As twilight falls on a winter’s evening in Chiang Mai, where temperatures hover around a near-perfect 23 degrees Celsius, a member of staff at David’s Kitchen lights the garden lanterns. The soft glow of candlelight begins to illuminate the immaculate grounds of the restaurant, housed in what was once an elegant private residence in the Wat Ket quarter of Chiang Mai, just beyond the moat of the Old City.
Small groups of well-dressed people begin to stroll up the path that leads in from the garden, and, as the atmosphere of David’s Kitchen starts to work its magic, their faces reflect the happy anticipation of a memorable evening.
For this is no ordinary restaurant: in 2016, David’s Kitchen was the recipient of Trip Advisor’s Traveller’s Choice ‘No.1 Restaurant in Thailand’ award. And another, equally important distinction: it holds 21st place on Trip Advisor’s rankings of the world’s 25 ‘Best Fine Dining Restaurants’, an illustrious list populated by the superstars of the international culinary scene, such as Martin Berasategui in Lasarte, Spain or Alinea, in Chicago.
Yet, for an establishment that has attained the level of recognition and accolades that it has done, David’s Kitchen manages to retain the friendly warmth of a family home.
This is in no small part due to the ethos of the eponymous David Gordon, and his lovely Thai wife, Prom. “We are not a ‘sir’ or ‘madam’ kind of establishment,” David insists. Even if the food is superlative, and its wine list one that would make any oenophile swoon – “I’m passionate about wine,” David says – there is no trace of stuffy formality to be found here. The staff wear jeans, and address clientele by name. Yes, they would know your name, because it is printed on cards and placed on your table when you make your reservation.
And this restaurant is definitely reservations-only. It was a Monday night when we visited David’s Kitchen. “Are you expecting many people tonight?” I ask its owner.
“We’re fully booked,” David replies, matter-of-factly. “We’ve been fully booked every night for the last two-and-a-half years.”
In three short years since 2013, David and Prom, along with chef-partner Arthit Dissunont, better known as ‘Chef O’, have built David’s Kitchen into the world-class restaurant that it is today. The elements that make up their personalities seem to have coalesced into a smoothly-working whole, and this combination is what makes David’s Kitchen so successful.
David is the gracious and solicitous host, and it is a matter of pride that he either personally welcomes each guest into his restaurant or that he stops to have a chat with them at their table. Khun Prom, herself a professionally-trained chef, is a calm presence who seems to be at all places around the restaurant at once, quietly overseeing details and instructing the staff.
Chef O stands in his kitchen like a maestro conducting a well-trained orchestra of about fifteen sous-chefs. On six evenings a week, he leads the calmly frenzied preparation for two dinner seatings of 75 people per seating. Yet, like all the other elements of David’s Kitchen, here is another area where everything harmonizes like a symphony; and of course, it is the food that has made David’s Kitchen famous.
For a fine-dining restaurant, the menu is surprisingly extensive. The Fine de Claire oysters taste as sweet and fresh as they do in the coastal market towns of France. There is a classic pumpkin soup, of yellow Japanese pumpkin, with a swirl of white truffle foam: a creamy velouté of sumptuous flavor. This is when the realization hits that you are in no ordinary restaurant.
Here, a simple green pea soup, another culinary classic, is elevated to a bowl of emerald velvet, the sweetness of young peas evident in every delicious mouthful; its croutons taste freshly sautéed in the finest butter.
The faultless Beef Bourguignon is a masterpiece of balanced flavor and texture, its sauce slow-cooked for forty-eight hours and reduced to perfection. It is obvious that the standards to which Chef O has attained in these classics of French cuisine are what have put David’s Kitchen on the world gastronomic map.
The menu also features variations of Thai cuisine, and showcases local produce: there is a spicy fish salad with green apple, a twist on the delicious larb salad of this region. Another dish, the pan-seared tuna with green mango and lemongrass, we were informed, is David Gordon’s favorite item on the menu.
There is also an exquisite prawn ravioli in a lobster sauce. The luscious aged-parmesan cream sauce, full-bodied without being heavy, makes a perfect backdrop for the silken ravioli.
David lets me in on a little secret. “We only use d’Abruzzo pasta for our dishes,” he tells me. This pasta, made in Italy with the highest quality grain, blended with pure mountain spring water and slowly air-dried, is considered one of the finest pastas in the world.
Yet, nowhere on the menu is this fact mentioned. This is typical of the behind-the-scenes attention to detail and insistence on the highest standards which have become the hallmark of this restaurant. These, along with the highly personalized service, are what have put David’s Kitchen far above so many other restaurants of this calibre, and it truly deserves its place amongst the best restaurants of the world.
E-Table Asia Dining In Chiang Mai