Sun Tori

Japanese restaurant for really fresh fish, well presented at reasonable prices

By Neil Robinson

Two things struck me at Sun Tori even before we began eating. The first was that everyone else eating in the restaurant appeared to be Japanese (always a good sign in a Japanese restaurant!). The second was the story behind what days of the week it is open. When we asked why it was closed Wednesday, Thursday and Friday we were told that every week during these days the owners drive down to Sri Racha district in Chonburi province to select and buy fish straight from the boat. They then put the fish on ice and drive it back to Chiang Mai. This way the fish served from Saturday to Tuesday is as fresh as possible (given how far Chiang Mai is from the sea). Mrs. Nong, co-owner of the restaurant with her husband Mr. Sombot, who is the chef, even showed us photos of the boats they bought from. They have been doing this for seventeen years. In addition to fresh fish, they use only organic vegetables and only organic rice imported from Japan, and no MSG, so they clearly care a lot about the quality of the food they serve.

But I should start this account at the beginning. One of my favourite restaurants in Chiang Mai is Nine Lives, a Japanese restaurant which will reviewed in the next issue by Brian Baxter. Unlike many Japanese restaurants, there is no sashimi or sushi, or I think anything raw on the menu (but you do not miss it because what is on the menu is so good). A group of us was eating there recently and were talking about this. The owner overheard our conversation and mentioned that, if we liked fresh fish, we really should try Sun Tori. A recommendation from such a good restaurant was certainly too valuable to ignore.

Sun Tori is in a row of shop houses (a strip mall in the useful American parlance) off the outer moat road near the Chang Puak gate. It is a simple space with only about half a dozen tables. At Mrs. Nong’s recommendation, we started with Aji Tataki. This is thin strips of very lightly seared horse mackerel. After preparing them the strips were replaced on the fish and then served, making for a particularly attractive presentation (unless you’re a fish!) The result was very flavourful, especially when eaten with a little of the accompanying ginger. This was followed by assorted sashimi. Then a dish of remarkably tender beef strips. Finally we ordered assorted sushi. These last seemed almost too pretty to eat. The slices of fish on top of the rice were not particularly thin, but a number were so translucent as to be almost transparent. However they were just too appetizing so this did not prevent us spoiling the appearance by eating them. The total cost for the food at 700B, amounting to just 350B per person (not including drinks) seemed most reasonable in view of the quality and care that clearly went into it.

To find Sun Tori start by going along the moat from Central towards Chang Puak. Go past the PTT/Jiffy petrol station on your left. Then turn left at the first strip mall running perpendicular to the moat and you will see it on your right. There is ample parking. Opening hours are 11am to 2pm and 5:30pm to 10pm, Saturday to Tuesday. Telephone numbers are 053 287 209 and 087 023 8898.


Sweet Vietnamese Pork

Another SE Asian dish, this is very similar to some local Thai recipes, though there are some essential differences. Vietnamese fish sauce tends to be more pungent, so I believe it is more pleasant using Thai fish sauce, and I prefer the Tiparos brand. It is also a very quick dish to prepare and make.

Ingredients        Serves four
Pork (lean cut is best)       500 gm
Spring onion (chopped)              4
Bean sprouts (fresh)          100 gm
Sugar                               1 tbspn
Fish sauce                      2 tbspns
Peanut (or vegetable) oil   2 tbspns
Coriander leaf (chopped) as garnish
Salt and pepper to taste

Cooking Method

Cut the pork into 2 cm cubes and add to a pre-heated wok with the oil just short of smoking. Quickly stir-fry the pork until brown on all sides. Now add the spring onions, salt and pepper and the sugar, continuing to stir.

After one minute add boiling water, with just enough to cover the pork cubes. Stir in the fish sauce and bring to the boil and then simmer until the liquid thickens. Now add the bean sprouts, tossing quickly, place in serving dish and sprinkle with the coriander garnish and serve with steamed rice.