But really, as Ricky Gervais says, relationships stand the test of time because of "things in common, a sense of humor and mutual respect." And in our case, one of our common interests is food.
Case in point: On 12 June 2013, we were discussing where to have dinner and Hot Tuna suggested Café de Nimman in the posh section of Chiang Mai. I had never heard of it and I didn't even know know that there was a posh part of town, but since he'd been there a couple of times before and liked it, I knew that I would like it.
A quick look at the online reviews before we set off resulted in our ordering the liver, boiled eggs and squid.
|Stir-fried pork liver with garlic and pepper, 120 baht.
|Soft-boiled egg with mushroom fish sauce, 95 baht.
|Stir-fried squid with salted egg, 140 baht.
The stir-fried liver was perfectly cooked with just a bit of crunch on the outside, but still velvety pink inside. And we couldn't stop raving about the garlic which gave the dish such a boost. The boiled eggs were nothing special, but the fried squid was delicious. I just wish that they weren't overcooked.
To combat all the cholesterol, I chose two salads. Bunny Rabbit loved the sweet, sour and salty vermicelli salad... until he bit into a piece of green chili and almost died. The som tam, on the other hand, lacked flavor and the shredded tuna didn't really add anything to the dish.
|Spicy glass noodles with shrimp and minced pork salad, 110 baht.
|Spicy papaya salad with deep-fried tuna Thai style, 110 baht.
After the first dishes arrived, Hot Tuna asked to see the menu again and ordered up a second wave.
The whole fish looked impressive and perhaps intimidating for people who aren't used to seeing the head still attached to the body, but underneath all the "herbs", the fish was already sliced and was quite easy to eat. Without the dipping sauce, though, it was a little bland. I just prefer saltwater fish, I guess.
|Deep-fried tubtim fish with herbs, 280 baht.
The next two dishes were for our newest travel companion, Babydaddy, who is slowly being indoctrinated into our cult. He still isn't very adventurous concerning his food choices, but I've known him since he was in his tweens and believe me, he's come a long way.
I was a bit wary about eating Chinese dishes at a Thai restaurant, but I must say that both the chicken and the ribs were nicely done-- tender, moist and surprisingly tasty.
|Stir-fried chicken with cashew nuts, 120 baht.
|Deep-fried pork spareribs in Chinese brown sauce, 120 baht.
We started our meal with liver and ended it with even more liver. This time, however, they spent just a bit too much time in the pan and were a little rubbery. The flavor was not as memorable, either.
|Stir-fried spicy pork liver with black pepper, 120 baht.
I've never had a glass of red wine as cheap as the one I had at Café de Nimman. I don't know its name or where it came from, but it was decent and served at the proper temperature. To all Southeast Asian restaurants, "room temperature" does not mean 30 degrees, OK?
|House wine by the glass, 80 baht.
Just when I thought we were done, out came the dessert. The banana "samosa" were similar to our Pinoy turon. I actually favor turon which is usually filled with, not only sliced bananas, but also slivers of jackfruit, but these were outstanding. The wrapper made all the difference. In my experience, unless you go to a chichi Filipino restaurant which will charge you an arm and a leg to eat what is basically street food, the everyman's turon wrapper is too often full of holes and of an uneven thickness. Café de Nimman's samosa seemed to use high quality spring roll wrapper which produced an impeccable texture when deep-fried.
|Banana samosa, 70 baht.
Verdict: If you're in the mood for Thai food with a twist, in an upscale neighborhood which is off the backpacker track, then Café de Nimman is an excellent choice. Except for the fish, the prices are, while not exactly cheap, pretty reasonable. I've read a few comments about the poor service, but at 6PM on a weekday, we had no complaints. I would go back for the fried liver smothered in garlic and the banana samosa.
Café de Nimman is somewhere along Nimman Road, but they're moving soon. Check tripadvisor for updates on its new location.