A sexy Italian feast by the river at Italia, Sala Lanna Chiang MaiIn an unbeatable location by the river, the chill Italia restaurant at Sala Lanna Chiang Mai is one of the best relaxed fine-dining restaurants in Chiang Mai.
We wanted to celebrate an important anniversary in a romantic restaurant and eat really excellent food, so chose Italia. It was perfect.
A special menu just for us
Before we arrived, the manager excitedly informed us that the chef had prepared a special menu just for us. Man, Italia know how to impress. Feeling like royalty, we rocked up in our party outfits on our little Honda Click motorbike and parked between custom Minis and sleek Mercedes cars. Pah, who needs a fancy car when you've got an exclusively prepared menu waiting for you eh?
We walked through the grand entrance and interior restaurant to our riverside table, warmly lit with lamps and fairy lights.
The table commanded a fine view over the water, and we could see tree branches trailing into the water as party boats floated by. Overhead, we were sheltered by an elegant canvas umbrella, and white drapes made the whole place feel kind of ethereal. A mosquito coil burned near our table and a candle provided a flickering romantic table light. A perfectly white and expertly crisp tablecloth covered the table, and pretty cushions made our seats exceptionally comfortable. Which was lucky, really, since we were eating and drinking there for hours! The chef came and introduced himself, and excitedly explained that he'd be crafting some really exciting food for us. Yay!
We got the party started with cocktails and whiskey.
There was loads to choose from, but we decided on 'In Thanon' cocktails and Glenfiddich. The cocktails, named after the tallest mountain in Thailand, were in-cred-i-ble. Bursting with flavours like mint, melon and apple, I wanted three. The whiskey was delicious, of course, though I wish they'd poured a bit more in the glass. The whiskey glasses were.... interesting! A convex bottom kept the glass tilted, but I'm not sure why. It sure felt fancy, though.
With silver platters held high, the elegant waiters glided to our table and presented our starters with a practiced flourish.
One the first plate, a lime wedge, fennel and whole red peppercorns topped a towering stack of salmon tartare served with rocket leaves and Parmesan-covered toasted bread. On another, marinaded octopus carpaccio served with lemon, potato, vegetable and taro chips. Lemon is a big deal - I never see it in Thailand!
Andy is vegetarian, so I had the fish and octopus all to myself. I'd never had either dish before! I was super-excited. The raw Norwegian salmon was extremely fresh, and paired expertly with tomato and olive oil flavours. The thinly sliced octopus carpaccio was drizzled lightly with olive oil, and I discovered that a peppercorn wrapped inside a slice was delicious. Andy munched on bread dipped in freshly made pesto and a tasty salad filled with fresh greens and vegetables.
Smooth four-cheese gnocchi and creamy mushroom risotto - how the hell do Italia make it so delicious!?
All kinds of mushrooms hid in the rich sauce, perfectly cooked and just, so delicious. I have no clue how it's even possible, whenever I make risotto it's, you know, OK - but nothing like this. Italia's chef is definitely a risotto-making-wizard. The luxuriously cheesy gnocchi sauce had a real tangy mature-cheese kick - it was so good, I even dipped bread in it. Great cheese is expensive in Chiang Mai, so it's a real treat whenever we eat it. Look - they made the Italian flag colours, red white and green!
Woah. Lava cake! Where have you been all my life?
Lava cake enjoys a kind of hit status here in Chiang Mai. Every restaurant, cafe and coffee shop worth their biscuit serves this hot chocolate cake with a gooey liquid chocolate centre. Thinking it was some kind of fad, I'd never tried it before. Oh my gosh! It's amazing! I don't know if all lava cake is as good as Italia's, but wow. Seriously, wow. The warm chocolate goo oozes out of the centre when you take your first bite, and mingles with ice cream served with the cake. The hot-and-cold chocolatey goodness is just perfect.
Andy's favourite was the homemade tiramisu.
Indulgently creamy and a little bit boozy, it was indeed delicious, and served decorated with coffee beans, mint and a flat fine-chocolate straw. I'm not sure if the coffee beans were supposed to be eaten, but we found that the bitterness complimented the rich tiramisu excellently.
I'd say that Italia restaurant is best for romantic riverside dinners, impressing clients and quaint afternoon tea by the river.
My boyfriend and I went for a romantic anniversary dinner, but I really want to go back to try their lunch and afternoon tea. I think it would be *so* lovely to drink tea and eat scones by the river! Must be my Britishness ;) The service is really friendly and professional, and the sweet, humble chef makes seriously tasty food.
Here's a map to Italia restaurant in Chiang Mai:
Here's a map to Italia restaurant in Chiang Mai: