EATING OUT & KHUN OCHA'S COOKBOOK
 

Giorgio Italian Restaurant

By Brian Baxter

Early next year this restaurant will be celebrating ten years in business. You might say that a decade is not a great time span, but in terms of Chiang Mai and the volatility of the catering trade it’s a very long time indeed: all the more so because Giorgio’s has remained consistently popular and only a couple of years ago opened a second venue not far from its Chang Klan Road original. I have not actually been to that restaurant but will report on it some time in the near future.

The tone of Giorgio is – unsurprisingly – resolutely Italian; not just in the menu which is ‘classic’ but in the whole feel of the trattoria. It has seating for around 30 plus customers inside with a couple of tables outside. These are not used much except for those waiting for a table or a few smokers who don’t mind the flow of passing traffic to further pollute their lungs.

The menu is far too extensive to go into in details but divides up sensibly into sections, clearly given in English and Thai. There are pages for antipasti, soups, a vast section for pastas – spaghetti, linguini, penne, ravioli, gnocchi, lasagna etc. – plus salads, meat and fish main courses plus a few puddings including the inevitable tiramisu, panna cotta and a choice of ice creams. The last section is fine but not their greatest achievement.

Much of the above might make Giorgio’s sound rather conventional; a pleasant place with good sized tables, sensibly placed apart, with no background music, a few attractive photographs and pictures of Italian cities and buildings on the walls and the national colours displayed. The lighting is fine, the air conditioning efficient. But even so why would one choose this place above the myriad other Italian choices for an evening out?

The short answer is that a visit here IS an evening out. Without being at all grand it has a slight sense of occasion to it that indicates more charm than is found in a restaurant one goes simply to eat.

The décor is as above but somehow it is translated into that romantic language – Italian. There is an intangible atmosphere, a welcome that is immediately apparent. And above all it is professional. Far too many restaurants in this city are run by people who should be in another trade and who do not train their staff. Here the menus are swiftly brought but no one hangs around bullying diners to make a choice.

On some earlier visits I went on a Sunday and found that all was not running quite as smoothly, but my two most recent dinners – one with an American friend and one with a Thai – were midweek and all the above was completely accurate.

Last week I went with a Thai and we ordered a tuna salad to share. A small table was brought and black pepper, salt, balsamic vinegar and olive oil placed on it. At the same time our little carafe of red wine, bottled water and some French bread and butter plus two small pieces with chopped tomato were also brought. The salad – large enough for two or even three people – was brought in a bowl and expertly and thoroughly mixed for us by the ever diligent manager. I must stress that he had no idea that on this occasion I had come to write a report on the evening.

We opted for pasta to follow: two penne variations – one with an arribiata sauce, slightly extra spicy as requested and the other with the chef’s special, with its delicious sauce and peas. The portions were generous and accompanied by a bowl of fresh parmesan which was not removed until the course was finished. Top marks. We ended with a single scoop of ice cream each – one in fact a lemon sorbet, the second chocolate. A simple enough meal but boasting a very fresh salad, the pasta al dente and very hot, and good quality ices. All served with unobtrusive efficiency.

It is only fair to add that you pay for the above. As with the other top notch Italian venues – Gianni di Burchio, Favola and so on – it is more than averagely expensive. Our bill for that dinner, with a tip, came to exactly a thousand baht and if I had one criticism it would be that the house wine is less good than in many similar places. Better quality is available at between 180 to 220 baht a glass or by the bottle. There are plenty of other liquid options as well. It represents value for money, but does not come into the ‘cheap and cheerful’ category of some pizzeria. Horses for courses indeed.

Giorgio is open every day for lunch (11.30 – 2.30) and for dinner (6.30 – 10.30). You will find it at 2/6 Prachasamphan Road, Chang Klan Muang Chiang Mai. There is parking directly opposite and that’s well worth an extra 20 baht in this busy area, not far from the night bazaar and next to Tawan Market. They are quite often very busy, even in this low season, so reservations can be made on either 053 818236 or 086 1856327.

 

Wiener Schnitzel

Every restaurant that has any pretensions to having ‘European’ cuisine will have Wiener Schnitzel on the menu. It is a traditional dish from Vienna (Wien), and although the original recipe calls for veal, this can be substituted for meat more readily available, such as pork or chicken (or even turkey). The traditional recipe also called for the meat to be fried in lard, but today a polyunsaturated cooking oil would be much superior.

Ingredients                     Serves 4
Veal/pork/chicken 4 x 120 gm sliced thin
For the breading
Flour
Eggs                                                2
Breadcrumbs (commercially available)
Salt to taste
Oil for frying

Cooking Method

Pound the meat thin and flatten out carefully. Lightly salt.

Prepare three plates: Put flour on one, whisk the two eggs and place on the second and cover the third with the breadcrumbs.

Now dip the meat in flour first, then into the egg (covering both sides) and then into the breadcrumbs.

In a frying pan, place the oil, with enough to float the schnitzels. Fry quickly, turning both sides. Do not overcook or they will become tough and dry.

Serve with your choice of potatoes, though a sliced pan-fried potato with onion and bacon goes very well with this dish.