A Tale of three restaurants:

Very recently I had reason to visit three different ‘up-market’ eating places within a few days:The first was The House (International), the second Gianni da Burchio (Italian) and the last The Gallery (Thai with more than a nod to the west). This rather person article reports on a brief culinary odyssey and the outcome.

The first dinner was at the invitation of a friend who was about to set off on an enviable trip to visit her children in various attractive parts of the world. The House was selected because it is civilised, calm (the background music is provided by a talented classical guitarist) and the farang- fusion menu is short and to the point and supplemented by tapas and Thai options.

In fact, we shared a couple of tapas as starters and just to complete the picture I had taken along a sturdy Argentinean red wine and paid the corkage (300 baht) and 200 baht for a glass of very palatable Sauvignon Blanc as an aperitif. The point of that is to emphasise that the three course meal (with service, mineral water and breads and dips) was costed minus alcohol. It came to exactly 1500 baht and given the quantity and quality of the food, the charming and attentive service and the elegant ambiance represented good value in such a super setting.

Our meal comprised the tapas – fish cakes and salmon – the latter in small delicious chunks in soy sauce, rather rich and both very filling – one would have been enough!

The mains were sea bass with mashed potatoes and vegetables and grilled snapper with baked root vegetables and potatoes. We managed a single scoop each of superior ice cream. The quality of the ingredients was first class, with the fish perfectly cooked and the root vegetables, including beetroot a highlight of the meal. The service was faultless and the room is decorated with such style and panache that it has to be the nicest in town. The music adds the perfect final touch.

The House is at 199 Moonmuang Road. Tel: 053 419 001 and is adjoining Ginger Caf้ and design shops.

The second dinner was for three people, including a guest, a Swiss banker, whose affairs are none of my business but whose profession is – one might say – the talk of the town. He asked for Italian food and we went to what has become, during its year of business, my favourite farang restaurant in the city – Gianni da Burchio.

Our guest generously insisted on choosing and paying for the wine and with the guidance of Gianni returned with a superb and rather rare red wine, from the region about 15 kms from the chef’s home town. The bill for a very substantial meal, with several bottles of water, a selection of breads and service came to exactly the same per head as the previous restaurant. Once again this did not include alcohol and in fact that luscious red cost rather more than the food combined.

Our meal comprised three starters: rocket salad, cherry tomatoes with aged balsamic vinegar and cheese shavings, imported beef carpaccio with salad, and a vast Caprese with buffalo mozzarella. Then ravioli with half portion each of white and black truffles, a pasta with a rich tomato sauce and Italian sausages and a final pasta with mushrooms. Our wine – providing guest moved on to saltimbocca with saut้ed potatoes, while we rested. He ended with a tiramisu and we opted for the vanilla and coffee ice creams: small scoops but for me the best around. Our patron brought us a wonderfully light omelet with truffles mid way through the meal.

As remarked, the food was the same price but the style is very different. The service is fine, but altogether more ‘homely’. The room is more conventional and the music piped. But the food is absolutely first rate and it is, of course, possible to eat less indulgently and much less expensively, which is not really an option at the more stylish venue. At Gianni’s the house wine is just 350 a litre and perfectly drinkable and you can even have a good pizza. It’s a matter of mood and preference and occasion. Gianni da Burchio is at Somptech Gold Place, off the moat. Tel: 053 234 003.

And so to my last ‘fancy’ dining experience; here there were four of us and at The Gallery, including a perfectly adequate bottle of Merlot (Italian), lots of water and garlic and other breads and service came in at very slightly less than the previous two (but with booze) and was parted with rather more reluctantly. The food was not the problem: portions were generous and one farang friend said that his main soup and main course was one of the best meals he had eaten in Chiang Mai. The problem was in the service and lack lustre atmosphere as though the restaurant – once garlanded with awards – has now lost its way and is trading on a past reputation.

Our meal comprised for my Thai friend and me, roasted bell peppers with olive oil followed by grilled fish with spicy sauce and stir fried morning glory and rice. Our companions each went for a ‘set’ dinner of asparagus soup and then grilled salmon and mashed potatoes. One pudding of chocolate ‘cake’ and ice cream was truly excellent.

The service was rather chaotic and one waitress, though charming and willing, had obviously no training. A fact noted by the manager who kept a wary distance. Our morning glory came with the peppers and so long was the fish in arriving that it had to be returned and reheated. The mood of the place – compared with say the lively nearby Riverside Restaurant – is simply rather dull and the whole experience perfunctory. Nothing that could possibly justify 200 baht for morning glory with garlic was apparent during the evening. It was a classic case of potential not being realised. The Gallery is at Charoenrat Road, facing the river. Tel: 053 248 601.

Next week I’ll be reviewing an out of town dining (and resort) experience.


Parmesan Pork Chops

Pork, the ‘other white meat’, is cheap and plentiful, but this does not mean that pork dishes should be boring. There are many ways to spice up your pork dinners, without throwing a handful of chilies in the wok! This recipe uses Parmesan cheese, and you can add a chopped clove of garlic if you would like more of a Mediterranean flavor.

Ingredients                     Serves 3-4
Coarse bread crumbs                       1 cup
Parmesan cheese (grated)             3tbspns
Salt                                               tspn
Ground black pepper to taste
Eggs                                          1 beaten
Milk                                           2 tbspns
Pork chops (fat trimmed away)               6

Vegetable oil                               3 tbspns

Cooking Methodd
Combine bread crumbs, cheese, salt, and pepper in one bowl. Mix egg and milk in another bowl.
Coat the chops with the seasoned crumbs, dip in the egg mixture and back into the breadcrumbs to coat.
Cover the bottom of the baking pan with oil. Place chops in pan, cover and bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes. Turn and bake 30 minutes more.
Serve with steamed rice or potato.