a bare bones approach to a city dining guide

1 | navigate below by cuisine, location, establishment type, or price range.
2 | get out there and enjoy.

these are raw notes. the 'notables' are what I likely order each time I go to the posted establishment. if there is a website, I link to it for more information [and for your convenience].

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jerusalem falafel

Jerusalem Falafel is the number one, if not the only, choice for middle eastern cuisine in CM. The menu has mediterranean and european dishes, but it's the warm [and well-seasoned] pita, hearty falafel, and yummy hummous that keeps me going back. Prices are somewhat reasonable and the service fairly quick.
The restaurant is on Moon Muang Road, on the inner side the moat and a short walk from Thapae Gate. Set among some sketchy bars with neon lights, a 7-11, and motorbike rental, this area is explicitly the tourist part of town. Once inside the restaurant, the warm atmosphere helps to forget about the possible debauchery going on outside.


notables | meze platter - hummous, baba ghanoush, tzatziki, tahini, tabbouleh, falafel + 2 pitas [the menu says good for 2 people, but 3 could indulge and leave full without bursting]. haloumi cheese salad [I love this cheese!].

so so | dolmas.

note | Jerusalem Falafel also sells their goods at Rimping Supermarket - hummous, pita, falafel, haloumi cheese - all ready to eat.


tanaum pochana [ถนอมโภชนา]

Tanaum Pochana [ถนอมโภชนา] is a well-kept CM secret. For a restaurant in such a central location, surprisingly no one in my office knew it existed. But, we were glad for the introduction. This simple Thai family restaurant hides between the Amora Hotel and Starbucks, diagonal from Thapae Gate.
The menu is minimal, as the shop specializes in a few particular dishes. Most famous is the sour soup, gaeng som [แกงส้ม], with its addition of dauk keh [ดอกแค], an edible flower. There is only one dessert on the menu, lod chong nam ka ti, pandan rice noodles in iced coconut milk [similar to the Singaporean dessert, chendol].
The restaurant stops taking orders around 7:00pm, and turns away people wearing inappropriate attire [i.e. short shorts, tank tops - it is a family restaurant, after all]. If you park at the Amora and walk towards Starbucks, look for a brown fence on your left.


notables | sour soup or gaeng som [แกงส้ม]. thai omelette [ไข่เจียว]. fried catfish [so fried, you can eat the bones - crispy goodness].



* Buonissimo has now moved near Thapae Gate and renamed Pizza E Vino. It's just a couple of doors down from THC (the psychadelic, backpacker-magnet, rooftop bar). As for the shop (with meats, cheese, etc), it is located somewhere on Chang Klan Rd...but I am not exactly sure where the location is yet. Will keep you posted when I find it. *
Ah Buonissimo. My favourite Italian restaurant in Chiang Mai.
Located along the Ping River [on Faham Road, just before you hit the super-highway], this restaurant is conducive for both friendly and romantic dining.
An 80 baht glass of house red, the complimentary bread basket with creamy garlic spread and marinara [which lately seems on perpetual hiatus], and a 30 baht scoop of gelato to finish things off, are additional bonuses to Buonissimo's yummy appetizers and entrees.
At the entrance is a shop selling pasta, bread, cheese, olive oil, and other ingredients for Italian home-cooking, as well as a decent selection of imported wines and ready-to-eat desserts.


notables | pesto pizza [absolutely love this]. "american" salad [sapid parmesan and savory dressing = brilliance]. onion focaccia [served in the bread basket].

mentionables | caprese. quatro fromaggi pizza. grilled vegetables [thin slices of eggplant, zucchini, red pepper, drizzled with olive oil and fresh garlic].


yum saap

A cheerful 'mall diner' serving fiery Thai salads, Yum Saap is a good place for quick eats - as long as you have a fairly high เผ้ด tolerance. Everything I tried had distinct zing. The vibrant menus showcase dishes with typically Thai flavour contrasts: sour, sweet, spicy, salty. My mouth waters at the very thought. A must-try is the tamarind shake - sip on it to cut the spice-factor of each dish.
In Chiang Mai, Yum Saap can be found at the two main "malls" - Central Kad Suan Kaew and Airport Plaza. I wouldn't suggest going out of your way to try it, but give it a try the next time you're out for some retail therapy, or enjoying the mall a/c on a sultry CM weekend.

notables | tamarind shake. mixed fruit salad [ยำผลไม้รวม]. papaya salad [ส้มตำ].


Girasole, in Ratchadamnon's high-traffic back-packer zone [in the middle of the Sunday walking street, next to Wawee Coffee], is not my first pick for Italian in Chiang Mai. The same owner as La Gondola Restaurant, the experience at Girasole is nothing like La Gondola - Ping River [may it rest in peace].
While the food at Girasole was not terrible, the service was atypically discourteous for Chiang Mai. The server - presumably the manager - slodged water into our glasses, hastily doled out our dishes, and remained stone-faced through every interaction, from beginning to end of the meal. The younger waitstaff were pleasant enough, perhaps trying to warm us from our server's cold demeanor.


notable | house salad [avocado, mango, apple, orange, deep-fried mozzarella, lightly coated with a refreshing herb-yogurt dressing]

so-so | the penne all'arrabiata received good reviews, but it's a pretty basic pasta dish [in other words, hard to mess up].

not so | the service.



