Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Tha Nam (Riverfront) Restaurant

Listen to live Northern Thai folk songs as you dine in the garden next to the Ping River. Tha Nam (which means Riverfront) is a great choice if you're looking for somewhere with a relaxing ambience in an atmospheric Thai teak house setting. Tha Nam is situated on the "quieter" spot of the Ping River near Ratilanna Hotel, about 10 min drive South of the famous Night Bazaar. The restaurant serves Thai & Northern Thai food.

The restaurant building was made from 5 old teakwood houses, with plenty of woodcarvings and an art gallery. As we stepped into the restaurant, it was almost felt like we were stepping back in time. It was so peaceful and and even though we were so close to the centre of town, it felt like we were somewhere very far away!

The test, of course, is the food. Often you get lovely restaurants, but not so great food. How was Tha Nam's food? I'm pleased to say, the food, at least what we had, was excellent, and the price, reasonable.

Without further ado, this are what we had:

Lemongrass Salad with Green Leaves. This was so lovely and made a great refreshing appetizer. If you haven't tried lemongrass salad before, I'd highly recommend you try it. A lot of restaurants make the dressing too sweet. I found Tha Nam's version sweet as well, but there was a nice balance of saltiness, tanginess, sweetness and just a touch of spiciness. In case you are wondering, the green leaves are called "Cha Pu" leaves, similar to betel leaves, but have a less intense flavour and smaller. To eat the salad, you put the salad on the leaves, and wrap it up, and pop the whole "parcel" into your mouth, then enjoy! The salad was srumptious, full of flavour, and crunch (from the peanuts!). Mmm very nice indeed! 75 baht.

Since we didn't feel like anything too heavy that night, we ordered Somtum, aka papaya salad. You can of course, find somtum EVERYWHERE in Thailand. The best (most delicious) place to eat this dish is probably at street stalls, but those who are worried about hygiene, "proper" restaurants also offer decent renditions (but some better than others!). Tha Nam's Som tum was very good, and the dressing quite intense in flavour, and not TOO spicy. Just the way I like it! 55 baht.

Hor Mok Talay (in Coconut). Steamed Seafood Curry in Coconut. This was excellent, possibly one of the best hor moks I've had. There were lots of prawns and other seafood (no seafood stick in sight! yeah!). Hor Moks are usually quite firm in texture, and come served in banana leaves (or aluminium foil). The ones served in coconut are normally runnier, more like the consistency of a thick curry, and this was the case here. Very tasty. I really liked the way the coconut was overfilled too....looked a bit like an exploding volcano with larva flowing down...150 baht.

At this stage, we were quite enjoying the food, and our "light" meal wasn't to be. We ordered a few more dishes:

Stir fried fish fillet seasoned with mixed herbs - This was also very nice. Pla Klung ("Klung" fish) was used (not sure what the English name for it is). Very good also. 120 baht.

Spring rolls- had "everything" in it, including taro strips. Quite good & fairly large serving. 80 baht

Tom Kha Gai - "Chicken Galangal Soup" - a hot and spicy soup similar to the more well known (at least among foreigners), Tom Yum, but with coconut milk added. In many ways, I prefer Tom Kha to Tom Yum because the coconut milk gives the soup a smoother, rounder flavour. It's also often milder than Tom Yum, so I think it's a great dish to try if you can't take spicy food. Tha Nam's Tom Kha was quite creamy, which was very nice, and also full of chicken meat. Eventhough I prefer my Tom Khas lighter, there wasn't much of it left! 80 baht.

So that was our meal. It was a very pleasant evening, and I will definitely be back, especially when I have overseas visitors. Tha Nam is a great place to have good Thai food in authentic Lanna (Northern Thailand) atmosphere. The prices are reasonable too.

Just a couple of annoying things, though. There were a lot of insects. I suppose you have to expect it, having dinner at dusk outside in the garden in the rainy season. The waiting staff were very quick to offer mosquito coils, but there were quite a few tiny insects circling us, we were still bitten by mosquitos. So a hint for you to take insect repellents with you when you go, especially around 6-7pm. I guess this problem would improve as we move towards the cooler months.

The other warning is for the ladies - be careful walking around with your high heels! The paths to the river side dining areas are rather uneven!

