Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony, 23 July 2015, updated March 2016
From the past articles, you will be beginning to gain an idea of some of my habits in Chiang Mai. I mostly stay at the Sakorn Residence across the river. I frequently stay at Sakorn for a month or so at a time, because their rate by the month is much cheaper. I always hire a motorcycle to get around and use Nancy Chandler’s map.
An American Vietnam Veteran who was staying at the Sakorn Residence complained to me that the expats he knew spent half their time planning what they were going to eat and where they were going to go for their next meal. He thought it was a flagrant waste of time. I didn’t let on, but when I’m in Chiang Mai and alone, that is exactly what I do.
The Italian and French restaurants I favour are idiosyncratic choices. They have good food, but I don’t claim that they are the best restaurants in Chiang Mai. I rarely go to the most expensive restaurants. I don’t bring the clothes for fine-dining.
Half the time I’m in Chiang Mai I’m alone and half the time I’m with Denise. I don’t like Christmas and escape the treadmill, whenever I’m allowed. Often, I’ll spend time in Chiang Mai between visits to India.
Both Denise and I have availed ourselves of cheap dentistry in Chiang Mai, which has been a small black cloud on a couple of holidays. Going to the dentist every few days is not my idea of fun.
I also don’t do too many tourist activities in Thailand anymore, except occasionally. Most of the time I just hang out and I never get bored.
Let’s get to the restaurants:
My all time favourite Italian restaurant in Chiang Mai is Arcobaleno, which is just a short walk down the road from the Sakorn Residence. It is about 200 metres from Wat Kate down the back road.
I have friends in Canberra who used to go to a Thai restaurant not far from home, which they called the second kitchen. I don’t cook meals in Chiang Mai and only make my own breakfast. Nevertheless, I consider Arcobaleno my second kitchen.
Arcobaleno is mostly frequented by Thais and expats. It is too far away for tourists not staying in the area. It has a pleasant atmosphere and excellent staff. The free hot rolls served with herb butter are good. Water is provided gratis and the house wine is reasonable.
My favourite dish on the menu is duck with prune sauce, which is simple but excellent. The salads are basic but good and the pastas are good too. I also like the lamb chops and pork dishes. The other poultry, fish and meat dishes are also very good. I’ve never tried the pizzas, but they are popular.
The presentation of the food is basic and unpretentious, as is the ambience. The restaurant is roomy, but the food still comes efficiently when they are crowded. The owners are Italian, the staff tend to be long-term and the junior staff are well-trained.
The photos on their website don’t give you much idea of what the restaurant looks like. I’d call it a typical family restaurant, plain and pleasant. But, I tend to avoid family restaurants; so I hasten to add, it is never full of noisy children.
I have mixed feelings about Giorgio restaurant. Sometimes I like the food and feel it is really good and sometimes I think it is too expensive. Nevertheless, it is popular with tourists. Giorgio is located in Prachasampan near the intersection with Chang Klan not far from the night markets.
Giorgio is an Italian from Venice. I haven’t been to his other restaurant Da Antonio, but mean to.
When in Chiang Mai, I eat duck frequently. The short answer is: I like duck and Asia is a great place to eat duck! The longer answer: 1 Chiang Mai is a gourmet town; 2 It is highly influenced by Yunnanese cooking. 3 The Thais know about rearing ducks.
Giorgio’s Fettucine all’anatra (duck and parmesan cheese in cream sauce) is really excellent. The best I’ve had in Chiang Mai.
The ambience of the restaurant is pleasant and authentic Italian. The house wine is not as good as other places. The meat dishes and pizzas are reasonable.
La Fontana at the Moon Muang (Tha Phae Gate) end of Ratchamanka is a very convenient location inside the walls of the old city. La Fontana is directly opposite perhaps the best Yunnanese food restaurant in Chiang Mai. The latter is an open shed with no ostentation, but the food is excellent. Most tourists walk by.
La Fontana is a pleasant open-air restaurant with a nice atmosphere. It is popular with tourists. The food is good. The meat and pasta dishes are good. From memory the pizzas are good.
My nephew and I both agree that their signature dish is Capesante e gamberetti al forno (Baked scallops and shrimps in brandy cream sauce), which is really good.
Pulcinella da Stefano
Pulcinella da Stefano (053-874-189) is in a quiet lane off Tha Phae Road, just across the road from Tha Phae Gate. It is near the two secondhand bookshops.This is an old favourite with tourists. The atmosphere is cozy and friendly.
The food is reasonably priced and good. I like their pasta all’anatra and their other pasta and meat dishes. The salads are basic but OK. The house wine is good.
I’ll go here when I want a pleasant meal in pleasant company, whenever I want a different Italian experience from Arcobaleno. The verdict is friendly, unpretentious and good.
There are many other Italian restaurants in Chiang Mai. I have tried one or two but there are many I haven’t tried. I must spread my wings. There is also a plethora of pizza places, but I have no real opinion on any of them.
La Fourchette is my favourite French Restaurant in Chiang Mai. It is quite conveniently located in the old city on Phra Poklao opposite Wat Chedi Luang. It is a small intimate restaurant with a lovely atmosphere, quite good for a date. The menu is reasonably small and everything is really good. Their duck is exquisite. The prices are reasonable.
It took me some time to get to La Fourchette because they close in January for a few weeks to go back to France.
