After extensive, selfless research throughout the Nimman area and Old City areas of Chaing Mai I can bring you the five best value restaurants list. These places offer an experience, value for money and wonderful food. When you have had enough of cooking in your condo, or eating at markets, it’s nice to treat yourself to a proper sit-down meal with cutlery. These are the favourites, so far.
Leon De Nimman
Run and owned by French man, Leon, it offers a French and a Thai menu. Being French there is a strong emphasis on wine, but it isn’t cheap. The lowest price bottled wine comes in at over 900BHT, equivalent to US$30, or AUD$40. However, a range of cocktails are offered for only 99BHT each (US$3.20, or AUD$4.40). Wine by the glass (a big glass) is around 110 BHT (US$3.50, or AUD$4.85).
The Thai menu is the cheapest option but is next level in terms of aromatics and flavours. Serves are not huge, so it’s nice to get a few of dishes to share. It is about three times more expensive than eating at a street market, but still much cheaper than other restaurants, plus it’s more romantic and the service is welcoming.
The French side of the menu has an impressive range of options with all the usual French dishes you’d expect, except snails. Probably not a bad thing. The duck terrine is a perfect French rustic pleasure. Leon likes to circulate around guests and is happy to engage in conversation if they’re interested.
You’ll find Leon down Soi 7, off Siri Mangkalajarn Road.
This Italian restaurant offers a casual outside setting with candlelight and hearty meals. Interestingly, the kitchen is also outside. They used to offer a wine buffet on a Friday night, where you’d pay 289BHT and down as much wine as you could between 6 and 8.30, but they’ve stopped that offer now. Never mind, you can still get a 1 litre carafe for 610BHT ($US19.50, or AUD$ 26.85)
The menu offers a broad selection of choice, some with high end prices, but you can get a tasty, hearty chicken scaloppine with mushroom sauce, much like a schnitty, for 200BHT (US$6.40, or $AUD8.80). Many of their ingredients are imported from Italy, which attracts the higher price, but the quality is great.
Another beautiful attraction of this restaurant is the desserts. Traditional Italian treats from Tiramisu, profiteroles and more, all made in house.
Although still quite cheap by Western standards, it turns out to be fairly relatively expensive by Thai standards, so probably not a frequent venue for us.
You’ll find Why Not? Down Soi 11, off Nimmanhaemin Road.
Extravaganza is the only word to describe Hot Chilli. The décor is how I imagine the inside of a drag queen’s mind to look, all sparkles, velvet drapings, and over the top floral motifs in reds and purples. It is truly an experience. Apart from the traditional restaurant chair – table seating option, there are swing chairs, complete with fake flowers travelling up the ropes, or cosy cocoon seats layered with oversized cushions. You’ll be reaching for your camera as soon as you enter but won’t know which way to point it first.
Hot Chilli is staffed by a bunch of young hip Thais who speak pretty good English and serve traditional Northern Thai cuisine, served on traditional style platters.
Northern Thai food predominantly features pork. It is prepared in a variety of sausages, or grilled and pork scratchings are served on the side, a bit like fries in the West. The menu is extensive, but not cheap. The Khan Toke was 320BHT ($US10.25, AUD$14.85)
Drinks are expensive too and be aware that between 2pm and 5pm you cannot buy alcohol anywhere.
These photos don’t do it justice, so I’ve included this Trip Advisor link. It’s unique and probably the only way you’ll ever see inside a drag queen’s mind.
You’ll find Hot Chilli on Rachadamnoen Rd, in the Old City, coincidentally along the Sunday Walking Market route.
Jagagee is small, with only 5 tables, but if you can get in it’s so worth it for flavour, choice, value and service. It’s run by a Thai man with international chef experience. He offers a range of tapas for 50BHT each (US$1.60, or $AUS2.20). Around five dishes are enough to feed two.
The dishes are international cuisine and change each night, as it says on the wall of the restaurant “depending on the mood of the chef.” Another insight on the wall is, “fuck MSG.” This made me happy. Some tapas dishes include sautéed spinach with garlic butter, Tuscan pork, German sausage and signature red pepper dip. The tapas include French, German, Indian, and Thai at various times.
People rave about their fries, they’re OK. There are a lot of excellent sauces to accompany them though.
Wine by the glass is the standard 110BHT. Sometimes they have specials for wine.
The owner/ chef is lovely and is fun to have a little chat with.
You’ll find Jaggajeein Soi 15, off Nimmanhaemin Road.
Labkai is a Thai restaurant offering cheap local specialities to a backdrop of jazz music. It’s popular with locals and Westerners.
Some of the delicacies on offer are stir fried frog, grilled pork brains and something that involves chicken hearts. I’m yet to sample these. I can speak for the fish in river weed soup though. Very flavoursome and a bargain at 75BHT ($US2.40, or $AUD3.30)
Again, a hearty glass of wine is around 110BHT.
You’ll find Labkai in Su Thep, Mueang Chiang Mai.
So there’s the current list. No doubt, as the tireless investigations continue, more venues will compete for the list. Keep an eye out for the conclusions of the next investigations into the best rooftop bars of Chiang Mai.