Three discoveries for 2009/2552 :
by Mark Whitman
To be depressingly honest, I have sensed a decline in the
standard of many restaurants in Chiang Mai over the past 12
months or so. I have been to several well known farang
places and found them so inadequate that it was impossible
to justify a review.
And I don’t mean those ghastly tourist traps such as the
‘multi-national’ venue in Loh Kroh Road or those scruffier
places in the Thapae Gate area, which live off fading
reputations and even more faded décor as they continue to
rip off passing trade. Nor even those farang restaurants
which pile indifferent food on to plates in the hope that
volume will compensate for indifferent quality. To me, that
just means even more rubbish to leave on the plates.
Rico De Rica offers Japanese sashimi.
The policy of the Mail is to leave poor restaurants to stew
in their own meager juices so I’ll move on and say that some
restaurants have maintained standards (see next week) and at
least three places which I have found this year (one I think
opened very late in 2008) are really worth recommending
again. Certainly it is has been a struggle this year and
corners are being cut, staff being let go and not replaced,
quality or ingredients suffering and owners finding that
those who eat out are spending less. Let’s hope 2010 sees a
return of some confidence and enthusiasm.
The three short reviews which follow can be supplemented by
more detailed reviews from earlier in the year (dates are
given in brackets). I have returned to them all since first
writing and see no reason to change anything. The first
listed gets my vote as ‘the best all round Thai restaurant
in Chiang Mai’. A personal opinion, of course, and one that
is open to your views. So please if you have other
favourites drop a note to the Mail and let me know.
Sabeidee Santitham (30 June, 2009). This spacious and
inexpensive Lanna style restaurant is a gem. Not only is it
one of the most attractive places to eat in the city, but it
offers pleasant service and a bar to sit at if you just
fancy a drink but most importantly it provides freshly
cooked Thai food at unbeatable prices. Not counting alcohol
(which is also priced very fairly e.g. a large Singha beer
is 75 baht) expect to pay up to 200 baht with a tip per head
for a generous meal.
Sabeidee Santitham has delicious Thai food.
Obviously one can find cheaper food; however we are not
talking about street corner eating but comfortable chairs
and decent sized tables, excellent fish, tasty soups,
delectable curries and spicy salads elegantly served by
friendly waiters. A pity that the music can, on occasion, be
a little loud and there are no puddings available, not even
an ice cream or a banana –based sweet. Even so, for all
round dining out pleasure 9.5 out of 10. Open daily at 65
Santitham Road, Chang Puak. Tel: 081 885 1329.
Gianni de Burchio (24 November, 2009). I first went here in
late October having resisted it because of the location. On
several visits with a variety of friends, both Thai and
farang, resident and visitor, I have come to the conclusion
that if you choose well this is as good as Italian food gets
in Chiang Mai – in the medium price range. There are fancier
venues (more expensive too) and one or two which have a
reputation which I am not sure they deserve but this
new(ish) is certainly equal to all its more established
They offer a buffet at 250 baht on Wednesdays and specials
based around pasta at low prices, but if you check through
the rather overlarge menu carefully you will find authentic
Italian cuisine on offer. Many ingredients are sourced from
that country and if you are looking for a treat, the ravioli
with white or black truffles is one of the best single
dishes I had last year (out of some 300 ‘dining out’ evening
meals). Ditto for the tonno con fagioli and the ice cream
(admittedly expensive at 70 baht) is surely the best in
town. The house wine is super value and with that, expect to
pay up from 400 baht a head. Open daily, including lunchtime
at Somtech Gold Place, facing Somphet Market.Tel: 053 234
Rico de Rica (15 December 2009). Any reader who remembers
the very recent review of this excellent Japanese restaurant
will recall that it offers a few Spanish tapas and other
dishes to supplement its largely Japanese menu, which
attracts a devoted following of nationals from that country
thanks to the quality of the ingredients, the clean and
elegant décor and the attentive staff.
This is not a large restaurant, with a few seats on the
terrace facing the soi and a couple of tables inside plus a
bar where one can eat or simply enjoy the superb range of
whiskeys and other drinks.
There are well over 40 dishes on offer, including, of
course, sushi and other familiar offerings. The beef is
imported from France and there are a variety of meat choices
but, unsurprisingly, it is the fish which is the ‘star’
attraction. They serve a choice of three beers and sake by
the carafe (180 baht) or bottle. By chance I and some
friends are already scheduled to visit Rico de Rica again
before the end of the year. My taste buds are already
tingling at the prospect. 5/3 Soi Five, off Nimmenhaeminda
Road. Tel: 083 863 9964.
Since this is the last column for 2009 may I say happy
eating in the coming year and as mentioned, next week’s
column will offer a list of about ten restaurants which seem
to provide consistently good food in a city which still
offers excellent choice.
Prawn in Tomato
This is a typical stir-fry, and the secret is to cook
everything quickly and lightly. Prawns in particular do not do well when
overcooked. Be sure to mix the corn flour thoroughly so no lumps are left. Some
chefs will add the tomato into the final stir-fry, but I believe it is better to
leave out and arrange the fresh tomato around the prawns and sauce just before
Ingredients serves 4
Shelled prawns 300 gm
Tomatoes (quartered) 4
Ginger, finely chopped 1
Tomato ketchup 2 tbspns
Corn flour 1 tbspn
Water 4 tbspns
Garlic, finely chopped 1 tspn
Shallot, finely chopped 2
Rice wine or Sherry 1 tbspn
Chilli sauce 1 tbspn
In a bowl place the
ketchup and corn flour, adding the water and stirring until smooth.
Heat the oil in the wok and when hot add the ginger, garlic and
shallot and quickly stir-fry. After one minute add the prawns
(de-shelled and head and tail removed) and continue quick
stir-frying for another two minutes.
Reduce the heat and add the rice wine or sherry, the chilli sauce
and the ketchup and corn flour mixture, stirring constantly until
the mixture thickens.
Place on a large platter with the tomato quarters arranged around
the outside. Serve with steamed rice.
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