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Cuisine De Garden

Superlative food from Chiang Mai’s most innovative chef

By Brian Baxter
Please bear with me in case you think that I am losing what little credibility I might have as a journalist and reviewer but I urge you to try this innovative dining experience before judging me too harshly. It offers – I believe – the most original and intriguing (and enjoyable) menu in the City. And at a price that should make other more famous eateries blush with shame as they trade on their grand surroundings and fine quality imported ingredients which require skill but little imagination in their presentation.
Cuisine de Garden is an attractive venue but it is in no way ‘grand’. The accent is on space, natural textures – wood, fabrics, stone – and a quiet confidence that suggests a person in charge of all proceedings dedicated to excellent service and fine dining. The only way I can think of conveying the quality and innovation is by describing a couple of recent dining experiences there. The place itself is not easy to find but once there parking is easy.
Tables are well spaced and at one end of the room is the kitchen and towards the other end a bar. There’s a short but decent wine list (getting expensive at the top end but corkage is only 200 baht if you take your own). The set menu comprises five starters, six main courses and three desserts. You may choose two or three courses but I can think of no reason on earth except extreme impoverishment not to try one of the sublime puddings.
Once the order is taken for the first courses you are offered an amuse bouche, one of those little starters that should bring a smile to your lips. And how! Most recently I enjoyed little pieces of excellent smoked salmon, topped with black caviar, with shavings of mustard ice cream on the side. Pink, black and white heaven. My starter was Terrarium: a fabulous smoke infused mixed green salad served in a pail. It accompanied Spanish ham, served with a navel orange confit, with a small phial of balsamic as a dressing. This was followed by an intense mango sorbet.
My favourite of the main courses so far has been the free range Cornish hen (perfectly cooked), accompanied by chicken liver pate wrapped in Edamame – betraying the Japanese influence to some of the dishes- with a peach puree and truffle lemon jus. If ‘chicken’ seems too ordinary to you then go for the lamb tenderloin with a coriander coating served with miso eggplant and garlic cream or the excellent cod or… well any of the others on the changing menu.
The desserts are all quite light but then none of the courses are ‘heavy’ (this is not the venue for greedy eaters, quality rules not excessive quantity). I loved the jasmine rice ice cream, which was only just pipped by the nougat style Rock ice cream, served with macadamia cream. Possible the most fun is the Juice in Spherification - a series of ten little wooden spoons each holding a marble sized explosion of ‘frozen’ juice which bursts in the mouth. A fitting end to a whole menu where such an experie nce is correct to describe the pleasure of dining at Cuisine de Garden.
I understand that the Thai chef was originally trained in Chiang Mai but is largely self-taught. Certainly one can detect influences from other areas, modern European, Japanese and classic French each tuned to a specific dish. The restaurant is closed on Monday but open for lunch and dinner Tuesday to Sunday. The three course menu (with the mentioned extras included plus delicious rolls or toast and a herbal tea at the end) is only 799 baht: two courses for 599 baht. For reservations phone 053 441 599, 99/moo 11, Nong Chai, Hang Dong 50230.
To get there from the Airport or from Canal Road head along highway 108 towards Hang Dong, cross the large junction with a right turn to Samoeng and head to the next traffic lights where you filter to the right . The turning is about 80 metres across from the traffic light. Head down the soi and you will find Cusine de Garden on your right about one kilometre along the road. It is well lit and parking available immediately outside. Happy eating! (Further info on www. /cuisine de garden or on the internet).


RECIPES BY NOI: Khanom Kleua; the boy’s heartbreaker!

For this recipe we are going way back in time, before my father met my mother when he was younger than I am now. There were no streets where he lived, no electricity, no cars and of course no internet for dating sites! Young men would walk past girls’ houses after work to show interest. If he was interested he would visit her home and meet her parents. Boys would walk together to the village where their girls lived.
Parents with daughters would prepare sweets, snacks and cigarettes to welcome the boys. Khanom kleua was a favorite of parents but not of boys. It is salty and made from rice flour so very filling, after eating a few pieces they would feel very full and need to leave soon. Boys served khanom kleua would know that the parents don’t like them so either give up or try harder to impress the parents the next time.
It is not super salty but if we don’t like someone then we can make a very salty one for him! We can also make it sweeter by adding brown sugar instead of salt. If you have a daughter of dating age here is the recipe to cook in case her boyfriend pays you a visit.
We need rice flour, salt or brown sugar, coconut milk or clean water and banana leaves for wrapping.
Mix rice flour with salt or brown sugar then slowly add coconut milk (add water is ok too but if we add salt with coconut milk the khanom will taste creamy which some people like it that way).
Stir until it’s well mixed and thick like cooking cream. Cook it in a pot or wok on low fire and stir until it’s almost cooked. Remove from heat and wrap it in banana leaves then steam for 20-30 minutes.
We can also add young peanuts or young coconut meat in the Khanom to make it tastier.

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