As the spiritual capital in Thailand, Chiang Mai is also a city steeped with rich culinary history. The city of Chiang Mai is cosmopolitan, multicultural and vibrant, with the laidback atmosphere of the majestic mountains always nearby. Here, you’ll not only find traditional northern Thai flavours but also inventive, fusion offerings. Amongst the hundreds of eateries in the city, we picked these five must-try Chiang Mai restaurants for you to check out the next time you visit.
Cuisine de Garden
Fusing traditional Thai recipes with modern molecular gastronomy, Cuisine de Garden serves up a series of unique fusion dishes. In recent years, the innovative restaurant scene has really evolved in Chiang Mai; and Cuisine de Garden is a clear example. The establishment offers fun, creative plates that are inspired by local Thai traditions, as well as international flavours. With stunning artworks adorned on every wall, the restaurant lets diners savour scrumptious creations in artistic surrounds. The terrarium is an interesting appetiser which is artfully served in a smoke-filled glass jar. Essentially, it is a salad with à la minute smoked nut ham, navel orange confit and a balsamic drizzle. Egg lovers should go for the heart-warming onsen egg dish, where the yolk rests on a bed of crispy rice net and shredded chicken. As for mains, try the miso-cured cod served with nori butter, which adds a sweet buttery mouthfeel to the fish. Carnivores should not miss the free-range Cornish hen and chicken liver karage; the latter is paired with sweet edamame, pearl onions and aromatic truffle shavings. Robust and original, each of the dishes here are inventive and wholesome. Aside from intimate, indoor seating where you can watch the chefs in action, Cuisine de Garden also offers al fresco dining with serene garden views.
Cuisine de Garden 99 Moo 11, Nongkwai, Chiang Mai, +66 81 774 1479
Nestled in a polished teak wood building, Rak Thanam’s traditional design takes you back to the colonial times of Northern Thailand. Peaceful and secluded, the restaurant overlooks Ping River and a nearby pagoda. With fine views of the calm waters, Rak Thanam offers a cosy, romantic setting where diners can enjoy the river breeze and sunset hues while savouring traditional Thai dishes. The menu features rare Thai recipes and local exotic ingredients such as pla tub tim (deep fried red tilapia fish with the larb spices), and pak shaengda pad khai (stir-fried Northern Thai herbs with eggs). Don’t miss the hor mok talay ma-praow on, which is a delectable curry served with seafood in young coconut. The simple curry boasts complex flavours; all thanks to the soft meat from young coconuts, an assortment of fresh seafood, Thai basil and kaffir lime leaf. Khang kua hed hob is another must-try. The red curry puff is filled with succulent mushrooms and aromatic Thai spices. Escape the crowd and enjoy a scenic meal here at Rak Thanam.
Rak Thanam 168 M.3, Pardad Road, Chiang Mai, +66 53 275 125
Meena Rice-based Cuisine
Situated in a Lanna-style old house by the rice fields, Meena Rice-based Cuisine gives you a taste of what Chiang Mai’s countryside is like. As the restaurant motto reads ‘we have rice because we have the fields here’, Meena has an admirable farm-to-table concept. The establishment does not only give traditional Thai rice dishes a modern twist, but also plays with organic food colouring to present its plates in an innovative manner. The signature dish is, of course, rice. Here, you can choose from five different types of steamed rice — jasmine, red jasmine, butterfly pea-infused, riceberry and safflower-flavoured — each boasts an exquisite shade. Order the spicy pork salad to go with the rice of your choice; the robust salad is a deliciously healthy option served with oats and honey-baked spare ribs. Those who enjoy glutinous rice, try the grilled sticky rice that comes with eggs, garlic pork and deep-fried fish with lemongrass slaw. With an exciting selection of Thai dishes — meat and vegetarian options — it’s no surprise that that everyone is raving about Meena in Chiang Mai.
Meena Rice-based Cuisine, 13/5 Moo 2, San Klang Sub-district, +66 87 177 0523
DK David’s kitchen at 909
DK David’s kitchen at 909 is a celebrated family-owned restaurant Chiang Mai, and it is renowned for its exceptional hospitality. The moment you arrive, you are immediately greeted by the attentive staff and sometimes, the owners, too. And the staff is always just a glance away should you need anything to perfect your meal here. The restaurant offers a lush array of classic French, authentic Thai and creative fusion dishes, all made of quality ingredients. Start your meal with the smoky pan-seared tuna loin, which is served with eggs and a tangy balsamic dressing. Succulent and flavourful, the braised lamb shank is also a popular dish you don’t want to miss out on. To complete your dining experience, pair the lovely meal with exquisite wines. Here, there is a lush array of fine wines from around the globe. As for desserts, opt for a sticky toffee pudding. Crunchy and chewy, the moist sponge cake is covered in a decadent toffee sauce and interestingly dressed with sweet strawberry vinaigrette. For those who are keen on al fresco dining, take advantage of their outdoor seating amongst lush greenery.
DK David’s kitchen at 909 113 Bamrungrad Road, Wat Kate, Chiang Mai, +6691 068 1744
The Service 1921 Restaurant & Bar
Within Anantara Chiang Mai Resort, there is a sleek dining and drinking spot named The Service 1921 Restaurant & Bar. The restaurant sits in a restored colonial mansion — the former the British Consulate of Chiang Mai — and boasts a cool ‘secret intelligence service’ theme. Spacious and elegant, The Service 1921 has the intimate and highly refined atmosphere of a private mansion, luxuriously furnished with wooden bookshelves and antique-style cabinets. Combining top-notch ingredients, the chef here offers a delectable spread of modern Asian dishes. Served with snow crabmeat and a tangy dressing, the Vietnamese grilled eggplant salad is a great starter. Interestingly, they’ve also got this Sichuan-style chicken wings served with glass noodles and spicy tamarind sauce, which is packed with fire and spices. For some fun street-eats, try the pork skewers and ground beef rolled in betel leaves. When it comes to Northern Thai food, order the garng khua goong sapparod, which consists of king prawn cooked in red curry with sweet basil and pineapple. The noodles here are also noteworthy; try the Chengdu-style dandan noodles servied with minced pork, chilli oil and a secret sauce. With an excellent selection of creative cocktails and rare whiskies, it’ll be a mistake to pass up the drinks.
The Service 1921 Restaurant & Bar 123-123/1 Charoen Prathet Road, Anantara Chiang Mai Resort & Spa, Chiang Mai, +66 53 253 383