Long a hub of art and culture, Chiang Mai has increasingly become a culinary hotspot thanks to eclectic eateries where the food is as much a feast for the eyes as the stomach.
From molecular cuisine to a secret supper club, these unique restaurants will have you going back for seconds.
Cuisine de Garden
Inspired by nature, local chef Leelawat ‘Nan’ Mankongtiphan creates elaborate 12-course lunches and 15-course dinners showcasing seasonal produce and innovative cooking techniques at the unassuming Cuisine de Garden. Each dish tickles the taste buds, often inviting the diner to interact with their food like breaking an onsen egg over a vermicelli “nest” or finding the edible “pebble” in a bed of dark stones.
Tip: Plan for the full experience to take several hours.
Meena Rice Based Cuisine
The deep blue hues of natural butterfly pea blossoms add a twist to Thai dishes at Meena Rice Based Cuisine. Whether you opt for a naam prik (chili relish) platter or refreshing dessert, all dishes boast a kaleidoscope of colour with decorative fruits, veggies and edible flowers.
Tip: Meena is popular even during the week. Go early or expect to wait for a table.
Blackitch Artisan Kitchen
Following a nose-to-tail – and leaf-to-root – philosophy, the Blackitch Artisan Kitchen is the epitome of local, seasonal eating. Serving a nine-course set menu to just 16 diners at a time, chef Phanuphon ‘Black’ Bulsuwan is dedicated to sourcing hyper-seasonal ingredients from small-batch producers and incorporating fermented and foraged foods.
Tip: Reservations must be made at least two to three days in advance.
The elegant yet playful L’Elephant from chef Pathapee Moonkonkaew serves classic French dishes such as steak tartare, pan-seared foie gras and duck leg confit all meticulously prepared based on the chef’s French culinary training. Both set menus and a la carte items are available, as well as a special Thai menu of local favourites.
Tip: For a surprisingly wallet-friendly meal, try the Chef’s Choice Lunch Set including your choice of select starters, mains and desserts for just 530 baht.
With vibrant flowers filling every possible surface, Woo Cafe feels more like a high-end florist than simply a cute cafe, making afternoon cake and coffee even more of an indulgence. Though known for its selection of desserts, the cafe boasts varied Thai and Western dishes ranging from khao yum (rice salad) to grilled cheese sandwiches.
Tip: After eating, wander through the upstairs art gallery or attached lifestyle shop.
Bad Boy Valley
Offering one of Chiang Mai’s most unique dining experiences, the Bad Boy Valley supper club nestled between rice fields and hills about an hour outside Chiang Mai city. You never know what you’ll see or what culinary creation you’ll be treated to. If lucky, you may be invited to explore the owners’ private collection of art and antiques.
Tip: Follow the owners on Instagram (@yousi_badboyvalley or @kookui_badboyvalley)
to start a conversation and see when they may host you.