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Chiang Mai Recommendations


Am heading of to Chiang Mai for a couple of days and would appreciate some recommendations for restaurants - food being the priority and perhaps ambience next as it is going to be with my girlfriend. I guess if no restaurants with a romantic setting are good foodwise then we can always do the romantic places for drinks before or after.

There seems to be a lot on Bangkok, which I am familiar with but not Chiang Mai.

Thanks so much

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  1. http://ronrothman.com/gallery/thailan...


    these two urls focus on food of CM the Kow Soi is unique...a spicy curry (indian and thai) dish that you might want to google look for the BEST Kow Soi place it is on the outskirts of the city so need a taxi or cycle to get to but a MUST. you will discover lots of coffee/pastry thai places all over so do the research with google aid...cannot go wrong

    1. i just posted this -


      all are good in different ways, some definitely right for a romantic dinner!

      1. kow soi is the unique dish in cm and there is the best place for it just outside of cm
        look up he item and chiang mai on google. Austen Bush also wrote new stull in the new ed ot fraveland leisure southeast asia and also in the 13th ed of lonely planet thainad out now but be sure to ask when you get there there is one place to the north of the night market but the best is northeast of the old city and any dirver knows the place will look for the url for it

        1. Ginger Kafe. seriously, to die for food, and a charming, kind of shabby chic meets Asia vibe. We had dinner there twice in three nights.

          1 Reply
          1. re: lulubelle

            and one of the food too... a sort of pork parcel of goodness.

            1. re: surgeon

              Hi guys

              Thanks for the replies so far.

              Surgeon - I think this place is called Lamduan - it's been recommended by many.

              Lulubelle - Ginger Kafe is the one that is in the same compound as House which is more upscale right?

              Justintime - thks I'll check out your list.

              The other ones I have been recommended are:

              Huen Phen
              restaurant at The Ratchamanka hotel
              Piccolo Roma - Italian opp The Chedi
              Thanawm Pochanaa Restaurant
              restaurant at The Chedi
              Mitmai Yunnanese restaurant

              Thoughts on any of these appreciated.

              Thanks again

              1. re: mikey8811

                To el jefe

                Some help here please as you live in Chiang Mai.


                1. re: mikey8811

                  Mikey, Sorry I couldn't get back to you sooner. I was traveling and am actually back in NY right now.

                  I'm also not going to be of much help in finding romantic spots. My wife and I appreciate good food but would rather not pay for the ambiance.
                  As for your list, we love Huen Phen. It's two separate restaurants. At lunch there is a very casual, very inexpensive open-air restaurant serving small servings of traditional northern Thai food. Dinner is served in an old house behind where they serve lunch. each room is filled with a collection of antiques and bric-a-brac. It's a different menu but also northern Thai. Lunch time is mostly locals; dinner is mostly tourists. The food is excellent at both.

                  Mitmai Yunnanese is very good too. The food is as good there as anywhere we ate in Yunnan. They also have a few Sichuan dishes on the menu.

                  I'm one of the few people who isn't a huge fan of Lamduan, or Just Khao Soi either. I think there are plenty of local neighborhood places that do as good a job with Khao Soi. My favorite was a vendor in the Thanin Market, but he recently moved and I haven't been able to track him down yet.

                  As you thought, Ginger is in the same compound as The House. I haven't been, nor have I been to any of the other restaurants on your list.

                  Just about all the restaurants you mentioned are on the east side of CM. Wwe live on the west side in the Nimmanhaemin area. There are excellent Thai restaurants all over the city, so we've never found the need to travel to the east side for Thai food.

                  If we do travel to the north or east side it's for non-Thai food:
                  Buonisimo for Italian (north of the city)
                  Chez Marco on Loi Kroh Rd for Mediteranian
                  Franco-Thai for French/Italian (just north of Ikon Plaza)
                  A Cantonese restaurant on Sridonchoi (Jia Thong ___ ?)
                  And if you really miss American-style food, go to Dukes for ribs, burgers, steaks, etc. (go to the one across the river, not the one in the Night Bazaar)

                  If you want recs in the Nimmanhaemin area, let me know.

                  1. re: el jefe

                    Thanks for the reply el jefe.

                    With Huen Phen we will probably eat there only once. Which would you recommend? Lunch of dinner? Also what are the dishes to order?

                    Likewise, what would you order at Mitmai Yunanese?

