Chanchao's Chiang Mai Food Review
Reviews of restaurants and Thai food stalls in Chiang Mai, Thailand
By: Chanchao in Chiang Mai

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Wednesday, 30-Jun-2004 00:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Burrito House

Burrito House
Simple but nice interior, no airconditioning
Quesadilla (59 Baht)
View all 6 photos...
The place pictured here is now closed, though I believe the outlet at the top floor of Chiang Mai Pantip Plaza is still there. (Though who knows for how much longer.. )

It may seem unfair to now have 3 eviews of Mexican(ish) food and still zero Italian food, even though there are lots more Italian restaurants around Chiang Mai, many of them really excellent by any standard! Perhaps it's because Mexican is so hard to find in Chiang Mai. Or just because all of the places I mentioned are relatively inexpensive little places, my favorite kind.

Burrito House fits in nicely, it's a bit out of the tourist center and quite inexpensive. Don't expect great Mexican cuisine, think 'Taco Bell' and you will definitely not be disappointed.. Perhaps even pleasantly surprised.

The place does some Italian food as well, some standard pasta dishes and pizza. And some standard fast food like fries and burgers. There's also many ice cream deserts on the colorful menu, which actually looks like a menu from some big fast food franchise! Yet the prices are very friendly indeed. I include a picture.

Burrito House has two locations in Chiang Mai, one near the Novotel / Rim Ping Supermarket on Chotana Road and this one in a soi off Suthep Road near the back entrance to Chiang Mai University. To get there continue towards CMU on Suthep road past the intersection with the Canal Road. It's then in a soi on the left, before you get to Soi Wat Umong. There's a sign on the main road.

Monday, 28-Jun-2004 00:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Kitamon Japanese & Chinese Restaurant

Kitamon Japanese & Chinese Restaurant
Eat in an airconditioned room or outside on a riverfront terrace
Sashimi set at 300 baht
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For Japanese food I mostly visit the cheapo places like Yatai (See review) but sometimes a relative splurge is nice too, and the food and surroundings definitely a step up. For starters it's nice to see seriously potent wasabi readily dissolving in your soi sauce, rather than see it and up as little chunky lumps floating around. And the surroundings make a difference too, a nice air-conditioned room or outdoors riverside dining area with plenty of staff is definitely nice for special occasions.

Kitamon is perhaps not the total high-end for Japanese food in Thailand, prices are still quite reasonable. It's a bit in the same league as the Japanese restaurant at Nang Nual on the other side of the river. Kitamon might just have the edge in this range, though Nang Nual does an all-you-can-eat buffet both lunch time as well as dinner time. Kitamon has this only at lunch time. Kitamon also does home delivery, and prices really are no higher than your average Pizza Hut delivery..

There are separate menus for Japanese food as well as Chinese/Thai food. The Chinese menu looks very interesting as will, with some good seafood choices. Will especially try the Crab with black pepper sometime. On this occasion though I stuck to the Japanese food which I think turned out very good indeed. There are some 'sets' on the menu, including sets with Japanese rice and grilled fish or meat, or sets with various sushi or sashimi items. The biggest set goes for 400 baht, the one pictured was the smaller set for 300 baht. It's served in an interesting little boat-shaped tray filled with ice to keep things cool. The nice presentation and friendly and fast service make this still very good value for money I think.

Kitamon is on the river, on the Western bank, South of town before you get to the Aom Muang ring road. It's on the left side of the road when coming from town driving South.

Wednesday, 23-Jun-2004 00:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark
The 'Everything' restaurants / Ahaan Taam Sang

Semi outdoors food stall / restaurant. (Guess where this is?)
Basic tables and chairs, typical open cooking area.
Phad krapao kai / Chicken w. Thai basil and chillies
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Just from looking through these pages you may conclude there are many places to eat around Chiang Mai. In reality I haven't even scratched the surface yet.. Aside from writing about individual restaurants, I especially enjoy singling out one particular dish, style or category of food and then pick one restaurant or food-stall that I think does a particularly good job of it. Doing so leaves out at least one main category of restaurant, namely those that don't do one particular dish or style, but do 'everything'. 'Everything'-restaurants and food stalls are called 'Taam Sang' in Thai, which literally means 'made to order'. And they're all over the place!

Some will be an actual restaurant, like a shophouse, others will be food stalls with some tables and plastic chairs on the sidewalk. Some open only during the day, others only at night. Some actually have menus, others just list a bunch of random dishes on signs. Very few have English language menus. This may make them a challenge for the tourist, but by all means try them, especially the ones that look popular! Communications may be difficult, and shop owners may know a grand total of 3 English words: "Fried Rice" or "Fried Noodle". Also they may think that this is all that foreigners want to try, thinking that no foreigner can eat spicy food. So they may need some encouragement if you want to get dishes that are more interesting. You could try pointing at the ingredients on display near the cooking area, or you could point at dishes that other people in the restaurant ordered. Or you could try your luck in Thai language.. One of these days I should get around to making a 'Generic menu of Thailand' with loads of typical dishes on there in English and also in Thai writing..

Some tourists feel overly worried about food safety at the smaller places. Personally I've been sick from food twice in ten years, and both times this was at 'proper' well established restaurants! Still, when picking a place to eat it's good advice to pick a place that looks busy, if not for safety then at least because the food will most likely be very good as well! And, as many places of this kind feature an open cooking area, it's clear for all to see what happens to your food before it lands on your plate.

For the pictures with this entry I will not bother explaining where this particular place is located; there are so many similar places, often in little side lanes and alleys, no point in seeking out this particular place. I will add a listing of typical Thai dishes that you would find at these places soon(ish).

