Waiting for May: A refreshing and unique addition to Chiang Mai’s vast food scene

Gourmet farm to plate Waiting for May opens in Chiang Mai in joint venture with Banyan Tree group

By | Fri 14 Aug 2020

Citylife was invited to the opening of this new restaurant at the end of July and was happy to have been seated next to Lanna, an ex-intern and recent graduate of Prem International School who is soon to head off to Portland, Oregon, US for a degree in journalism. We thought we would keep her on her toes before she heads off to college and here is her review of the wonderful night we had at Waiting for May.

‘Waiting for May’ offers what many reservations-only restaurants do not — an invitation for creativity with a twist…customers are part of the creative process.

Chef James Douglas Noble, who worked in a Michelin starred restaurant in Cambridgeshire, UK before supplying Michelin starred restaurants across Thailand and the region with his organic farm in Pranburi has officially moved to Chiang Mai. And we are in for a treat. His ‘White Menu’ concept means, pretty much that. The menu is blank and only filled in after Chef James discusses his guests’ likes and dislikes, matching them with daily produce from his 500 rai farm, Ori9ins, in Sansai Noi which he calls Thailand’s first gourmet and organic farm.

Ori9ins is a joint venture between the chef and the Banyan Tree group and is already supplying produce to Banyan Tree properties across Asia, with Banyan Tree accommodation opening on the farm the future. With a low carbon footprint, as organic as it can be amidst the north’s many chemical farms, sustainable and a focus on zero waste, Chef James makes his own cheeses from the goats he tends, bread from the maize he grows, and serves fish from the ponds he cares for, along with meats and vegetables he cultivates and grows.

The White Menu isn’t just about the dishes that come out of the kitchen, it is also about the speed, dietary restrictions and amount of food you are presented with. “If you want five starters, sure I will make five starters, when you are done you can have one or three salads, as many soups and mains and desserts as you wish,” said Chef James. “Just tell me when you want which course to come out and how many. But I don’t like waste, so you have to finish one dish before you will get another. If you like one dish so much, you can keep ordering it again and again. It’s up to you.”

I had the pleasure of going to the soft opening of his temporary city restaurant Waiting for May on the 31st July and the experience was like no other. Walking into the restaurant, there was little information given as to what to expect in regards to the coming dishes. To wait out the rest of the arriving guests, I looked at the drinks menu. Which (to my surprise) doubled as a Thai children’s book.

As the food began to arrive, I looked around and noticed that on each and every table the arrival of a new dish became quite a conversational starter, as diners attempted to figure out each complex element on the plate.

“What do you think this is?” “Here! Try the sauce mixed with this thing!” “I’ve never tasted this before.” I can’t begin to recall all the dishes we tried that evening, but here were some of my absolute highlights I thought I would share with you:

Satay Ice Cream: As soon as the waiter said ‘Satay Ice Cream’ the Chiang Mai girl in me experienced whiplash from turning my head too swiftly. I couldn’t fathom such an odd combination. But when it arrived, the scoop of smooth creamy sweetness with the added texture of peanuts, a jaunty fresh cucumber on top and crispy bits of Thailand’s traditional rice cracker snack was everything you would wish for…but never knew you wanted.

Pumpkin Somtam:  Yes, I’ll let you read that again. Pumpkin somtam. Presented like a common somtam, the pumpkin added a sweet and creamy kick to the spicy nature of the classical somtam.

Oxtail Ragù: As someone who has a fond love for all things pasta, I feel like you can go no wrong with a ragù. I have tried many different interpretations of the meat-based sauce, but never oxtail. The tender oxtail in the ragù sauce and the truffle spaghetti – made with maize grown on the chef’s farm – was a combination made out of pasta lovers’ heaven.

As Chiang Mai begins opening up more and more, go out and support your local restaurants. Waiting for May is accepting reservations now, so go on! Don’t be ‘Waiting’ to go to Waiting for May.

The cost of a meal for one is 1,500 baht per person.