City Buzz

 |  May 27, 2013

Citylife has settled comfortably into our lovely new neighbourhood just east of the Ping.  A bit of exploring the tree-lined soi that surround our office has revealed a variety of prime lunch spots, and we’ve all got new favourites. Here’s a few we think you might enjoy…

“When your eye is in pain, you need to gaze upon the tree. Why?” This is the rather enigmatic slogan for this eccentric little cafe, guesthouse and art gallery, which looks like something that you’d find in the heart of backpacking Pai but just so happens to be conveniently located just one soi away from our new office. Green O’Clock serves up lovely coffees and teas, baked goods and a selection of Thai and Western dishes. We particularly enjoyed the sweet and fluffy green tea tiramisu. The setting is rustic but cute, and you can dine inside the pint-sized shop, out in the garden or under the covered patio, which features a small gallery that resembles a quirky outdoor classroom. Looking to spend a peaceful night on the cheap, but away from the Old City backpackers’ ghetto? Green O’Clock’s simple guesthouse offers basic bamboo huts for just 550 baht per night.

Open daily, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.  (Closed Tuesdays)
10 Kaew Narawat Soi 2
053 242 922

This aptly named little Japanese eatery is a hidden gem in every sense of the word. Turn down the quiet soi and look for the subtle signage on a fence in front of a quaint little wooden house. There sits Kitchen Hush. Step inside, breathe a sigh of relief in the calming, mercifully air-conditioned interior, and take a seat at a table or on a stool at the front counter. Sip on a cup of complimentary Japanese green tea while perusing the novella-sized, illustrated menu, featuring variations on all kinds of authentic Japanese dishes, from fresh sushi to savoury stir-fry. Most dishes come with soup and other sides, and everyone gets a tiny (free!) appetiser plate, different every time, with unique samplers from seaweed salad to sweet scrambled eggs. Try the 150 baht Bento box special and you will not leave disappointed (or hungry). Dessert is also free, a perfect-sized scoop of delicious homemade ice cream in whatever flavour they’ve chosen for the day. For one of the most zen-like dining experiences in town, Kitchen Hush is not to be missed.

Open daily; lunch: 11.30 a.m. – 2 p.m.,
dinner: 6 p.m. – 10 p.m.
(Closed Wednesdays)
Kaew Nawarat Soi 2
053 247 731

For a truly unique and highly affordable lunchtime outing, don’t miss this delightfully strange little restaurant. From the street you’ll see a barn-like building, with two open doors. One features what looks like an American soda fountain circa 1950, with an array of old candies and red gumball machines. The larger opening reveals a glass case filled with a mouth-watering array of pre-made Northern Thai specialties, from rich and savoury hung-lay curry with pork to spicy nam prik served with boiled vegetables and rice, sticky or steamed. Sit at one of the long cafeteria tables surrounded by a mind-boggling collection of retro items and decor from the 60s and 70s. To enter Khang Rong Nhang is to take a mini trip back in time, where you will see everything from brill cream to laundry detergent to telephones, lined up in clear glass cases along the walls of the ramshackle wooden building with posters of stars of yore adorning the walls. Come for the novelty, stay for the food.

Open daily, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
6/8 Kaew Nawarat Soi 3/3
053 240 639

This successful Italian wine bar and pizzeria from Slovakia (yup, you read it right) has recently opened up a branch in Chiang Mai (as you do) and now includes a Moroccan-inspired (naturally) hotel on the premises. But forget your atlas (or Google map); for we locals, this place is all about food and wine. Vulcano is a swanky and sophisticated restaurant and wine bar hoping to woo the business lunch and after-work crowd with its fine walk-in wine cellar, where bottles start at a reasonable 570 baht, and a variety of pizzas, pastas and carnes ranging between 150-300 baht per dish.  Pizza delivery service is also available and the Slovakian manager assures us that the generously-sized, wood-fired pizzas are delicious and cost around the 200 baht mark. The cool air-con interior with plenty of space includes an upstairs stage where a jazz band will perform every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. And if you simply want to pop by for a drink (buy one get one free during opening hours!) then there are plenty of yummy snacks to accompany your 165 baht glass of house wine, beer or cocktails.

Open daily, 7 a.m. – late
Nimmanhaemin Soi 17
053 223 567

Now operating under new management, the Windmill restaurant has been transformed into a high-class dining establishment. It’s a bit out of town but easy to spot – you’ll know you’ve found it when you see the massive windmill.  Sitting on a spacious plot of about 35 rai with a capacity of over one thousand people, the Windmill is a lovely place for a night out, set against a stunning mountainous backdrop with bubbling streams separating its various buildings. Using the concept of a luxury hotel with an ample staff, the Windmill has begun expanding its horizons to include catering, banquets and event receptions. Executive Chef Maetee Mahamit, who is also president of the Chiang Mai Northern Chef Club, has vast experience creating both traditional Thai and western dishes, and has meticulously designed the Windmill’s menu to include only the finest plates from European, Chinese and Thai gastronomy. With more than 20 years in the culinary world, Chef Maetee is presently working on perfecting the art of umami – dishes that use minimal amounts of sauces (and no MSG!) so that the taste comes solely from the ingredients’ natural flavours. Currently, Bangkok is the only place in Thailand where these rare umami dishes can be found, but Chef Maetee hopes to turn the Windmill into the first restaurant in Chiang Mai to offer them.

