Le Crystal – A culinary gem on Ping River
If you like your fine-dining experience al fresco and on the bank of a gently flowing river, then Le Crystal will tick that box for you. Established in 2005 this modern Lanna-style restaurant enjoys a well-established market position and a location that certainly lends itself to fine dining. The abundance of natural light and large glass windows along the bank of the Ping River create an airy and warm environment both in and outdoors.
Restaurant Manager Pravichayapan Sitpan is tasked with the job of developing a restaurant team that is humble, professional and eagle-eyed. The attention to detail during my experience there I would describe as exquisite. The table setting elegant with best quality silver, crystal, and porcelain. A sea of symmetry as you gaze across the room. The staff present immaculately dressed, youthful and fresh.
Le Crystal has Chiang Mai’s most extensive wine cellar. With both the temperature and humidity controlled, the vast array of wines age in a stable environment begging to be consumed. As I did not imbibe on this occasion you will have to take my word that the broad selection can cater for all with a flood of new and old world wines for every pallet.
As for the food – Lobster and King Crab from Maine, Oyster, Foie Gras and truffles from France, Hida Beef and Hokkaido Scallops from Japan, Chocolate from Belgium and butter from New Zealand makes Le Crystal sound more like an airport than a restaurant. The philosophy is simple: procure the best possible ingredients and treat them with the utmost respect. The first dish presented was Pan-fried Foie Gras. The portion, generous, the oak color, due to searing on each side, even and inviting. The accompaniments of caramelized fruit and balsamic glaze add notes of acid and sugar to contrast the weighty nature of the foie gras. A special treat for me, and one that I savored eyes closed.
Truffle soup. Is it possible to describe a soup as ethereal? I hope so! This boldly flavored potage was topped with a pillow of aerated milk and not one, but two slices of black Truffle, both of which I enjoyed unashamedly. The soup had been passed (sieved through a very fine strainer) and seasoned to perfection.
Next up, the Lobster Thermidor. Fresh from their tank, the crustacean was prepared and served back in its shell, bound in a Pernod, Dijon mustard and mushroom scented cream sauce. The large chunks of flesh were still resilient, the sauce cut with a squeeze of citrus and the Maldon sea salt seasoning just so. Yes, I did watch our chef prepare this. It’s not every day that one gets to enjoy fresh Lobster Thermidor I know, especially in a land-locked city like Chiang Mai. But I do know what fresh seafood, sound culinary technique, and good seasoning taste like.
As for the Hida Beefsteak, I had not heard of “Hida” before my visit to Le Crystal. I’ve only just become used to Kobe and Wagyu. This was a Ribeye steak from the forequarter of the beast known for its great flavor and higher fat content. I gazed longingly at this beautiful piece of meat as it was patiently brought up to room temperature before being seared on a blistering hot grill and then roasted for a few minutes. The meat was magnificent, the exaggerated marbling transforming into a kind of internal basting device and more tender than most Ribeye I have eaten. Yes, there was vegetable and starch present but the quality of the meat took center stage.
I was fortunate to observe the pastry chef constructing the Grand Marnier Soufflé. The cream patisserie was made a la minute (to order) and the egg whites beaten to the stage only a skilled eye could identify before the sugar was folded in.
Then the delicate process of carefully incorporating the two was performed. This is a subtle dessert, more about texture than taste in my opinion, and the texture was indeed light and fluffy without being insubstantial, yet strong enough not to deflate for a few minutes or so. The orange flavor permeating through it in a delicate manner. This was a comforting way to complete this dining experience.
Appreciation or knowledge for French food is not a requirement for sampling the Le Crystal menu. An appreciation for great quality ingredients, culinary prowess and service with integrity is also not, but is exactly what you will get and enjoy at Le Crystal.
Written By Luke, E-Table Asia Chiang Mai