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I’m Chair

Retro style décor but the cooking is fully up to date.

By Brian Baxter
This spacious new restaurant – located between sois 7 and 9 off Nimmanhaemin Road – offers superbly cooked and presented western food at moderate prices, ranking it with smaller venues such as La Fourchette, La Terrasse and Café Mini as one of the very best eating places in Chiang Mai.
What makes I’m Chair distinctive (apart from the slightly odd name) is both its size and the fascinating décor and style. There are only about 24 covers in the very comfortable banquettes, which are nicely placed at angles for semi privacy but in addition there are low slung tables and sofas for more casual eating and drinking with further seating on a patio at the main entrance. There’s a juke box, 1970s style furniture, a TV of the same vintage and many lamps and ornaments from the period – but the service and overall quality is resolutely modern.
The menu is extensive and offers selections of appetisers, plus about six different soups, a range of pastas, a few fish dishes, meat choices and some five or six puddings. Wine is served by the glass, by carafe on a free-flow basis (290 baht) and from a wide selection of displayed bottles. Naturally there are beers, soft drinks and spirits on sale too.
The starters include salmon Carpaccio (250), aged camembert served with an onion sauce, walnut halves, grapes and raisins and very moreish little bread rolls (180), other cheeses, potato wedges, spicy prawn salad and BBQ spare ribs among many others ranging from 70 to around 250 baht. On one occasion I was tempted to the ravioli with prawns in a delicious sauce, which was quite memorable - creamy, tasty and ultra-fresh. This you’ll find on the list of pastas not starters. From the soups my companion on a recent visit vouched for the French Onion (100).

The menu is too extensive to list but special recommendations from fellow diners and myself include the risotto, coq au vin (350) – perhaps a little heavily salted but with very good chicken – and especially the lamb cutlets cooked and served to order. All the main come complete with fresh vegetables and potatoes. From the fish selection I really enjoyed the piquant pan fried prawns with a black pepper sauce and look forward to the baked fish on a later occasion.
The selection of desserts is sensibly limited but my friend and I shared a chocolate brownie, with a light chocolate sauce and excellent vanilla ice cream. If hungry you might choose the crepes or perhaps go for the soufflé. The portions are fair and it would be a difficult to leave hungry after a two course meal, let alone three. Whoever is behind this enterprise has given considerable thought to the venture and compounded it with a top class chef.
The service is very efficient and the staff well trained, making the whole dining experience pleasant from the warm welcome on. The seating is so comfortable that one can easily linger or move outside over a final glass of wine or a coffee. Most evenings there is an excellent musical duo from 8.30 pm. They are open only in the evenings and closed on Mondays. There is a large car park adjoining the restaurant and you find this fairly new - and welcome - addition to the Chiang Mai scene running between sois 7 and 9 in the Monkey Club vicinity. Phone on 053 218489 or drop in for a glass of wine and check them out.


RECIPES BY NOI: Kang Phak Wahn with ant larvae

The leaves turning brown and falling from their trees is the warning from nature that the summer (or some call it dry season) is coming. What is left onthe tree when there are no leaves, flowers or fruits for us to eat? Look up and you’ll see a large bunch of balls of leaves hanging on the tree. It’s the place we will find our delicious ‘Ant Larvae’ This kind of ant we call Mod Dang. They will have larvae during February-April. The other months they won’t have any larvae so weleave them alone.
Another main ingredient is Phak Wahn (means sweet vegetable). This vegetable grows in the mountains and when the soil becomes dry, it will start growing new leaves. This is our chance to pick the leaves for cooking.
They are such a perfect paramour! In my village we call something that fits together in such synchronicity a ‘paramour’ but you might call them “soul mates”.
The recipe always starts with chili paste which is made by pounding dry chilies, garlic, salt and shrimp paste which you then add to boiling clean water. Add Phak Wahn and ant larvae. Some like to add egg and sliced shallots to the soup to bring more taste.
If it’s your first time having ant larvae then please just try it a little at the beginning and wait for a while to see if you have an allergy or not. Some people are very allergic to it and find their face and bodies can swell up. This can be very dangerous so if you are already allergic to seafood or any food then you should be careful.

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