EATING OUT & RECIPES BY NOI
Super food in an intimate setting
By Brian Baxter
A while ago a friend introduced me to Café Mini,
which had not long opened. I was so impressed by this
stylish but friendly little restaurant that I e-mailed
anyone I thought might enjoy good food in pleasant
surroundings. A few months have passed and happily this
Nimmanhaemin Road eatery is well established and busy with
Thai and farang customers. After well over a dozen further
visits it remains my favourite dining experience in the
Café Mini is located half way down Soi 9, directly opposite
the Monkey Club. It would be more aptly named Café Intime,
since it’s a friendly bistro style restaurant with about a
dozen covers downstairs, plus a couple of low tables and a
small bar. There is additional seating upstairs.
The food might be described as a mixture of French,
Mediterranean and English, with a distinctly modern feel to
it. The accent is on quality not quantity, so if you have
what is wrongly called a healthy appetite with a penchant
for carbs and fast food, look elsewhere. A few dishes,
including pastas are available in two portion sizes – one
that I would consider normal and the other generous.
The menu is unambiguous in all other respects with a good
range of starters comprising soups, salads and other
delights such as spinach au gratin and a delicious
antipasto. They range in price from around 70 baht to twice
that figure. Main courses include slow cooked pork spare
ribs, sea bass, duck, lamb, chicken and beef dishes and an
excellent eggplant with cheese as one of the vegetarian
offerings. They offer up specials most days (lamb shank is
the most popular) such as Japanese steak and market fish.
Puddings are very limited with just three variations on ice
cream and cake. Room for improvement there.
The main attraction is the quality of the ingredients and
the highly competent cooking. The service is friendly and
efficient – perfectly suited to the unpretentious ambiance.
The young owner and the not much older chef are real
charmers and maintain high standards front and back stage.
Smoking only on the front terrace, no music, comfortable
chairs and a memorable dry martini!
A real plus is the availability of very good house wine
(though I preferred the Sauvignon Blanc to the newly
introduced Chardonnay) by the glass and a large display of
top notch wines by the bottle, starting at around 900 baht.
There is a well -stocked bar and a delightful range of soft
options, with not a ‘coke’ in sight.
Café Mini is the perfect place for a mid-priced meal. There
are plenty of fancier restaurants, priced accordingly, and
there are certainly many less expensive ones but for my
taste this offers a sensible compromise, with the
possibility of enjoying a meal at under 500 baht. With wine
and – say – the steak it will obviously be more. Choose one
of the best wines and make sure you visit the ATM
beforehand. This is one of the best additions to Chiang Mai
dining in the past decade, with an enviable balance of all
the qualities that make for a successful restaurant: food,
cooking, service, ambiance and value. They are open for
dinner six nights a week (closed Tuesdays) and service is
from 5.30 p.m. until late. Find them on Soi 9, just off the
busy main road, you can reserve a table on 084 488 6114.
RECIPES BY NOI: Kua Ham
The pleasing scent of herb leaves is very important for our
Kua Ham because the meat normally used for this dish is game
such as boar, deer, and rabbit which have a strong smell.
However, you can use pork or chicken too. Besides that, we
need a lot of chilies because it’s one of the spiciest
Most of the time Kua Ham will be cooked by men when they
have a party. During the cold season like this, it gives a
warm feeling to fight the cold.
Kua in northern Thai means stir fried and Ham means very
well cooked till almost burn.
Sitr fry chili paste in oil (dried chilies, garlic,
shallots, lemongrass, salt and shrimp paste pounded together
with mortar and pestle). Add 600 grams of meat (chicken or
pork can be substituted for wild boar!) and stir fry until
cooked, add Kaffir Lime leaf, basil leaf, cumin leaf (Bai
Janjo) and young croton leaf (Bai Son). Cook until all water
is evaporated from the pan. Carefully add whiskey (usually
Lao Kao) to the pan and it should make a small flame in the
pan. Then add fish sauce to taste. Most of the herbs can be
found in the local markets around Chiang Mai.