Chez Daniel (053-204-600) is on the edge of a funny failed development area called Chiang Mai Land. Chez Daniel faces the Mahidol Highway. I’ve only been there a couple of times, not recently.
Its atmosphere is rather run down or down-at-heel. However, the food is good and I’d recommend the duck, of course.
I avoided Chez Marco (053-207-032) for some time because it is right in the middle of Loi Kroh (at the old city end) with its girly bars, massage parlours and tourism central atmosphere. Because of its location, it is popular and you have to book, particularly if you want to sit outside and view the parade.
Chez Marco is an excellent restaurant with a pleasant atmosphere and really good French food. It is probably marginally cheaper than La Fourchette and good value for money. The duck is good but so are all the other dishes. The house wine is a bit more expensive but excellent.
I haven’t been to Cote Jardin (086-273-8675) for some time but the two times I have been there the food was good. The duck was excellent. It’s the place to go when you want a bit of variety from La Fourchette or Chez Marco. Cote Jardin is situated in a lane between Muan Muang and Ratchamanka in the old city. Hence it is very central.
The Franco-Thai Place
The Franco-Thai Place (089-855-6697) in a back lane off Manee Noparat down from Huay Kaew is hard to find, which is probably why it is so popular with expats, because few tourists do find it.
It’s hard to define what makes The Franco-Thai Place such a pleasant venue. There is a nice outside courtyard, but it is concrete with cinderblock walls. The tables are large wooden picnic tables. Inside under the house at a lower level is a bar some pool tables and a few tables at courtyard level. The staff are friendly, and the beer and wine are relatively cheap. The food is plain and quite cheap. It is not the best food in the world, more what I’d call pub food, but it does have a French flavour and the steaks and schnitzels are good. The ambience is cheap and cheerful.
Le Coq d’Or
Le Coq d’Or (053-282-024) is a fine French dining restaurant across the river on Koh Klang between Mahidol Highway and the old Lamphun Road. It is at least three times as expensive as the other restaurants above. Le Coq d’Or is situated in an old house and lovely garden that used to be the British Consul’s Residence. The restaurant is beautiful and the glassed-in verandahs overlooking the garden are special.
I’ve only been once, so I’d take my comments with a grain-of-salt.
The ambience of the restaurant is lovely, the service and presentation as one would expect in an up-market restaurant, is first class. However, I had some slight criticism of the food.
I had a leg of duck confit, which was excellent, but the cherry sauce did not quite gel with the food and the nut crumbing on the confit made it rather dry and didn’t enhance the flavour. Given all the other positives, I felt let down by the chef. My notes mention that the dessert I had, a filo pastry apple and prune parcel, with a strawberry, cherries and a scoop of ice cream on the side, looked superb but tasted ordinary. What was the reason for the strawberry and cherries?
The other supposedly good, expensive French restaurant, a bit out of town up-river is Le Crystal. I have driven past. It is a modern building on the river, but I haven’t been and can’t comment.
Prices of meals
I’ve looked at the prices I’ve paid for meals from 2012 to 2014 but the information is sketchy and I don’t want to quantify it, because prices keep changing. You can eat very cheaply in Chiang Mai but not at these restaurants.
However, except for Le Coq d’Or and Le Crystal, they are mid-range restaurants and not expensive by overseas or Bangkok standards. All of these other restaurants are roughly comparable in price. My estimate is that these mid-range restaurants cost between 600 and 800 THB (baht) per person for a two or three course meal with a glass of wine wine (maybe 900 THB for a special occasion and cheaper for a light meal) but this is only an indication.
March 2016 Update
I returned to Chiang Mai for 3 weeks in March 2016 and found that many things had changed as outlined in the March 2016 update of Food in Chiang Mai 3: Khao Soy. I’ve been back to most of the restaurants and they are still as described above. Fortunately, most things don’t change. La Fourchette and Chez Marco are still superior restaurants and slightly more expensive. I noticed upstairs in La Fourchette photographs of the chef with the King and Queen, which made me feel even more privileged to be eating there.
House wine is usually around 110-120 B per glass. At Chez Marco it is 150B but is superior wine and well worth the extra. Arcobaleno and Pulcinella da Stefano are warm and friendly with a good atmosphere. La Fontana is a similarly friendly place with good food.
Le Coq d’Or and Le Crystal are expensive restaurants. As I was alone I haven’t been back to Le Coq D’Or but will try it again next time.
I have now written six articles on food and restaurants in Chiang Mai and have barely scratched the surface. The articles are, respectively: 1 Akha Tribal Food, 2 Pho Vieng Chane, 3 Khao Soy, 4 French & Italian Restaurants, 5 Airport Plaza, 6 2017 Update.
Although my latest visit to was in 2018, I maintain contact and to date all the information contained is current. Chiang Mai Restaurants do change and shut down but not as frequently as in Bangkok. To my knowledge all the articles are current. The main change in Chiang Mai since 2015 has been growth and the massive impact of Chinese tourism.
Key words: Chiang Mai, Thailand, Italian Restaurants, French Restaurants, Arcobaleno, Giorgio, La Fontana, Pulcinella da Stefano, La Fourchette, Chez Daniel, Chez Marco, Cote Jardin, Franco-Thai Place, Le Coq d’Or, Le Crystal