis. Many tables were in large groups and the eatery is obviously catering successfully for a niche market, mainly of Thais. As I remarked in a recent column, Japanese food is very popular here and this venue has been running for some four years with increasing success. They also have a Chinese restaurant on the top floor with panoramic views of the city. But this I cannot vouch for.
Having reviewed five Japanese restaurant this year out of a total (I guess ) of over 40, I look forward to finding another quintet in 2010. What has been interesting has been the wide variation in style between Asahi, Tengoku de Cuisine, the Tsunami and Rico de Rica and the latest.
There seems to be no end of choice in Chiang Mai, but in this last ‘conventional’ column of the year may I ask for your suggestions or recommendations for next year. Next week my three favourite discoveries of 2009 and a handful of others which have remained consistently good throughout the same period. Meanwhile you can find Tawan restaurant open each day for lunch and dinner at the Centara Duangtawan Hotel, near the Night Bazaar.


Garlic and Lime Potato Wedges

Potato wedges are a very popular family dish. They are also good to serve with pre-dinner drinks, but this recipe adds just a little something more to the oven fried potato, with the addition of garlic and lime.

Ingredients                           serves4- 6
Small potatoes, cut into wedges          750 gm
Garlic finely chopped                           1 clove
Extra virgin olive oil                            3 tbspns
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Lime                                                           1
Parmesan cheese, grated                 1/3rd cup
Coriander chopped as garnish

Cooking Method
Preheat oven to 375, oven racks in the middle.
In a medium bowl toss the potato wedges with the olive oil, the chopped garlic, a few big pinches of sea salt and a liberal sprinkling of black pepper. Arrange the potatoes cut side down on a baking sheet. Place in the oven for 30-35 minutes, turning the potatoes with a metal spatula half way through.
While the potatoes are baking, squeeze the lime and set the juice aside.
When the potatoes are cooked through, remove them from the oven, taste, and adjust the seasoning. Add more salt and pepper to taste. Serve in a big shallow bowl, sprinkle the Parmesan and coriander over them and drizzle with the lime juice and present immediately to the guests.