I just got back from a long weekend in Chiang Mai, Thailand where one of the things we did was to have dinner at The Riverside restaurant. The Riverside in Chiang Mai is one of the city’s most celebrated restaurants, so I was incredibly excited about eating there. Needless to say, when we were served one of the worst meals any of us had ever eaten, we were truly surprised. As a Westerner living in Thailand, I will sometimes get food I don’t enjoy because it’s for the typical Thai taste palate. At The Riverside, we were served a meal that wasn’t edible for either myself or the three Thais I went with, so it didn’t succeed with the Thai palate either. The Riverside does have some nice things about it but the bad food, unfortunately, overshadowed that and here’s why.
Atmosphere at The Riverside – The Riverside is built, as its’ name suggests, right next to the river in Chiang Mai. It is a beautiful restaurant, all wooden decks, wooden floors and wooden tables and overlooking a large wooden patio with a boat tied up to it, where you can also eat. It’s very pretty at night with the breeze coming off the river and all lit up with Thai lanterns. Inside too, the atmosphere is nice with everything made of wood, which gives it a very warm feel to it.
Staff at The Riverside – The staff is very friendly and helpful and the service was fast. We ordered seven dishes and the first of them arrived in less than 10 minutes, with drinks having arrived only a couple of minutes after we placed our order. The staff is also very polite as you’re leaving, all saying “Thank you” and giving you a wai.
The Food – As I already mentioned, unfortunately, the food at The Riverside was probably one of the worst meals I’ve eaten in years. I went with three Thai friends, two of whom had had drinks there before but hadn’t ordered food, so the restaurant was new for all of us. We ordered seven different dishes – salami pizza, a spicy Thai salad, sweet sausages, a plate of strips of beef, a platter of various Thai hors d-oeuvres, chicken cooked in pandanus leaves and a spicy seafood souffle. Everything arrived within ten minutes, which was fast, and it looked beautiful but from the first mouthful we all realized how disappointing the taste was. In fact, nothing tasted of anything. I honestly didn’t think it was possible to make a pizza with salami, green peppers, onions and cheese and not be able to taste anything except for an incredibly dry and tasteless crust. Figuring that the Thai food would be better, we moved onto that only to be even more disappointed. The spicy dishes had no taste (so how you could call it ‘spicy’ is beyond me), and the stereotypical Thai dishes were so unrecognizable it was strange. After twenty minutes or so struggling with the food, we just gave up and left it. Later, we went onto the Night Bazaar in Chiang Mai where we bought incredibly cheap street food that was delicious, more like The Riverside’ food should have been.
The Drinks – I ordered Coke, which was poured over a glass of ice and was just flat. My friends ordered beer and, with no foam on the top, it too was obviously flat.
The Prices – One thing you cannot complain about at The Riverside are the prices. Every dish is reasonably priced and some are simply cheap! Pizza was only $5 and was a large size, and most of the Thai dishes were $3 or less. If the food had actually been tasty, The Riverside would now be one of my favorite Chiang Mai restaurants as you certainly can’t fault the price.
Overall, I would have to say, if you like food that tastes of something, avoid The Riverside restaurant in Chiang Mai. We did notice while we were there that 90% of their clientele was Western and not Thai, which normally states that the food is not really that good (if a restaurant is crowded with Thais in Thailand you can guarantee it’s good as Thais will not eat at bad restaurants – ever). All we could figure out was the food was made to Western taste, but to a Western taste that only likes incredibly bland food, as I love Western food and this food wasn’t anything like any Western food I’ve tasted before.
If you want to eat at The Riverside because of the food, seriously, avoid it. If you want to eat because the restaurant is cheap and in a great location then The Riverside should please you. As for me, the next time I’m in Chiang Mai I’ll be avoiding The Riverside and trying one of the other river side restaurants instead.
The Riverside in Chiang Mai is located at 9-11 Charoenrat Road next to the river.