Thailand Restaurant recs in Koh Jum, Koh Lanta and Chiang Mai
Heading to Thailand over Xmas/New Years and looking for good Thai food in each location.
Koh Jum is small and I understand most restaurants are at the hotels/bungalows but can anyone recommend a memorable meal. We'll be staying at Luboa Beach (the northernmost beach) but don't mind taking a scooter to another beach or to Koh Pu town or Koh Jum town.
I've been to Koh Lanta before and the only good meals I had were at Time for Lime which was fantastic, and some little place on the main road behind Khlong Dao beach that didn't have an English name. I ate at my small resort and a few others on the beach and they were all boring, dumbed down for farang no matter how many times I told them I wanted it spicy, and had limited menus with the same 10 dishes on pretty much every menu. We are staying on Long Beach this trip and hoping someone might know of somewhere decent to eat because I didn't find any 2 years ago.
Last time I was in Chiang Mai we didn't have any sit down meals - it was all street food which was fine. But I would love to have some typical Isaan food in a sit down restaurant. I've heard of Baanrai Yarmyen which is outside of town, but are there any other good options in the old city?
I spent 3 weeks in Chiang Mai and struggled to find any good sit down food in the city (and we ate at over 75 places!). The locals have basically moved out of old town - all that are left are tourist restaurants and accommodations.
Here are the places I absolutely loved:
- Khao Soi Samerjai ข้าวซอยเสมอใจ (Kao Soi Samer Jai) - the absolute best khao soi we had in all of chiang mai (and we tried at least a dozen different places). It's next to Wat Faham. The grilled chicken there is tasty too. Not a fancy sit-down meal, but... there are chairs and tables (if that counts)
- Sornchan - the absolute best chiang mai signature food. It's next to a drugstore (GPS coordinates - 18.787174,98.993602). It's a TINY TINY restaurant owned by sisters who live upstairs and make all the food in the morning and go until they sell out. Amaaazing nam prik ong (they've been there for over 50 years and apparently this is what they're known for) which is a Chiang Mai specailty. Also superb hung lay (another chiang mai specialty) and great laab. They have a super small menu, but try everything. Also, they have smoothies out front which are the best. Basically you're eating in someone's home, so there's 4 tables maybe?
Here are places that were very good, though not as good as the two above:
- Ruen Tamarind at the Tamarind Village Spa - the lone pick we had in the old town for meals, it may satisfy your requirement of a nice sit down meal. It's in a hotel, next to a pool and is beautifully decorated (naturally, it costs more too). They have traditional and fusion food and the fusion food is actually better here (the fried tom yum goong, coffee custard were particularly memorable). But you can also get traditional food here if you want a nice place to eat.
- W by Wanlamun (18.789546,98.996086) - this is a nice sit down restaurant. The Thai food is decent (the red duck curry and tom yum goong were good) but they're pastries are spectacular. We had spent a long time in SE Asia at that point and it was nice to have some European desserts
- Solao (18.797811,98.970967) has the best green papaya salad in town. and great chicken wings. It's issan style, but limited menu (limited english, too) and while there are chairs and tables, def not a "sit-down" meal kind of ambiance.
- Lemon Tree (18.798052,98.974296): Again, not much ambiance here, but it serves traditional thai food and the shop is air conditioned and has tables (lots of positive notes from tourists on the tables and walls). Really good curries.
- Kiet Ocha (18.789737,98.986387) is in old town and is more of more street food shop style but really good khao man gai (chicken rice) - skip the stay and fried chicken.
- The Chang Phuak night market is good, but again, more street food style. Good mango sticky rice, and a very good khao kha moo (rice with stewed pork - usually has a long line)
- If you're in teh Nimman area, Kao Soy Nimman has a decent Khao Soy and also an Issan menu - it also has a nice restaurant sit-down area.
Eventually I'll be writing these up in more detail with photos and videos, but this should get you started for now!
Huen Phen in Chang Mai is great for lunch. It was so good that I went back for dinner which has a different menu and was not nearly as good.
I think you're confusing Isaan food with Northern food. Isaan is the northeastern part of Thailand while Northern style is the traditional food of Chiang Mai. There are plenty of great northern restaurants but fewer Isaan.
There's a year old thread here that was very comprehensive:
It's all still accurate with the following additional info:
Wera's Larb Phed still serves outstanding Isaan food but they're moving from their current location on Nimmanhaemin Soi 7 to somewhere near the train station in January.
Tong on Nimmanhaemin Soi 13 is more popular than ever, especially with Thais visiting from Bangkok. There's usually a 30-60 minute wait for a table in December. Service is spectacularly fast though once you place your order.
I'll second the recs for Sorn Chan and Huen Pehn but as stated in every thread on CH, Huen Pehn is ONLY good at LUNCH.
Saveur recently did an article on Khao Soi:
I concur with the author's rec for the no-name stall in the Lanna Food Court in the far back of the basement level of the Kad Suan Kaew shopping mall as one of the best versions of Khao Soi in CM and it's much easier to get to than some of it's more famous competitors.
In Chiang Mai, we went to Wera's Larb Ped, luckily before they moved. The Larb Ped was good, but not outstanding. I don't know if they made it mild seeing two blonde girls there or not. But our favourite dish was something they called a sour sausage that was incredible. Home made fresh sausage with chunks of meat and melt in your mouth fat. I was with a Croatian friend who couldn't get enough and thought it tasted like the home made sausages her grandfather used to make.
We ate at Mix for another friend's birthday - the food was very pretty and well presented but it was just so-so. I liked the atmosphere and the staff and the normal cocktails but would skip the molecular ones next time as they are just flavoured shaved ice made out of dry ice. They tasted good but not really drinkable.
Our hotel had recommended Aroon Rai and we stuck to the Northern Specialities. I have to say the Khao Soi and Khanom Jeen we had at a stall at the Saturday walking street near the silver temple was better than we had at Aroon Rai.
In Koh Jum we went to Koh Jum seafood - nice view on the water but overpriced and the fresh squid was overcooked and rubbery. The crispy whole fish was tasty but at 500 baht was ridiculous. Otherwise we just at at our resort or Freedom Bungalows
In Koh Lanta, again no great meals. Time for Lime was good but missing something since the last time I went. It was good but when I went a few years ago it was amazing.