                    We will be staying at The Chedi and I gather that Lamduan is quite a long way away - so if you have recommendations for another Khao Soi place nearby that would be appreciated.

                    Anything else you can think of is also appreciated.

                    I would like to e-mail you directly about sights and other practical getting around matters if you don't mind.


                    1. re: mikey8811

                      Both Huen Phen and Mitmai have huge, varied menus and it's difficult to make recs. I've only tried 12-15 of the 200+ dishes on Mitmai's menu.

                      Go to Huen Phen for lunch. My faves then are the fried ribs (#10), the grilled pork salad (#47?), the fish in banana leaf ("hor mak"), and the Huen Phen Salad or any of their other salads, like the carrot or papaya salad.

                      I really don't have any recs for Thai food in the Chedi area.

                      If you can figure out how to contact me thru the Chowhound site, feel free. otherwise post your email address here and I'll get back to you.

                      1. re: el jefe

                        el jefe

                        This is strange - I posted my e-mail address but it is gone.

                        Here it is



                        1. re: mikey8811

                          May have been removed because of Chowhound policy.
                          I just sent you a private email.

            2. When I am in-country and am hosting guests in the city, I take them to the Tha Naam which is on the river, south of the city center area. Good food selection and even better ambiance.

              For local northern dishes the traditional standby is the Aroon Rai near Thapae Gate. It has been around as long as any eatery in Chiang Mai. You can't claim to have eaten the local food unless you have tried "laap dip", the raw pork dish which is the signature dish of the Lanna region.

              As for Khao Soi, it is a Burmese dish found throughout the north and shops that specialize in that dish are fairly ubiquitous. Just ask any English speaking staff at your hotel or guest house for a nearby recommendation. But to be honest, I have yet to find khao soi shops in the city that are as good as those in the outlying towns. Then again, it is rare to be served a bad bowl of khao soi.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Deumlaokeng

                Hi Deumlaokeng

                What dishes would you order at Tha Naam?

                Also, what does "laap" mean? I am guessing sausage...


                1. re: mikey8811

                  We usually just order a large assortment of food. When you go out to dinner in Thailand it is usually with a large group ordering a large variety of food and of course if you are a traditionalist, never let an empty bottle of Thai whiskey stand too long before having it replaced with a new bottle. A Thai dinner will usually include a curry or two, a soup or two like tom yam, a som tam salad, a fried (phat) dish, but rarely phat thai as that is more fast food for a quick lunch. Often a fried or steamed fish is ordered up and served whole. At a decent restaurant like Tha Naam or Huen Phen you can order anything and it will usually come out pretty darn good. We normally figure one dish per person and a few appetizers with the drinks called khem kap lao, and well you can have quite the spread in front of you as everyone is sharing everything. And either bring a designated driver or just hire a taxi.

                  Laap is the word for minced meats and in US restuarants one can often find laap kai salads, a minced chicken salad. But laap dip is the minced raw pork meat dish that is perhaps the signature dish of Lanna Thai, served whenever you visit someone's home on a special occasion. It is not for everyone's palate, and the Bangkok folk don't always appreciate it. Marco Polo noted the barbarians in the far south of the Chinese empire who ate such raw meat dishes. Not many restaurants serve it as it really needs very fresh meat, usually a pig slaughtered at a homestead that morning. But I have been eating it off and on for decades without ill effect. It is eaten with sticky rice and an assortment of edible leaves.

                  1. re: mikey8811

                    Laap/Laab/Larb means luck or fortune in the Lao language. We used the word Larb to name our traditional minced meat salad because it gives you luck when you eat it. Well at least according to our elders. =)

                    As for Khao Soi, yes it is a dish of Burmese origin, but has become one of the staples in northern Lao and northern Thai cuisines. The northern Lao version is a light noodle soup, whereas the northern Thai version is a soupy stew-like noodle dish.

                  2. re: Deumlaokeng

                    Aaah Aroon Rai. I was in Chiang Mai a few years ago and their pork and ginger curry nearly brought me to tears.

                  3. Beccofino Trattoria has opened a branch off Nimmanhaemin Rd, Soi 7. Certainly the best pizza and Italian food in Chiang Mai. It is worth a try!

