Saturday, 6 December 2014

A Traditional Thai Dining Experience At Khum Khantoke

Even before I went for the khantoke dinner, I knew the food was not going to be great. I browsed through reviews and I believe reviewers can't be that wrong when assessing things they've paid for. But still, I wanted to experience this traditional dining myself, well at least once.
There are  three restaurants offering khantoke dinner and performance in Chiang Mai namely Khantoke Palace, Old Chiang Mai Cultural Centre and Khum Khantoke. 
I chose to dine at Old Chiangmai Cultural Centre but my agent brought us to Khum Khantoke instead citing reasons that the former has deteriorated and Khum Khantoke offers a better ambiance. Maybe he is right as Khum Khantoke is the newest among the three . 
I did have a first good impression of Khum Khantoke.  It was brightly lit and the setting exudes an air of festivity. 
Traditional lanterns hang on a cone-shaped tree reminding me of an early Christmas.
Vendors in the compound displaying Thai handicrafts add liveliness to the place.
We have to leave our shoes at the entrance and walk barefooted inside.
I like the ambiance inside too. There is a stage and an open-air central court for the performers. Mats are laid around the court for diners who choose to sit on the floor. Well, not really on the floor but on padded cushions with  triangular backrests. They are quite comfortable to sit on. There is also the the dining area with roof-top over it, further away from the performers' court. The setting looks authentic and traditional alright.

The stage
My agent got the best seat for us which is right in front of the performers' court. As soon as we were seated, a round wooden pedestal tray (also known as khantoke) with seven or so dishes was set before us. Using the pedestal tray which also acts as a small table is the traditional way of serving food to honored guests among the people of Norhern Thailand aka the Lanna People.
The dinner includes food and performance but not drink. There is a beverage menu for patrons to choose from.  The color of my khantoke dinner turns out this way because of the yellow spotlight that shone on it. 
This is a clearer version, a picture I took from Khum Khantoke website. From the top going clockwise, the menu includes fried chicken, crispy vermicelli, minced pork in tomato paste, crispy pork skin, mixed vege, pork curry and in the centre, boiled vegetables and sambal.  All the dishes tasted very average. The crispy vermicelli is totally alien to my taste bud. 
Glutinous rice in a small woven basket and plain white rice to be eaten with the dishes above are also provided.
Other items include the clear soup which was cold and rather bland, fried banana fritters and some fresh fruits. The food were mostly cold (or already cooled down). Finished food can be replenished at no extra cost but we couldn't even finish half the original amount served.
The 40 minutes performance started at 8.15pm most of which were executed on the floor at the central court. 
The musicians are stationed at the raised stage which is exquisitely set up.
All in there were about 10 traditional and hill tribe dances - You see great and elaborate costumes but very mediocre performance which failed to keep patrons interested till the end. A number left even before the performance came to an end.
The finale was an invitation to patrons to participate in a dance with the performers at the open court. 
We left at 9.30pm. I can now happily strike this itinerary off any future trip to Chiang Mai.

Most travel agents sell this dinner for between 650 to 750 Baht/pax. This include a return transfer from your hotel.  I bought mine at 500 Baht /pax  from the agent below. 

148/17 M 6 NONG PAKRUNG MUANG CHIANGMAI Tel. 0816032249 FAX 053398767


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