A Bangkok original, Chiang Mai's iBerry is owned by Thai artist/comedian Note Udom. To find it, follow the canary yellow Mickey heads [they'll point you in the right direction] to the green patch of land on Niman, soi 19.
iBerry is a hot-spot for university students and artsy twenty to thirty-somethings. This trendy shop bustles with CMers digging into gelato, sipping coffee frappes, and posing in front of Udom's over the top, cartoony installations for a photo. Within each group, at least one person clutches a camera for self-portraits and group shots.
On Sunday afternoons, I've been known to spend a lazy [yet productive] three hours on iBerry's zippy wifi, usually on the brown couch next to the front window. Get there before 2pm to snag a comfy spot. The place fills up quickly after lunch.
Rice sack lampshades, a vintage snot-green dentist headlamp, Mao gesturing "west-side," and a graffiti Mickey climbing up the wall, are just some artistic inclusions that add to iBerry's quirkiness.


notables | nutty cappuccino minus whipped cream. gelato: pistachio, nutella, green tea & red bean, mocha almond fudge, tiramisu, banana & cheese [if you're feeling adventurous], and many more. can't decide? go for the five mini-scoop sampler.



Down a quiet soi off Kaew Nawarat Road, Arcobaleno is one of my local faves. I usually go soon after pay-day, when I'm feeling particularly [i.e. financially] stable.
This restaurant caters to Chiang Mai's "better off" folks, both local and foreign, seeking a quality Italian meal, with quality service, in air-conditioned comfort. The portions may seem small at first, but savour each bite [as opposed to gobbling it down] and by the end you will achieve pleasant satiation.


notables | grilled vegetables with extra virgin olive oil [served with fresh pesto - delish]. tagliatelle with eggplant. gnocchi malfatti [you can select tomato or fresh cream sauce - I always go tomato].

so-so | the pizzas, although tasty, pale in comparison to the brilliant pastas.

sweet notable | homemade honey ginger ice-cream [gracenotes of frozen ginger pieces and drizzled honey add zingy sweetness]

tel. 053.306.254


joma bakery cafe

Although it is in Laos, as a Chiang Mai epicurean, I had to post about JoMa.

For anyone venturing to Laos, JoMa is a must. And lucky for you, there are branches in both Luang Prabang and Vientiane. The fare and decor are chic European-esque, hence it's popularity among local expats, businessfolk, and tourists.
The pastry selection is impressive: chocolate, apple, and almond croissants, quiches, a plethora of pies, squares and tarts, plus fresh baked breads [focaccia, bagels, whole grain baguettes]. If JoMa were in CM, I would sip a cup of Jo every weekend. Everything I tried, I loved. Everything I bought as edible gifts [for friends, colleagues, me], was immediately devoured.


notables | chicken focaccia sandwich. iced latte. bagel egger, minus mayo plus mustard, on a multigrain bagel [add some tabasco sauce at the table for a little pizazz].

notables to go | snowball cookies. chocolate chip cookies. oatmeal raisin cookies. banana loaf. fresh-baked focaccia.

note | I will venture to say that anything at JoMa is notable, I just didn't have the chance to try it all.


mo'c mo'l

First thing that comes to mind: warm chocolate lava cake. Be prepared for oohs, aahs, and groans of delight. This dessert is soooo goooood. It takes 15 to 20 minutes, so order it midway through your main course.
IKEA-esque white and black pleather couches, low glass tables, gurgling fountains, dim lighting and crooning cover bands all add to the hi-soish atmosphere for Chiang Mai's chic thirty to forty-somethings.


notables | warm chocolate lava goodness. gyoza.

so-so | generally, the food here is good, but not overly impressive, and neither are the prices [range from 95 baht for a basic appetizer to 380+ baht for an entree dish]

shangri la

The regular price for the dinner buffet in Shangri La's Kad Kafe is 500 baht ++. Decent if you are on vacation and on a so-called "western" salary. Borderline highway robbery if you are on a local salary - which is my case. Yesterday, we lucked upon a group rate of 350 baht per person. The discount made this visit a reasonable [but not regular] treat.
On-site, culinary stations await ravenous buffet-goers. Chefs prepare maki sushi, made to order pastas and brick-oven pizzas, shiumai and salapao. Thai and east-west fusion salads, token western fare, bulbous grain breads, and a modest cheese spread are among the mix. Strategically centre is a dessert island, definitely worth a few trips from the table.


savoury notables | fresh-made mini margarita pizza. cheese [namely brie and blue]. flaky breadtwists. paperthin baked flatbread. baked salmon with cream sauce. roasted asparagus and red bell peppers.

so-so | dim sum. japanese maki was fairly basic [tuna, salmon, or crab].

not so | the pasta tomato sauce was a bit too sweet.

sweet notables | marshmallow squares and chocolate fondue. tiramisu [light cream and fresh espresso. mmm]. any ice cream flavour drizzled with chocolate fondue sauce [more enjoyable as it hardens]. a layered rectangle of peanut butter, wafer, and cream.

so-so | pumpkin pie.

not so | a pot of hot peppermint tea cost 140 baht. always ask before you order. especially in a big name hotel restaurant.