Food for Thought

Exploring Chiang Mai, Part 2: Talking Buddhism, great food and life at David's Kitchen At 909

When on holiday, you want to eat like the locals, but when a restaurant is highly recommended (like voted #1 on TripAdvisor and won Thailand Tatler’s Best Restaurant awards in 2015 and 2016 highly recommended), you know you’ve got to try it when you’re there. David’s Kitchen in Chiang Mai might be a bit off the beaten track (it’s 10 minutes from the city centre), but you’ll soon see why it’s worth the trip in a tuk tuk (like a motorised rickshaw). The restaurant is fully booked every night (except Sundays which is their only day off) and it’s not hard to see why.

The hotel we were staying in Chiang Mai had a good working relationship with the restaurant so we felt like royalty when we were picked up in the company car and ushered into the seating area of the converted home. Not long after we arrived, we were warmly greeted by the restaurant’s namesake, David, who personally greeted us and welcomed us to the restaurant. We were then introduced to his lovely wife, Prom, who is the second of three business partners in the restaurant (Head Chef, Chef O, being the third) and was given a brief introduction to the restaurant and the expansion to the patio which will be a lovely setting for parties and special occasions.

Don’t be fooled by the black and white photo, Prom is a lovely as ever

Doesn’t David look like a spritely John Lennon?

(From left) my mum, Prom, David, me and my sister

From the moment we walked out of our hotel into the waiting car and on our arrival at David’s Kitchen, everyone from the waiting staff to David and Prom have been very hospitable. We didn’t feel like we were another line of customers waiting to dine at a business; we were treated to the full Thai hospitality and were well looked after throughout the night, like we were guests in their home, the David’s Kitchen family.

We didn’t have to wait long before we were shown to our table in the main dining area. The floor to ceiling windows give you a clear view of the natural plants and flowers growing outside but also opens up the area and gives it a warm glow from the lights at night time. Even with a fully packed house, the tables are spaced far enough apart that we didn’t feel like we were elbow to elbow with guests at the next table.

We were shown a variety of different menus on offer which made it quite difficult to choose what to have. Eventually, I had to go with what my stomach desired and it didn’t lead me astray. To be honest, I truly believe with the care and attention paid to each dish, you can hardly go wrong, no matter what you chose to eat for your starter, main course or dessert.

Live oyster ‘Fin de Claire’ for an appetizer

Salmon Gravlax

Velouté of yellow Japanese pumpkin soup

Double boiled chicken consomme with cep mushroom

If there’s one thing Asians know best about food, it’s fresh seafood. The salmon and oysters definitely tasted fresh which is a nice change from the stock sashimi you get from chain sushi restaurants. Good quality seafood used in dishes when eating out can be hard to come by, but you can tell they definitely don’t skimp on quality here at David’s Kitchen. They’re awarded Best Restaurant for a reason and they would never dream of serving less than good quality to ‘friends of the restaurant’. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the chicken consomme I ordered, but I really enjoyed a Japanese soup which had a distinct combination of rich chicken broth, mini poached eggs and mushroom.

Resting course of sorbet to whet the appetite

Slow-baked fillet of Tasmanian salmon with white wine sauce

Beef bourguignon with Paris mash

Pan-seared tuna on a bed of lemongrass and green mango

While perusing the menu, the waiting staff who was attending our table was very friendly and more than happy to explain the specials of the day as well as any other dishes that we weren’t sure of. When you hear stories from your OH about how some waiting staff at his work doesn’t know what’s on the menu or the ingredients in it, you start to wonder whether this is commonplace, but at David’s Kitchen, the waiting staff are either well trained or interested in learning about each dish on the menu so they can give customers the full service and to help each one make a fully informed choice about the best dish for them.

When our main courses arrived, David made a reappearance to make sure we were happy with the food (we couldn’t have faulted a single thing) and to admit he likes to ‘interfere’ in the daily running of the business by visiting each table (we liked to think that it was more dedicated customer service than interference) and making sure everyone was happy. During our chat, we talked about David’s story and how he came to be in Chiang Mai (he used to work for many years in theatre, at some point at the Lyceum Theatre here in Edinburgh, before owning his own bookstore, working as an alcohol and drug counsellor to homeless men before teaching English to Thai monks and eventually meeting Prom) and Buddhism which I was pleasantly happy to have a discussion about with David. As I explained in my previous post (see here), I was looking to reconnect with my Buddhist roots and have developed a strong interest in deepening that knowledge and how I can incorporate it into my life once more.

We were left alone to consume the rest of our meal and when there was a break between courses, David approached us again to invite us to the kitchen to meet Head Chef, Chef O, whom we were told was a very sociable chef despite his occasional shouting and screaming under pressure. I must agree with the sociable part, but I found it hard to believe Chef O would ever have a mean bone in his body. I can fully understand the need to make the best out of your craft and want everything to be exactly so, not for reasons of perfection, but to make sure no single product of yours is delivered substandard to the customer. We had a quick chat before leaving Chef O and his team of kitchen staff to continue serving the hungry bellies of a restaurant full of customers.

David introducing us to Chef O (far right) and his team

We ended the night with some sticky toffee pudding (which my sister was delighted to find outside of the UK, and in Chiang Mai, of all places!), chocolate mousse and hot lemon water. During this time, there were at least 2 occasions where a team of waiting staff, David and Prom, sang happy birthday to the lucky birthday boys and girls and we were also delighted to witness a private proposal that David and his staff were accomplice to (the lucky lady said yes by the way!) and we added ‘Matchmaker’ to David’s list of talents.

At no point did we feel like we were rushed to finish our meals and David was more than happy to chat with us about how he convinced Prom to eventually marry him (kudos to Prom for sticking to her guns, but also to David for his commitment and following Thai tradition!) and we also swapped book recommendations on successful Western men who became Buddhist monks. Soon, the company car returned to pick us up and deliver us back to our hotel which was a sad, but fond, farewell. We invited David and his family to get in touch if they ever were to visit Edinburgh or Hong Kong and promised to visit again the next time we were in Chiang Mai.

From our one night at David’s Kitchen, it’s easy to see that David, Prom and Chef O are committed to providing the best possible service (and food) to all their guests, and to make sure everyone leaves feeling satisfied and content. We definitely left David’s Kitchen that night and returned to Hong Kong with lasting memories of a friendly restaurant family that we can’t wait to see again on our next visit to Chiang Mai.

David’s Kitchen At 909 is only open 5:00pm to 10:00pm Mondays to Saturdays and is guaranteed to be busy no matter which night you decide to visit, so if you’re planning a trip to Chiang Mai and intend to dine here, I would highly recommend making a reservation using their online booking system here as soon as possible. Transportation can be arranged for 200 Baht one way (or 400 Baht round trip) if you’re staying in the Old City.

David’s Kitchen At 909
113 Bamrungrad Road
Wat Kate
50000 Chiang Mai

091-068 1744

In case any of you are interested in reading the books we were chatting with David about, I recommended Buddhist Boot Camp (which I have on my Kindle) while David recommended Phra Farang: An English Monk In Thailand to us. Both books are not at all heavy reading and is an interesting look into how adopting Buddhism and Buddha’s teachings has changed both these men’s perspective on life and found inner peace through meditation and mindfulness. I only started reading Phra Farang the other day and have already found myself so engrossed, I’m already well into chapter 11!

Phra Farang: An English Monk In Thailand and Buddhist Boot Camp on my Kindle


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