Open daily, 10 a.m. – 11 p.m.
433 M. 4 Sompot 700 Year Road, Mae Hia
086 659 2825

Having recently relocated from Koh Samui to Chiang Mai, Sawang Optical is the place to go for all your ocular needs. Because they sell only original eyewear from authorised dealers, you will find yourself in a relaxed atmosphere, able to make your choice without feeling rushed or overwhelmed. The shop’s fixed prices ensure that you will be getting your eyewear at a competitive rate, but because Sawang Optical is dedicated to making their customers feel comfortable and confident about their purchases, you may even be encouraged to check models and prices with other vendors before making your final choice. Sawang Optical also provides free eye exams – including tests for cataracts and glaucoma – sing only the latest equipment available. And for those who want to make a unique fashion statement, Sawang is the only optical retailer in Northern Thailand to custom design eyeglasses in various shapes and engrave them with letters of the customer’s choosing, all at no additional cost. With over 40 years’ experience in the business and a commitment to top brands including Oakley, Miu Miu and Ray Ban, Sawang Optical is guaranteed to provide you with exactly what you need: good prices, good quality and good service.

Open daily, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. (Closed Sundays)

Nimmanhaemin Road, opposite Soi 1

053 223 440

The word ‘omakase’ translates roughly to ‘leave it up to the chef’ in Japanese. And that is what up to eight diners get to do each night in this tiny new venue, located inside the award-winning Tengoku de Cusine complex. For 2,500 baht per head, diners are offered a seven-course Japanese seafood extravaganza of the highest quality, unlike anything available in the north of Thailand. The owner of Tengoku de Cuisine flew all his chefs to Japan recently to dine at some of Japan’s most celebrated restaurants, tasting, learning and being inspired. During a visit to the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo, they made arrangements to import a variety of the freshest products to Chiang Mai, which are now arriving every three days. Sashimi slices on offer include otoro, the buttery lower part of a tuna belly; engawa, the delicate edge of a flounder; matsuzaka, an incredibly tender beef; surf clams and sea urchin roe. Aromatic soups, foie gras sushi and a variety of other rare delicacies are included in the special seven-course omakase. You’ll be surprised at the ability of tiny bits of raw seafood to fill your belly, but you are still hungry (we certainly weren’t) the restaurant’s a la carte menu, comprising 30 items, is available for you to dig into. Order to your heart’s content, everything is included in the set price. This is a fabulous and very special dining experience – make sure you book ahead! – where strangers and friends can sit together at the food bar sipping hot sake or cold beer, watching the chef and owner expertly prepare each dish and sampling one rare treat after another. As owner San Suebsaeng says, “I just want people in Chiang Mai to get the opportunity to taste the best ingredients from Japan.”

Open daily, 5.30 – 10 p.m.
Sankampaeng Road, across from Mandarin Oriental Dhara Dhevi Hotel
053 851 133

The brand new Sala Lanna Resort has recently opened, providing five-star accommodation with 16 elegant and stylish rooms set along the east bank of the Ping River.  Whether you want to sleep, eat, drink or just relax and be pampered, Sala Lanna has got you covered with a variety of guest rooms and suites (as well as one exclusive deluxe villa with a private pool), two amazing restaurants and bars, and a luxurious spa.  So let’s talk food, because both of Sala Lanna’s brand new restaurants are set to become the toast of the town.  The first, Sala Lanna Restaurant, serves up delightful Thai and Western fusion dishes for breakfast (all day), lunch and dinner. Sit in the cool glassed-in dining room or lounge in white cushioned bliss out on the sexy riverfront patio. Here you can enjoy a variety of cocktails and cuisine, including Sala Lanna’s swoon-worthy signature dish, lamb Hunglay curry, slow-cooked for four hours until it falls off the bone and melts in your mouth. Or, slip through the wooden gate, past the pool villa and into the neighbouring patio, where wooden tables and gothic candelabras create a mood of dusky glamour. This is the brand new Italia Restaurant, where authentic Italian cuisine, a wide selection of imported wines and a variety of tasty cocktails are served up in style by internationally renowned chef Mirko Lacchini. Don’t miss the fantastic Australian veal shank with polenta and mushrooms, the vegetable terrine (which can be made vegan upon request), and an array of delicious homemade pizzas and pastas.   

Open daily, 7 a.m. – 11 p.m. (Bar open until midnight)
49 Charoenrat Road, Wat Gate
053 242 588