EATING OUT & KHUN OCHA'S COOKBOOK
 

Bann Tazala

Is this Chiang Mai’s best French -style Restaurant?

By Brian Baxter

The above question will not actually be answered in this column, although readers who enjoy French inspired cooking would be well advised to check out the possibility. If not the finest, then certainly up there in the premier league – in terms of food quality and presentation, general ambiance and service and in value compared with a couple of other venues. But like all ‘haute cuisine’ it comes at a price. So not cheap unless you wish to compare it with a European equivalent, which would probably be three or four times the price.

Bann Tazala represents a specific style of dining out, not the casual – though excellent – type exemplified by La Terrasse in Loi Kroh Road, or even more casual bistro eating that can be found around town. It ranks alongside Le Crystal and Le Coq d’Or and that probably accounts for the location directly across the road from the spectacularly kitsch Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi Hotel and next door to what is surely the best Japanese restaurant in the city, Tengoku de Cuisine. Should you be fortunate enough to be staying at the Mandarin, you won’t have far to go to eat superbly well.

Bann Tazala has an oriental d้cor, somewhat belying the menu. It is cosy, even intimate, yet not claustrophobic. There is a semi- private room at the entrance, a main dining room which can seat up to 20 people and beyond that a terrace and pool which leads to a boutique hotel. Seating is exceptionally comfortable with generous sized tables, elegantly laid. They serve only wine, no other alcohol, at very reasonable prices (house red and white wines are just 750 baht), and you are welcome to bring your own wines with a corkage charge of only 200 baht. Their wines ranged from around 1000 baht up. They offer promotional menus on occasion and I saw that the most recent one was 650 baht, for a three course meal with – among other dishes – Caesar Salad, breast of duck and a choice of sweet on offer. Exceptional value by the sound of it.

Our recent meal was a la carte and the main difficulty was choosing from a modest number of dishes, all of which were appealing. I went for the Mediterranean Bisque (280 baht) which came with superb pieces of fish and prawns in the rich soup, plus croutons on the side. My friend – and photographer – chose the Country Style Duck Terrine, with garden greens and a wonderful lemon chutney, at the same price.

For mains Neil went for the rack of lamb (900) and I chose the breast of duck with a prune sauce (orange was also available) at 430 baht. Both came with steamed vegetables and potatoes. The lamb was pronounced as good as any recently enjoyed on a trip to New Zealand and the duck too was perfectly cooked and very moist and tender.

Other main courses included two variations on tenderloin steaks and an intriguing sounding Seafood Basket of prawns, sea bass and scallops with oyster sauce (600) and also slow baked fillets of sea bass with beetroot and an almond sauce. I made a mental note to try one or other on a later visit, but having brought a 2001 Chateau Margaux along, fish seemed a less suitable choice.

We could not manage a pudding, though their ‘specialty’ of poached pear marinated in red wine, served with vanilla ice cream, seemed pretty tempting. Instead we headed across to the Horn Bar for a digestif, to round off the meal. With service and corkage this came in at a little over 2,000 baht, for what was a most enjoyable dinner, served attentively but without fuss. Bann Tazala is open in the evenings from 6p.m. and at lunchtimes. Closed on Sundays. Phone 053 850 111 for reservations or check out their web site, www.banntazala.co.th for further information.

 

Thai Prawn Soup

This recipe is not Tom Yum Goong, but is less spicy and suitable for both farang and Thai dinner guests. Preparation takes three minutes and 10 minutes to cook, so it can be rustled up very quickly. All ingredients are readily sourced in the local supermarkets.

Ingredients                       Serves 4
Fresh peeled prawns                  225 gm
Coriander chopped fine              12 sprigs
Parsley chopped fine                 6 sprigs
Onion chopped coarsely            1 large
Garlic chopped fine                    1 clove
Vegetable oil                             1 tbspn
Spring onions (scallion) chopped  8
Fish sauce                                2 tbspns
Sugar                                        tbspn
Salt                                           a dash
Light soy sauce                        tbspn

Eggs, lightly beaten                   2

Cooking Method

In a food processor (blender) grind herbs, onion and garlic to a fine paste.

Heat the oil in the wok and stir-fry the paste for two minutes, then add 600 ml of boiling water, bring to the boil then turn down the heat and simmer for five minutes.

Now add the spring onion, fish sauce, sugar, salt, soy sauce and the peeled prawns, bring to the boil, stirring continuously. Add the lightly beaten eggs and stir well and then immediately serve in four soup bowls.