Chiang Mai trip report and request for help (2012)
Hi out there,
Wondering if el jefe or anyone else with recent Chiang Mai experience can help us out.
My sweetheart is a very demanding diner. He will eat almost any cuisine, but is intolerant of anything less than very fresh, well-prepared food; polite, attentive servers who do what you ask them to; soft, comfortable seating; and pleasant eating environments with no live music or smoke.
We've been in Chiang Mai 10 days and have nearly exhausted my list of suitable restaurants. We'll be here another 2.5 weeks. Here's what we've found:
Piccola Roma -- Hands-down one of the best dining experiences we've had so far. Wonderful pasta and mushrooms, great service, nice environment.
Giorgio -- Good pasta, so-so pizza, acceptable environment.
Chez Marco -- Really nice owner, decent food, too much smoke. Unremarkable, but acceptable.
The House -- Good roasted tomato appetizer, ok nicoise salad, some other misfires, uneven service.
Uddomit -- Great little restaurant in the Nim shopping center near Rimping. Very fresh, carefully prepared food, bright flavors, sweet, attentive staff.
Hong Taew Inn -- Pleasant decor, carefully plated food, somehow lacking in flavor. My sweetheart wouldn't go back. I would.
La Fourchette -- Strange menu (very old-fashioned?), reasonable taste, nice people, convenient location in center of city.
Lemon Tree -- Reasonably fresh food, but too informal for us.
W by Wanlamun -- Mixed bag: artificial environment, carefully-presented not-so-fresh or flavorful food, but...fantastic macarons for dessert. Pastries are gorgeous!
Beccofino -- Ernest staff, comfortable dining room, nice presentation, ok food. Slightly depressing atmosphere.
Su Casa -- Palatable little tapas (spinach w/chickpeas, lamb skewers, etc.), confused staff. We had an ok time, but have no desire to go back.
Charcoa -- Big hotel quality food in a little guest house. Impressive accomplishment, but not what we like. Too processed. Funny menu.
La Terraza -- Lost our reservation, out of two wines and many food options, confused staff, smoke blowing in from terrace, lots of French people, bizarre menu, ok food. Sloooow.
The Whole Earth -- Never again. Didn't bring anything we asked for, unremarkable food, slightly hostile vibe. Pleasant setting.
Moxie at Dusit D2 hotel -- Staff didn't tell us restaurant was closed, took reservation and set a table in the hotel reception area.
Pun Pun -- Appeared to be closed.
The Blue Diamond -- Dismal food, filled with tourists, but...they have kombucha (which I like).
The Riverside -- Food looked so bad we walked out.
Here are the places we've might try:
The Chedi hotel restaurant
Pongyang Ang Doi resort restaurant
The Rachamanka hotel restaurant
Cafe de ThaanAoan
The Salad Concept
If anyone can guide us to other great restaurants, we'd be much obliged.
Also, I love street food and saw the most promising looking stands near the Chiang Mai gate on the south side of the Old City. Is that the best place to graze?
And more question...can anyone recommend a cooking class with a great market tour? Basil Cookery School has good reviews on TripAdvisor, but you can never tell.
Yes, we *do* eat Thai, but I think E's just hit a point with culture shock and traveling (6+ months continuously now), that he can't tolerate plastic chairs and folding tables at dinner.
If you have any northern Thai places to recommend, we are all ears!
Hope you are well!
That's an incredibly comprehensive post. Thank you.
I might of some little help but not much. I like fresh food too, but otherwise I'm pretty oblivious to most of the other requirements (I dislike smoking but it almost never happens in most of my favorite restaurants).
My first recommendation that should meet your requirements is La Terrasse. French food with excellent service. better than Chez Marco and La Forchette. Indoors is non-smoking. Outside is sometimes intolerable. Go down Loi Kroh Rd past Chez Marco for another 100+ meters. It's in an alley off to the left. There's a sign high up on a pole.
I just got back from dinner at Su Casa. I think you should try again. I've never had a problem with the staff, but I haven't had any special requests. I think they're trained well and all speak English fluently. Maybe it was the holiday rush? I haven't had a bad meal there.
Buonissimo doesn't exist any more. The owner opened a Italian buffet on Nimmanhaemin Soi 11, a half block from Su Casa. It's phenomenal value at 239 baht for dinner. included in the dinner is pastas to order and grilled meats to order but good luck getting something medium rare. And excellent desserts. But it doesn't sound like your sweetheart will appreciate much from a buffet table.
Mitmai is gone too.
The Salad Concept should work for you. it's "build your own salad" in pleasant surroundings. But there is little more than just salads and drinks.
There are two Pun Puns. One is on the east side of the river, north of town. It serves huge portions of American comfort food and some Thai and Shan dishes. It's not gourmet food by any stretch f the imagination but it's very good for what it is. The american owner is always on site and can handle any request but it's out of the way and I'm not sure it's worth the trip. The other Pun Pun is the vegetarian restaurant behind Wat Suan Dok. It's only open from morning til early afternoon and closed one day a week (Wed?). The food is very good and the garden is very nice but the service is not "attentive".
