Charming and inexpensive Italian – Thai Restaurant

By Brian Baxter

Entering the Oregano one immediately has a sense of welcome, well being and optimism. True appearances can be deceptive and the bottom line is going to be was the food good and was it fairly priced? Well to answer those points briefly. Yes and yes: in fact, not just good but very good and excellent value. More of that later along with details of the location etc.

The approach to the restaurant is off Canal Road into a leafy area called Nandakwang Garden Mall, which also boasts a Thai restaurant, some houses and offices. You’ll find Oregano directly facing you on the ground level of a spacious modern house, with the kitchen to the right of the dining area. There is a verandah with a seating area for those wanting to dine al fresco.

Inside the restaurant there is seating for about 24 people, with sturdy, reasonably spaced tables for two, four or six people. The actual room is delightful. With its very high ceiling and long stemmed fans. The walls are a creamy white and the whole sense is of freshness – and dare I say this, especially in print? –proclaiming a woman’s touch; pretty pottery and filled jars on a white dresser, exceptional cleanliness and pleasant background music complete the picture.

I could not help thinking of the contrast to a Hong Kong style eatery which I went to for a review only the week before and could find nothing to recommend, with its dingy room, clattering tables on bare boards and greasy food. At Oregano I was immediately predisposed to enjoy the evening and the menu completed the sense of anticipation.

It is clearly printed on loose leaf pages (in Thai and English) and divided into simple choices: appetizers, various tapas, pastas, pizzas, a limited choice of Thai dishes, vegetarian options and a small selection of desserts. Plus the drinks pages: soft options, various beers (Chang at 60 baht, Singha at 80 baht) and red or white wine by the glass (70 baht) or by the bottle.

We settled for a glass of white wine with the starters: a generous portion of home made chicken liver pate for my Thai friend and some grilled pumpkin and baby tomatoes for me, served with a little bowl of balsamic vinegar. With these came half a dozen small warm rolls which were absolutely delicious. The pate was exceptionally tasty and the vegetables ditto. Both were a snip at 75 baht. Water, by the way, comes ‘free’ and is served in carafes.

For the mains we each went for a pasta; vongole for Song and for me a favourite – spaghetti with olive oil, garlic and chili. Sensible portions cooked al dente and accompanied by a glass of the very drinkable house red. We finished by sharing a vanilla ice cream with a shot of espresso poured over it. The total bill for two came in at exactly 600 baht: amazing value for the quality of the food and wine. A real find, so a thank you to the knowledgeable friend who recommended it.

Oregano has a distinctly ‘home made’ feel to it. The rolls, I imagine, baked on the premises and the nice choice of puddings also prepared on the premises not bought in. These were limited to ice cream, panna cotta with a strawberry coulis and a chocolate mud pie. The six or so Thai dishes were also limited in number and concentrated on food that can be pre prepared such as a massaman curry and other non ‘stir fry’ options. Very sensible. The result is a menu which appeals to a range of Thai and farang customers. The atmosphere is relaxed and friendly, but reasonably stylish. They close quite early so make sure you phone beforehand if you want to arrive much after 8p.m.

Oregano is open six days a week (closed Mondays) for lunch and dinner; 11- 2p.m. and from 5p.m. until 9p.m. for last orders. Tel: 089 759 2992. You will find the restaurant at the Nandakwang Garden Mall, 99/8 Kongcholpratan Road, Suthep. To get there from either Huay Kaew Road or Suthep Road, turn left into Canal Road and drive until you see the large modern B2 Hotel on the right (this was formerly the Best Western). Make a U turn immediately after the hotel and pass it going back into the city. The Mall is the first turning on the left and is well sign posted.


Larb Gai

Larb originates from North Eastern Thailand (Isaan). It can tend to be a very fiery dish, as most Isaan dishes are, but this recipe is “mai pet” (not hot). Larb may be prepared as beef, chicken or fish. The recipe presented here is for chicken and is noteworthy in the fact that the “crunchiness” and tartness of traditional Larb were still present despite the lack of fire.

Ingredients              Serves 2-3
Minced Chicken (chopped fine) 200 gm
Onion diced small                            1
Shallots chopped                    1 tbspn
Dry-fried rice                         2 tbspns
Lemongrass                           1 tbspn
Fish sauce                             1 tbspn
Lemon juice                             1 tspn
Chilli powder                           1 pinch
Coriander finely chopped          1 tbspn
Mint leaves chopped              4 tbspns
Water                                   3 tbspns

Cooking Method

Dry-fry rice in a pan or roast in oven till golden brown. Grind it or pound it coarsely with mortar and pestle.

Cook the chopped chicken in a non-stick pan over a low heat with the fish sauce and lemon grass and water, stirring to separate the chicken meat.

Add lemon juice, onion, shallots, coriander and mint leaves and toss gently. Sprinkle in ground rice and toss again. Check the seasoning, adding more fish sauce or lemon juice to suit and serve. Garnish with coriander and dill on the top. Serve with steamed jasmine rice.