The Rattanakosin, Chiang Rai
An Award Winning Restaurant
I recently enjoyed an evening at Rattanakosin restaurant, located in the Chiangrai Night Bazaar on the second floor of a very old building. It's impossible to miss, as the interior looks like a beautiful old temple. From the downstairs terrace we had an up-close view of the bustling Night Bazaar, with hilltribe sellers displaying their wares in front of our table. I took the opportunity to explore the restaurant a little as it is full of antiques, which are a passion of mine. On the upper floor there's a wonderful balcony that overlooks the entire second stage of the Night Bazaar.
Rattanakosin's latest culinary achievement is the creation of an exclusive new dish called Gangped Gai Yang with Lamyai (Red Curried Grilled Chicken with Longon). Head chef Khun Nipa Atkra recently added the recipe to the restaurant's Royal Thai Cuisine menu, winning the Sahatawegit and Kati Tupsaga Prize for an original new coconut dish.
Khun Nipa Atkra explained that the restaurant's owner originally employed temple restoration experts to design the interiors and renovate the building. Twenty-five years ago, the owner's mother used to prepare Royal Thai Cuisine for the King and Queen of Thailand. She then passed her culinary skills to her daughter, who in turn has passed them to the restaurant staff.
A complimentary dish of miangcome (chopped ginger, chillies, lime, nuts and dried shrimps wrapped in leaves) arrived while we were waiting. This was a delightful and unexpected surprise, but it's apparently presented to every customer at the restaurant while they wait for their order. When my culinary treat arrived, the first thing I noticed was the way it was served. I have seen photos of Thai food served with beautiful hand carved vegetables before but I have never seen anything quite like this. The presentation, the temple atmosphere, the hypnotic drone of people buying and selling, the Northern style Thai music mixing with western music from the bars behind the restaurant this was a cultural experience I will never forget.
This was my first experience eating Royal Thai Cuisine but it won't be the last. In fact, I ate at the restaurant three nights running, something that is not that out of the ordinary for visitors to Chiangrai I'm told, as the prices are very reasonable and far lower than I expected for the quality of food and ambience.
The Rattanakosin boasts a clientele of politicians, ambassadors, movie directors, artists and TV personalities. I can understand why. For me, I felt completely at home with all the other tourists in Chiangrai.