Dukes has two locations and I would certainly avoid the one in the Night Bazaar. The one on the river is a little more pleasant and has a slightly larger menu with daily specials but still gets pretty noisy sometimes. the staff is usually pretty good and handles special requests well. But the food isn't all that special. They do good ribs and pizza and are OK on most other things but if Dukes was in America I'd compare it to TGI Frdays or Applebee's.
You've read what I (and others) wrote about Huen Phen. Nothing has changed that I know of. I still only go at lunch.
Ooops. I just realized what you reviewed as La Terraza was probably La Terrasse. I guess I really don't have anything to add. Too bad you can't do noodle shops and northern Thai food in places where little English is spoken.
re: el jefe
Hi el jefe,
Thanks so much for your reply. I am a great fan of street food, noodle shops, the whole wazoo from 10 baht meat skewers to restaurants like they have at the Chedi. Unfortunately my sweetheart isn't so flexible, and that's why I need the help.
We both loved Udommit, a great little northern Thai place in the NIM shopping center. Have you ever been there?
I happened to find it amongst this list of Thai restaurants on this travel guide's blog:
Actually a nice little list!
When I wrote "Too bad you can't do noodle shops and northern Thai food in places where little English is spoken" I meant the plural "you".
I've seen Udommit, but have never been in. I live just off Sirimankalarn and there are two great northern Thai restaurants withing walking distance. I go once a week to each. One has over 100 items on the menu so I have no need to go exploring for more northern Thai. Unfortunately I can't think of a single Thai restaurant that will satisfy your requirements.
The specific page you linked with the 8 CM restaurants is 3 years old. Too many restaurants change menus/chefs/staff that 3 year old reviews are pretty useless. I'm not a fan of the rest of the blog either. She's more interested in decor and presentation than the food. For me it's the opposite.
but I did think of another restaurant that might meet your (sweetheart's) requirements:
Cafe Compassion is a relatively new restaurant serving western vegetarian/vegan/raw food. The chef/owner is Singaporean. The atmosphere is nice. I haven't tried much of the menu yet, but the few things I've had were good. It's at the very end of Sirimankalajarn Soi 11.
re: el jefe
I've had a couple of nights of grazing food carts because E got sick -- so I'm nosing my way around. Can you point me in the direction of the two Northern Thai places with the big menus you mentioned?
We just had a nice surprise tonight...we went to Jerusalem Falafel and ordered a big meze platter which had some delicious tzatziki on it. I haven't found any yogurt that good in Chiang Mai yet. I asked the owner and she proudly told us everyone knows about her yogurt, she's been making it for 15 years, and the Chedi used to buy most of it up before they got a new chef. She's a cheese maker and also makes her own haloumi and feta. She said there's a Thai woman too who's a local cheese maker (didn't catch the name of her business).
But I'm finding...little pockets of yummy things. The homemade pasta at Piccola Roma was very nice. The rabbit pate at Terrasse was delicious. And actually, the Portuguese bean soup at Duke's had some nice slow-cooked pork and good flavors in there. Also, I've been buying plain old sandwich bread for toast at the UN Irish Pub & Bakery's bread window. It's not fabulous, but it smells right and has a good texture.
Funny thing, I've also noticed some seriously fussy-French pastries in town. The macarons at W by Wanlamun were very good, and I just had coffee and cake at a little place called Fern Forest Cafe that had a case of very respectable pies and cakes.
By the way, what are those doughnut things they serve with hot soy milk from food carts? Is that hot soy milk? In China they do savory doughnuts with fresh hot soy for breakfast, but these were a little sweet.
Glad to hear encouraging reports of Cafe Compassion. I will drag E over (Cafe Gratitude in SF is a not-so-secret guilty pleasure of mine, although I hear they're closing).
Tong is on Nimmanhaemin Soi 13. They have a huge menu of northern Thai food. They've recently become a trendy stop for visiting tourists from Bangkok so there is often a (short) wait for a table. Their new popularity hasn't affected the food, but they often run out of many things including, one night, sticky rice. Service used to be great but now they are overwhelmed. Sweetheart may not appreciate receiving his food then waiting 5 minutes for silverware. And because food comes out when it's ready, you won't find out til you're done if they were out of one of the dishes you ordered, or just forgot.
Wera's Laab Ped is on Nimman Soi 7 just off of Sirimankalajarn. It has a much smaller menu of Isaan food. Bamboo curry, Moo Nam Tok, Sup Kor Mai, and of course, the Larb Ped are all stellar. They're only open from 6-9pm and closed on the 15th and 16th of every month.
re: el jefe
re: el jefe
Hi el jefe,
We went to Wera's Laab Ped last night. No English sign atall. A guy at the corner ice cream shop generously pointed me in the right direction.
Really sweet, charming waitresses at Wera's, eager to help us, joking about beer choices. Very comfortable setting, low key.
We ordered all the dishes you suggested plus Isaan sausage and neur yang. Tasty across the board. No weak dishes at all. My favorites were the bamboo curry (nice tang with lots of different textures), the Moo Nam Tok (great pork flavor), and the sauce for the neur yang (vibrant, fresh flavors, well-balanced).
Here are some photos:
I also found Wera's on this Citylife list of 108 Chiang Mai restos, in case anyone else is researching and wants to explore: