Soi 5, Samlan Rd, Chiang Mai
T: (086) 053 9342
Tucked away amid the bustle of Chiang Mai’s old city is Amrita Garden, which acts as coffee shop, macrobiotic restaurant, guesthouse, health food haven and fashion retailer. We take our hats off to owner Makiko, because Amrita Garden does each of those things well.
Far from feeling disjointed, the traditional teakwood home that houses Amrita is more akin to a treasure trove. It took owners four years to find the location, and the soft, patient love they’ve invested into this venture permeates through every low wooden chair and lily-filled fountain that adorns the place. There’s not much of a garden per se, but still, the open, wooden porch at the front of the house makes the perfect setting for a pleasant afternoon.
While they serve coffee and treats from 10:30 till 19:00, we advise strolling in around noon to catch the daily organic macrobiotic lunch, which begins at 11:30 and goes until the food is gone. The menu changes daily, but includes a generous bowl of red rice (take our advice: trade it in for some rice balls wrapped in nori or mustard leaf for 10 baht extra), along with a detoxifying soup, a cup of papaya leaf tea, and a plate of organic vegetables. A delightful emphasis is placed on sea veggies — and not the kind that come deep-fried and barbecue-flavoured at the 7-eleven. What’s more, Amrita garden gets its veggies delivered directly from a local organic farm, guaranteeing that your food is as pesticide-free as it gets, a rare luxury in Chiang Mai where the label “organic” is used generously. Share in the bounty by purchasing bags of produce on Wednesdays.
Food preparation is simple, especially when compared to the explosiveness of most Southeast Asian cuisines, and yet, flavours are no less complex. It’s refreshing to savour a crunchy broccoli floret anointed with the subtlest hint of sesame oil, or to bite into a chunk of eggplant and wonder what’s been done to make it taste so tender and salty-sweet – the answer: Makiko makes her own soy-lemon sauce. Admittedly, portions are not as extravagant as at the vegetarian Thai lunch buffet at Khun Churn, or as cheap as the healthy veggie Burmese treats of Free Bird, and yet there’s something simple and elegant that keeps us coming back to Amrita.
Perhaps it’s the knowledge that after treating our bodies to this healthy lunch, we can treat our sweet tooth to one decadent slice of mango cheesecake, or any of the delectable treats and coffee drinks that Amrita serves up throughout the day. Even with the macrobiotic mindset that drives owners, Amrita doesn’t shun milk for your cappuccino or sugar for your dessert in a sabai sabai attitude that makes for the perfect combination of nourishment and indulgence.
You’re likely to leave Amrita, well fed, caffeinated, with a bar of handmade soap and touting several bags of local organic produce and bread, possibly even wearing one of the breezy linen dresses that Makiko designs herself. All in all, we’d say you’ve done pretty well for yourself in one afternoon.
And if you love it so much you really truly don’t want to leave? Two rooms are rented out to guests; they’re simple but cosy, with twin beds and mosquito nets. They’re somewhat small but in a great location, and they go for 500 baht a night each.
By Claudia Sosa
Last updated on 10th October, 2013.