Fresh is Best

Feasting is central to our passion for exotic destination travel. Thailand creates pleasure not only for the eye through plate presentations artistically garnished but also via the taste buds impacted with the freshness of the ingredients and the spicy Thai chili influence. Sounds of meats and whole fish sizzling on the coals of the open air street carts, the scrumptious goodness of these dishes impacting your taste buds and the feel of using fork for shoveling and spoon for eating round out the sensory explosion of the northern Thai fare with its Western, Indian, Italian and even Mexican influences.

We’ve enjoyed light breakfasts and lunches at home with fresh goods purchased from the Muang Mai Market (see Market Day in Images post), some street vendors, Tops Market and Rimping (actual grocery stores). The Big C and 7-11 located between our condo at Twin Peaks and the Night Bazaar provided us staples like coffee and bottled water (a necessity in Thailand.) At the Tom Lamyai Market by the Ping River my honey purchased beautiful flowers to add to our surroundings in the condo. For nearly a week they were intoxicating! Nothing like fresh floral scents in your living space

Days of lounging by the pool, doing a little exercise, writing, studying online and reading followed by wandering out into the city to find a place that intrigued us for dinner is how we have spent our first days here in Chiang Mai.

Sounds of the fireworks being shot off as the dragon made his way down the streets and aisles of the night bazaar in celebration of the Chinese New Year found us dining at Aisha Thai Food within the Night Bazaar. Appetizers included garlic naan, chicken kebabs and cucumber and tomato salad. Entrees included Stir fried shrimp, Spicy clams and Fried Morning Glory. Rock soda water was our beverage of choice this evening. The service at this location left much to be desired but the food and the prices were right and the live cover singer at an adjoining bar provided good entertainment in these lively surroundings.

Loi Kroh Road creates some great opportunity for wandering and taking in the atmosphere of a tourist area of the city and offers quite a few good eating establishment options. Welcome Inn has a nice dining area with indoor seating as well which we took advantage of to allow for cooler seating area than the patio. We started with the best house made chicken fingers I think I’ve ever had with a nice sweet and spicy sauce and a mixed salad consisting of fresh assorted greens with cucumber, red onion and Roma and grape tomatoes. Tom Yum Kung (prawns) and noodles chicken served as our entrees with Chang beer for me and Chang soda water for my date. The service here was prompt and friendly and the prices are excellent.

The Garden was a great stop on this street as well. My honey prefers indoor dining because of the humidity but this place has a great garden area discovered when you walk all the way through the building and arrive in the back and side yards. The prices here are friendlier yet then others I’ve mentioned and the food was tasty although our tempura shrimp and onion rings appetizer were a bit over cooked. Spring rolls served as another starter and the Khao Soi with chicken and Tom Yum filled us up the rest of the way on this evening. Here we drank Chang soda waters. The beverage offerings in all Thai restaurants, alcoholic or not, are all very inviting but we consciously conserve calories with the refreshing soda water.

Chez Marco has so far been the “premium” find on this street and in this city and we kicked off our weekend with an extravagant French Bistro style dinner there. The atmosphere was lively and the service impeccable. Our starters included a cheese plate consisting of five cheeses, walnuts, raisins and jam with crackers and fresh crusty wheat bread. We also ordered tuna carpaccio which was tasty but the flavor of the tuna was slightly overpowered in the preparation. Our salad course was shared, the Paul Salad was over the top. Grilled vegetables of eggplant, a variety of squashes, tomatoes both fresh and sun dried with figs, Kalimata olives, goat cheese and bitter greens drizzled with a balsamic vinaigrette, nearly a meal in itself, but when we are in this mode we have endless belly space! Rack of lamb (advertised incorrectly as it consisted of only 4 bones not 8) was cooked to mid-rare perfection and well presented on a painted plate. The special of the day “Big Ribeye” (450g black angus) was served with a tasty Madeira sauce. Toasted green onion served as the garni across the top of this steak artfully cut and prepared by the chef who we had the opportunity to meet after dinner. Eggplant fries and au gratin potatoes en cassoulet were both perfect in preparation as well. My honey had brought a couple special bottles of red from home as we had seen in previous years there was quite a mark up due to import taxes on fine wine here. On this evening we had a Margaux, young, yet bright with complexity to compliment our meats.

My Place Lounge is a great bar to feel at home and on this night it was the owners birthday which gave us a great excuse to hang out and make new friends, both Thai and American. As had happened last year, we stayed well past the time our host was required to pull down the garage door to abide by the midnight closing regulation. After hours is always good fun!

Linen tablecloths and napkins provide value in the dining experience and the service, food and quaint atmosphere of Giorgio Italian Restaurant just across from our condo did not disappoint. Simple cheese plate and Parma ham and melon served to start us out on this dining experience away from traditional Thai. (With our settling in to everyday life in this city we have noticed many more options in dining than in our previous short visits. Even the pickiest meat and potatoes eater would not starve here 😉 An Italian wine from the establishments frig got my personal sommelier’s eye and we enjoyed the Italian Chianti with our entrees of Parmesan Chicken and Penne Pasta with fresh peas in a creamy tomato sauce. Proudly I have resisted the temptation of sweets in all of our dining experiences in the hopes of keeping those extra unwanted pounds at bay! I cannot lie, the Tiramisu was certainly tempting served at a table nearby!

Ole Gourmet served as another diversion from Thai influence. This recommendation came from my sister in law in Colorado whose friend’s son and daughter in law are the owners. It was located just off the opposite end of the Night Bazaar from us. We started with chicken nachos. Pumpkin chips were the highlight in the originality of this dish and the salsa was spiced quite nicely. This restaurant touts itself as non GMO with local providers and many Vegan options. I had a margarita made with fresh lime that was extremely good and my entree was pork tacos and for my partner, chicken burrito in a wheat tortilla. Both were extremely generous portions and although I wouldn’t list them as a favorite that I would go back for, the sweet potato taco shells added interest to my entree.

Gekko Garden is a place we went last year and I ended up with mosquito bites. This year we went and other than some basic fare (chef salad with house made ham which was tasty) I do not think this is a place I wish to waste words or space on.

Whole Earth outdoor restaurant is beautiful to the eye, has well trained staff and a wide array of vegetarian as well as meat options on the menu and was an easy walk from our condo and near the Night Bazaar. Tempura vegetables and shrimp and fresh spring rolls served as our appetizers. Tasty sweet and spicy sauce and a great vegetable mix including zucchini, mushroom, green bean and pepper made the tempura great. The spring rolls, while good, were not what we had expected. They were a regular Thai style spring roll, not fried, but served hot. We were hoping for more of a cold Vietnamese style roll. We opted into the Indian influenced dishes on the menu and ordered shrimp masala, garlic nan, chapati (wheat dough cooked in a skillet and thin like tortillas and served buttered) and mild Indian Chicken Curry. Both were robust in flavor!

All restaurants listed here average about 1/3 the price point of a comparable restaurant menu in the U.S. The freshness of ingredients here greatly outweighs what we become accustomed to in the states. (Dinner for two has been between $12 and $75 depending on our appetite and the originality/western influence of the menu) Friendly, attentive staff, most with some mastery of use in the English language were what we found as a common denominator. As I wrap up this post, my tummy is starting to feel empty after a snacking day of fruits and veggies. Tonight, as we do many times when home, we are cleaning out the produce and having breakfast for dinner with an original frittata. (Picture included since my final review came after consumption:-)

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