Monday, 21-Jun-2004 00:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Western Breakfast / Mad Dog

Mad Dog Bar & Restaurant
Pretty low key bar, pool table, TV, etc.
Big British breakfast set
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After writing last week about what a perfect place The Upper Crust would be for breakfast, with all the Western food, coffees and cakes and newspapers and all, I went there for breakfast last Sunday. But... found out they only open at 12 pm noon! Really! So had to pick something else to spend an hour with some fried eggs on toast, some coffee and the newspaper. So I picked Mad Dog bar. It's perhaps more a retired-expat hangout bar than anything else, but they do serve fairly inexpensive food as well, the usual collection of American/British breakfasts, burgers and sandwiches and so on. They do pizza as well. I think the breakfasts especially make a lot of sense, and you do get a lot of food for your 70 or 80 baht. You get your toast, butter, jam, eggs with ham or bacon, orange juice, coffee for 70 baht, or go for the British breakfast for 80 baht which includes some fried potatoes as well. One step up there's even a 'super breakfast' but I shudder to think how big that will turn out. There's also burgers and sandwiches that go for around 40-60 baht, and some main courses that I’ve never tried. One interesting thing to note is the almost complete absence of anything 'vegetable' on the menu, and very few things that would qualify as really 'healthy food' in anyone's book.. I did notice that muesli with yogurt & fruit had been added to the menu, so that's at least something. (And it was rather nice too, with fresh mango thrown in, not just the regular banana-papaya-water melon mix.)

It's a low key bar environment, friendly staff, newspapers available, draft beer, etc. Good unpretentious place for a beer or a bite to eat that's Western expat/tourist oriented without going the girlie-bar route, which is a common theme for bars in the Thapae area.

Mad Dog is on Moon Muang road, South of Thapae Gate on the city moat, pretty much across from D.K. Book Center.

Monday, 14-Jun-2004 00:00 Email | Share | | Bookmark
Northern Thai 'Mueang' Food - Ban Rai Yam Yen

Ban Rai Yam Yen Entrance, with cat. :)
Live band playing Thai & Western country type songs
Spicy minced catfish, salad w local vegetable, spicy clear curry
View all 6 photos...
Surprisingly enough, a good variety in 'traditional Chiang Mai food' is not all that easy to find in most of Chiang Mai's restaurants. Sure it's sold at pretty much all the markets all over town for 10 baht per serving in a plastic bag, but once you get to a proper restaurant you often don't find so many Northern dishes on the menu. Some restaurants offer a few of the ubiquitous ones, like a predictable 'Hors d'Oeuvre Muang' set or Hang Lay curry; this mostly for visitors from Bangkok and other parts of the country who want to taste the local food. Yet the truly hard core 'Mueang' dishes you mostly don't find. (Kafe restaurant deserves an honourable mention here because it manages to have both some Western as well as Thai and Northern regional things on the menu, and does a nice job at all of them.) But also Kafe doesn't have the huge variety of Mueang food that Ban Rai Yam Yen has.

Note that 'Mueang' means 'pertaining to Thailand's Northern Region'. It's more of an ethnic/cultural designation than a purely geographical one; people from the Northern provinces, roughly the area covered by the old Lanna Kingdom, will refer to themselves as 'Khon Mueang', Mueang People. This depending on context of course, it's not that they won't call themselves 'Thai' in a group of mixed nationalities because they will, but if you step up to any villager somewhere in the sticks of Chiang Rai or Mae Hong Son and ask 'Are you Thai'? then chances are he will reply "No, I'm Khon Mueang". (As opposed to any of the hill tribes in the area, Shan people, central Thais and so on). Along the same lines, when you talk about Northern Thai food, then people in the North will call their local fare 'Ahaan Mueang', Mueang Food.

Ban Rai Yam Yen restaurant is pretty far out of the city center, in the San Phee Suea area, East of the Ping river just North of the Superhighway ring road. It has featured on mainstream Thai TV shows on food and the major magazines, making it a rather famous place. It's the perfect place to take visiting Thai friends wanting to taste the local food, and of course won't disappoint any significant other who hails from the North of Thailand.. (That's assuming he/she can get over paying regular big restaurant prices for Northern food, which many people perhaps associate with the market or with Mum's cooking at home.) Ban Rai Yam Yen is not seriously expensive, but definitely moderate and on par with the big riverside restaurants such as The Good View, The Resort and all those. Another option for Northern food that comes to mind and which is equally famous is Huean Soontaree, on Wang Singh Kham road on the West bank of the Ping river.

Ban Rai Yam Yen is moderately priced, many dishes go for 70-80 baht, more for whole-fish dishes of course. They have Pla Buek on the menu as well, the Giant Mekhong Catfish. Also there's quite a lot on the menu that I will just describe as 'adventurous'. Great for shocking any visiting Western tourists. The interior of the restaurant is traditional wood, with lots of plants and little fountains around. There's a live music band as well playing both Thai as well as Western country type songs.

To get there you have to take Fa Ham road North past the Superhighway. So if on Fa Ham road then you pass under the Superhighway bridge over the ping river, then continue North for another 100-200 meters or so until you see the sign on the right hand side. The restaurant is 50-100 meters into that soi on the right. Alternatively, when driving on the Superhighway going East towards the Mae Jo intersection, make a U-turn LEFT directly after crossing the Ping river. (This means breaking hard and then U-turning the wrong way into oncoming traffic. This may feel like a highly dangerous move, which it is, but trust me that it's allowed. )

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