Tha Nam
43/3 Moo 2 T. Phardad, A. Muang, Chiang Mai 50100
Tel: 053 275125
Open: 10am-11pm daily
Live folk music nightly

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Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Kitchen Hush, Japanese Restaurant

On a search for a more special, more authentic, Japanese Restaurant in Chiang Mai, we came across this little hidden gem (which is actually quite a well known restaurant, having been in business for 16 or 17 years). Kitchen Hush serves Osaka style home-cooked meals, and is located in a quiet residential soi (alley) off Kaew Nawarat Road. In fact, you wouldn't know it's there unless you're looking for it. It just looks like an average house, but once inside, it is said that you'll feel like you're in Japan. Sounds like a good place to check out!

When we got there for lunch, we were greeted with a kind of stale food smell (like in Chinese Restaurants with bad ventilation)...not quite a good start, but despite this mild odour, the restaurant was quite atmospheric with dark teakwood walls (like those of the old Thai wooden homes) and minimalist but elegant modern Japanese style decorations. In a corner stood a bookshelf full of Japanese magazines.

The test of authenticity is the food - not that I would really know, not having been to Japan since a very young age! Still, the menu, complete with pictures, was VERY extensive, and had many interesting dishes, including a range of sashimi, mochi, udons, etc. - I suppose almost everything you could want in a Japanese Restaurant, and certainly looked very authentic . Just a note - sashimi is only served at dinner time.

We ordered:

Takoyaki - a Japanese street food - little fried balls of batter with a chunk of boiled octopus in the middle. Kitchen Hush's takoyaki were softish and spongy on the outside, thick and creamy on the inside, and with, of course, a piece of chewy octopus. At the time, I thought the octopus was too chewy, but I now I think it made a nice contrast with the soft batter. The takoyakis were topped with mayonnaise, a tasty sauce, and plenty of bonito flakes. It was pretty good, and the sauce not too sweet, nor overpowering. 90 baht (6 pieces).

Katsu don with Miso Sauce - This was rather interesting - haven't had this style of the popular Katsu Don (rice topped with deep fried pork, eggs and condiments) before. A quick google search told me that this is a Nagoya version. It was great! The pork came in large pieces, crispy on the outside and not oily. It was served on a bowl of fluffy steaming Japanese rice and sliced boiled eggs, topped with a sweet and intense flavoured miso sauce. There were also a couple of dainty side dishes and a lovely miso soup as well. Quite a large serving (too big for me!). 170 baht.

Kitchen Hush Set 1 - This was a huge set. The mains were the boiled Saba and Ginger Pork (in the white packet). The saba was very tasty, served with a gingery gravy. The ginger pork was a bit fatty, and had a mild taste - a nice complement to the saba. The set also comes with miso soup, delicious baked pumpkin, steamed eggplant in a light sauce, tofu, potato salad, etc. 240 baht.

Other dishes: Gyu don - Rice with simmered slice beef and spicy sweet sauce. Nice and enjoyable, but a little too sweet. Again, a large serving (like the Katsu Don with Miso Sauce), and came with some side dishes. 160 baht.

For dessert, we were given complimentary strawberry ice-cream (Wall's). We were a bit disappointed with the lack of green tea ice-cream when we were there though, however, apparently, the owner makes home-made green tea ice-cream, and this is served at dinner.

By this time, we were very full, but I wanted to try Shiratama (Mochi with sweet red bean paste). The waitress said it was a cold dessert, but it took a while to come out - I guess they were quite busy at the time, and the mochis came out kind of warm. The mochis had a nice, firm and chewy texture, and very filling, which was not surprising, since mochi is made from glutinous rice! 80 baht

And last but not least, we still had a coffee from the Kitchen Hush 1 set. That was a bit of a novelty because we had a choice to grind out own coffee beans! After all the hard work, the coffee turned out to be quite lovely. : )

Kitchen Hush turned out to be very pleasant dining experience. If you enjoy Japanese home-cooking, and would like to have something authentic, I'd recommend this restaurant. It's a bit pricey though, for Thai standards, and the service a bit slow, but I think it's still worth it.

Kitchen Hush
18/1 Kaew Nawarat Soi 2
Wat Gate, Muang, Chiang Mai
Tel: 053 247 731

Opens for lunch: 11:30am-2:00pm
Dinner: 6pm-10pm
Closed: Wednesdays

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