That was the greeting delivered to us as we walked in to David’s Kitchen in Chiang Mai, Thailand, by the ever-smiling and profoundly professional maitre d’, Tae. This was our second visit to David’s during our two month stay in Chiang Mai, and he not only remembered our names but remembered details about where we were from and what we liked to drink.
This is exactly the kind of atmosphere and attention you can expect when visiting the gorgeous house-turned-restaurant on the outskirts of the Old City. The owner David, is an interesting man who exudes warmth and welcome to all who come to dine. Previously a counsellor for 119 homeless men in London, he decided it was time for a change and moved to Thailand over 17 years ago where he met his lovely wife, Pom, and become a monk twice. (Being a monk entails meditating in the forest for up to 12 hours a day for 3 months!) It was after his experience there that he met Tae in a communication class where they practiced English together and the two have been friends for the 15 years since.
Turning strangers into family is what David’s is all about and that detail goes all the way down to the staff he hires. He actually prefers staff with no experience and hires his staff based on personality, believing anyone can learn to be a great server if given the chance. Turnover in the restaurant industry is usually quite high but at David’s, he has retained majority of his employees for the 3 years he has been in business. He has also had the same Chef since the beginning, Chef O, who worked at The Mandarin Oriental Dhara Devi and as the Saucier for the prestigious French restaurant, Farang Ses, where he made sauces for Michelin Starred Chefs. And while the staff and atmosphere are excellent, the true star of the show is David himself and the cuisine that Chef O prepares for guests every evening.
When you dine at David’s you’re likely to entirely forget that you are in Thailand and instead may find yourself thinking you’re in New York or Chicago with the quality of food and the presentation. My husband and I, when we entered, were taken to a table with our names custom printed on a welcome card (a nice touch that is done for every guest) and our waiter, Ken, was quick to approach us and offer the menus, specials and cocktails (try the Cosmo, it’s delish). Throughout the meal, David is always making his rounds of the tables, offering suggestions and ensuring each guest is happy and progressively less hungry. It was on his recommendation that we tried the beef Carpaccio, which is an item soon to be included on the menu and for good reason. So tender it can be cut with your fork, it’s dressed with shaved Parmesan, artichoke hearts, arugula and olive oil and is easily one of the best Carpaccios we’ve ever had. In between appetizers and entrees, you’re served a delicious and refreshing lemon sorbet to cleanse your palate.
Speaking of the main event, my husband was so crazy about the braised lamb shank–which he had the first time we dined here–that he ordered it again. And I have to agree, it’s incredible. I’m not usually one for lamb but it tasted so incredible and fell right off the bone so I ate more of his dish than I’d like to admit! The first time we dined with David, I had the fettuccine with truffle cream, lobster claw, and sliced black truffles and it was to die for. It’s incredibly rich and savory so make sure you don’t overdo it on the appetizers if you plan to order the fettuccine. For our second meal, I had the pan-fried veal tenderloin with mushroom cream sauce and it was also wonderful. I have serious doubts that there is anything you can order on the menu that would steer you wrong.
Stuffed to the brim, we simply didn’t have enough room for desert but I am willing to hedge my bets that anything served is up to the 5-star standards of all the other dishes. After dinner, I was presented with a rose by David’s wife, Pom, and their lovely daughter, putting a wonderful cap on another incredible experience at David’s Kitchen. The dining experience here is second to none and on par with some of the most excellent restaurants in the world. Don’t forget to make a reservation at least several days in advance; they’re always booked solid every night they’re open (if that tells you anything!). We will gladly go back to David’s the next time we’re in Chiang Mai and I look forward to the next time I get to go ‘home.