                    1. it turns out i'll be in chiang mai this weekend with a good friend visiting from new york. i know the restaurant scene pretty well (tho some of these recommendations are new and sound great!), wondering if there are some good hole-in-the-wall spots to try. would love to get a handle on more places like huen phen at lunch or less fancy if anyone has any suggestions. zero ambiance is fine so long as food is yummy!

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: justintime

                        Hi justintime

                        What dishes do you recommend at Ruen Come In?


                        1. re: mikey8811

                          mikey, it depends on you, whether you are already very familiar with thai food and want to eat at the fringes or want to eat classic foods instead. either way, try the chiang mai sausage and a nam prik. i can't think of a stand out dish there, the food is pretty consistent.

                          i just got back from some research in chiang mai and really enjoyed khun mor's for lunch. i had written it off before because it seemed a little form over substance but was really impressed with the khao soi this time. nice lunch spot if you're shopping on nimmanhaimen.

                      2. Hi. We will be in Chiang Mai in November. We go there during the winters. For a nice romantic setting, I would go to Mi Casa: http://www.micasachiangmai.com/ .

                        People seem to like, "Just Khao Soy" which is a few blocks from the Night Bazaar. Khao Soy is a noodle dish in broth with some curry in it. At this place, they serve it to you on a palette with a large bowl for the noodle portion and smaller bowls with flavorings so you can adjust it to your taste. It is an interesting way to think of Khao Soy and it is a Northern Thai dish.

                        For real Northern Thai food, we take friends to
                        Kaeng Ron Baan Suan Restaurant
                        149/3 Moo 2 Soi Chomdoi
                        Klomg Cholpeatran
                        Chiang Puek A Muang

                        We like gaeng khea muu (curry with vegetables and pork), yam tua buu (wing bean salad), pla ging manaow (steamed whole fish with lime & chilis), gaeng hangley (pork that is kind of stewed in a Burmese style curry), laab muu Issan (minced pork Issan style; kind of a salad served with mnt and basil)... There's more, but I can't think of it right now. Oh and if you have the laab also try the sticky rice (kaow niaow).

                        There is a bbq place, Salsa Kitchen, that has very good ribs.

                        Sorry, all the above is not near the Chedi. However, it is not difficult to hire a driver. You can hire one of the red songthaew's, but you should do some research on the going rate before you do that. I do have a number of a driver that was charging 1200 baht a day a couple of years ago. He took my friends to elephant camp, shopping, etc. If you want the number, let me know and I'll look around for it.

                        If you want a good turkey sandwich, I think there is a Bake and Bite near the Chedi.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: whinendine

                          I spent a lot of time in Chiang Mai in the early 90s, so my info is way out of date. I used to go to a small khao soi place on the outskirts where <supposedly> the King would eat. It was like, 10 baht a bowl.
                          I would definitely try and get some local knowledge of where to find the best bowl of this outside of the tourist area. When it's good, it's amazing. When it's bad, you can stay with you for days!

                          1. re: koknia

                            "I used to go to a small khao soi place on the outskirts where <supposedly> the King would eat. It was like, 10 baht a bowl."

                            I think you are referring to Lamduan, which was mentioned by a few posters up-thread.

                        2. Although not 'romantic' per the original poster's requirements, but with plenty of atmosphere, we had a few great meals grazing at the nightly food stalls at the South Gate of Chiang Mai.

                          All sorts of delicious and cheap food is on offer - grilled fish with sticky rice, curries, noodles, steamed sweet potatoes, and the most delicious grilled pork over rice with sauce we had in all of Thailand. Even elsewhere in Thailand, we couldn't help but reminisce over that perfect porky goodness. If you are walking to the South Gate from within the city walls, the pork stand is across the road from the gate itself, near the center of the stalls.

                          Also fantastic were the mixed fruit shakes whipped up by a friendly woman in the corner of the stalls (opposite the gate). We had a whole lotta fruit shakes in SE Asia, and these were in the top 3, as attested by the constant line in front of her stall.

                          Look out for the roti lady with her roti-making cart just in front of the gate entrance itself - the banana, egg and condensed milk was our staple desert.

                          Handily, there is a Tesco Lotus supermarket on the gate side of the street where you can pick up beer or other drinks to go with your meal.

                          Chiang Mai is a great city for food!

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: unagi11

                            We went to 'JUST KHAO SOY' for lunch one afternoon. I really like the fact that it only serves Khao Soy and it has options how the dish is prepared. We ordered the Lanna style with round noddle and Chiang Mai style (with more coconut milk, creamier) with flat noodle. Both are really good! In fact, our lunch was SO GOOD, we came back for more at 5PM!!!

                            Highly recommended! We can't wait to go back to Chiang Mai again in September (rainy season and all)

                          2. I certainly wouldn't recommend Huen Phen. The food ranged from decent (sausage), to disappointing (chicken curry) to inedible (papaya & crab salad with gone off crab). the other dishes were somewhere in between.

                            At least it was not expensive.

                            10 Replies
                            1. re: davew666

                              I ate at Huen Phen in December and was also dissapointed - I found everything to be a bit bland. Not recommended.

                              Strangely it was really busy, and they were turning away people without reservations at the door.

                              1. re: GordonS

                                ditto. we waited almost an hour for a table. oops!

                                1. re: davew666

                                  From one of the original recommendations of Huen Phen:

                                  "Both Huen Phen and Mitmai have huge, varied menus and it's difficult to make recs."

                                  IMHO, these are exactly the situations where one needs specific recommendations. With large, varied menus, hits and misses are common.

                                  1. re: Curt the Soi Hound

                                    I have a rec for them - "dont put rotten crab in a salad"

                                      1. re: davew666

                                        Who knows,.. possibly "rotten" crab was inadvertently ordered! "Fermented" ingredients are popular around SEA.

                                        1. re: Curt the Soi Hound

                                          well, i couldn't rule it out, but it did not look like something that had been processed.

                                          Also, even the lonely planet says the food isn't great there, and they are hardly picky!

                                          1. re: davew666

                                            If they were turning people away without reservations, or there was an hour wait, at Huen Phen, it sounds like you went for dinner. I'm one of the posters who recommended it (a year and a half ago, btw). I specifically said go for lunch. They don't take reservations at lunch and there's never more than a 5 minute wait since they seat 200 for lunch (vs about 50 for dinner).

                                            It's really two different restaurants with different menus, different cooks, and a different building for dinner vs lunch. I haven't been there for dinner in over two years.

                                            Fermented crabs look just like any other crab. I have no idea what a "processed" crab would be.

                                            It's one f the most authentic northern Thai restaurants in Chiang Mai for lunch but touristy in the evening. Thanks for the rec not to go in the evening, but I stand by their lunch offerings. 200-300 Thais a day can't be wrong.

                                            And Lonely Planet is the last place I'd look for food recs.

                                            1. re: el jefe

                                              I'm currently in CM for vacation with only 1.5 more days left before heading to Nakhon Si, Bangkok & Hong Kong :(.

                                              Went to Huen Phen for lunch and lilked the food. Per el jefe's rec, we got the fried ribs and also got an order of the pomelo salad. We added to this with an order of sticky rice, kao soi and some Singha beers. I didn't think the food was bland - maybe somewhat lukewarm (temperature-wise) but I don't care about temperature as much if the food tastes good. As for Lonely Planet's "review", they just state that locals may "sniff" at the quality but I thought lunch was very good.

                                              Just went to Aroon Rai last night for dinner and we loved it. We got the pork curry with ginger, chicken sauteed with cashews and chicken with green curry. All of it was tasty - I really enjoyed the pork curry and my wife really enjoyed the chicken/cashew dish. As for ambiance - I just have to say that there's nothing better than sitting nearby the streets of a busy SE Asian city, un-rushed, in shorts, with a soppy-condensated glass of beer with some great good.

                                              Also have to say that I really enjoyed the squid (or perhaps cuttlefish?) balls in the beef noodles at Bang Moey Kaafae. They seemed to be doing some brisk take-away business for those balls too! Other notable items - banana roti at the Sunday walking market, grilled rice balls (from the guy who sells them exclusively) and the lemongrass/kaffir-'limey"/etc. Chiang Mai snausages. Gotta figure out what I'm eating tonight and tomorrow morning too!!

                                              Just wanted to say thanks all for the recs!

                                              1. re: el jefe


                                                I'm the original poster who started the thread and El Jefe's recommendations were pretty spot on. Huen Phen is definitely worth going to for lunch. It is tasty and economical.

                                                Generally, I found food in Chiang Mai of a high quality and less expensive than Bangkok. If you are from overseas, you will find it even more inexpensive.

                                2. the place behind the night market with the live shrimp in tanks, with a woman's name...

                                  lulu? layla?