While this ancient city and region by the same name, are most often cited for their cultural sites, countryside and street food, they also boast a top-class fine dining scene that caters to the most discerning of palates. Chiang Mai’s epicurean landscape is a harmonious fusion of traditional Thai flavours, international influences, and a burgeoning farm-to-table movement that’s captivating the hearts and palates of food enthusiasts from all across the globe. Whether you’re a seasoned foodie seeking pastures new or a curious traveller eager to explore the flavours of northern Thailand, Chiang Mai’s food scene awaits.
A place as enigmatic in personality as in name, Service 1921 is a purveyor of mystique and intrigue, with its own range of “secret” recipes. You’ll enter what used to be the British Consulate, via a wooden door, emerging into a dark and moody space, with wood panelling and vintage British sensibilities. Antiquities like gramophones, magnifying glasses, antique telephones, a wireless and leather-bound books are dotted around an environment that feels straight out of a retro spy movie set. Here you’ll tuck into prime meat cuts, like in-house dry-aged beef alongside Thai ingredients, while enjoying views of the Ping River. The menus are presented by South African Executive Chef David Eldridge.
Baan Landai Fine Thai Cuisine
In receipt of the Michelin-awarded Bib Gourmand, this unassuming establishment has become a go-to for discerning foodies over the past few years. It’s under the leadership of Chef Landai, whose recipes are inspired by his mother, from whom he learned his craft. You can expect dishes from across Thailand, such as pork ribs with red wine sauce. Ask for a table close to the internal window if you want a view into the kitchen’s activity. Baan Landai Fine Thai Cuisine is open for lunch and dinner from 11am to 10pm daily.
The House By Ginger
For nearly two decades, The House by Ginger has been serving customers from an old colonial mansion house that dates back to 1937. The venue comprises a candlelit restaurant, a cocktail bar with comfy sofas and two private dining rooms and is found in the old city. It caters to traditional Thai fare, with artisanal beverages. There’s a definite sense of nostalgia, not least in the decor, with its chintzy wallpaper, standard lamps and ornaments, but also in the menu, where classics are reinvented. Everything is home-cooked and made from scratch, for that personal touch.
The Redbox Chiang Mai
Experience modern fine dining in contemporary surroundings at The Redbox. Each course is prepared with finesse and may include the likes of amuse bouche of Thai mushroom salad with organic fig in crispy golden cup; Ceviche of Thai mandarin orange atop Chiang Mai rice crackers with hints of lemongrass, lime with the freshness of the orange and gentle bite of the marinated shallot; and Thai tom yum risotto with char-grilled river prawns, prawn bisque and bell pepper ice cream. The a la carte and tasting selections cater to vegetarian and vegan diets also. And you’ll have no shortage of drink options here – the wine list features 400 labels including premium Thai varieties, served by the glass.
Magnolia Café Chiang Mai
Another Michelin-recommended establishment, Magnolia Cafe has a pleasantly relaxed atmosphere, conducive to families wanting to enjoy a little fine dining but without any pomp. Diners are seated at four large communal tables for a sociable vibe – think eating around the dining table at home. Sample flavours and specialities from across Thailand, like fried pork belly tum makua, sour galangal coconut soup with freshwater fish and crispy gourami. You’ll find the venue behind Kam Thiang Market, beside the Wine Gallery (whose products can be enjoyed at the restaurant, as the two are connected).
Oxygen Dining Room
Opt for a fusion of French and Thai flavours at Oxygen. Chefs Nicolas Isnard and Alexandre Demanard source organic products from the Royal Project (a charitable foundation founded to improve the quality of life of hill tribespeople in the Thai Highland region), local farms and France. Isnard is a highly respected Michelin-starred chef and Demanard won the Iron Chef Thailand challenge, making them a stellar team. The results of their labours are colourful, artistic, contemporary and very photogenic. This is definitely one for those who appreciate the aesthetic value of a fine meal.
Le Crystal Restaurant
Dine in a garden terrace on the banks of the Mae Ping River, or in the dining room, at this fine French establishment. Having been in business for 17 years, it’s a firm favourite of the city’s dining scene, offering an a la carte selection and seasonal set menus that change every four months. Savour French classics such as deep-fried frog legs with garlic red wine sauce and roasted chicken breast and foie gras with chicken gravy at Le Crystal. The restaurant has its own wine cellar stocked with new and old world labels and hosts live jazz sessions six nights per week.
Blackitch Artisan Kitchen
With just 16 seats, the Blackitch Artisan Kitchen is an exclusive affair. Stone and wood surfaces create an earthy backdrop for the work of Chef Phanuphol Bulsuwan, whose 10-course tasting menu is a homage to his professional cook grandmother from whom he learned his trade. Patrons are introduced to a range of Thai, Japanese and Chinese culinary experiences, with house-fermented items (made using leftovers) and pairings of beers and sake that are brewed in-house. Blackitch Artisan Kitchen is secreted away above a gelateria in the Nimmanhaemin district.