Oh, Thai cuisine, the perfect balance of salty, sweet, sour, and spicy. It’s like music to my taste buds!
After working in the downtown core of Toronto for many years and treating myself to the best Thai restaurants in TO, it was time for a change. It was time to head over to Markham, a suburb of Toronto.
Lanna Authentic Thai Cuisine was one of the first ones tried in the Markham area. So it’s no surprise that I was excited to find out about Chiang Rai Thai Kitchen & Bar in Markham too.
I’ve also tried Jatujak (both in Scarborough and North York), Eat BKK in North York, and Sala Modern in Toronto. They all have good ratings on Yelp and Google, so you can read my honest review on how they compare to each other.
Chiang Rai Thai Kitchen & Bar Restaurant Review
Since it was my birthday, Rui reserved a table for the two of us and we were looking forward to the experience.
Before you go through this review, I want to warn you that some dishes may be a little spicier than the average Thai or even Korean restaurant.
That’s why your server may ask if you are okay with spice, and if not, they will adjust it to your desired levels.
So, if you’re someone who’s sensitive to spice, then proceed with caution.
On the other hand, if you’re someone who enjoys a kick or a spicy dish, then you’ll love their dishes.
Here’s what we ordered at Chiang Rai restaurant.
Chiang Rai Menu:
In case you want a glimpse at some of their dishes, here it is.
1. Papaya Salad
Papaya has been touted as a really healthy fruit filled with antioxidants like vitamins A, vitamin C, and vitamin E. But I’m not a huge fan of eating the fruit, especially the typical red Hawian Sunrise type, due to its odd smell.
Despite not liking most types of papaya, I still wanted to order this salad over the popular mango salad just because I wanted to try something different from the norm. Plus, I don’t think I’ve ever had green papaya before, so I wanted to give it a shot.
According to their menu, this dish is a beautiful Thai style green papaya salad mixed with carrots, crushed peanuts, and fresh chili, drizzled with their dazzling house sauce.
When the salad came out, I was super excited to take that first bite.
And let me tell you, it was so flavourful. The crunchiness of the thinly sliced green papaya and crushed peanuts combined with the slight sweetness the house sauce offered was just amazing. You could also taste the kick from the chili too, which I have to say was a little stronger than usual.
Luckily, the server warned us that the original salad is quite spicy and asked if we wanted to take it down a notch to medium.
At first, we were kind of hesitant to go down a level because most restaurants we visit (with the exception of Korean restaurants) claim a certain dish is spicy when in fact it has no trace of spice. But we are glad that we didn’t go for the original spice because the medium already offers quite the kick for a salad like this. Don’t be deceived by its looks because it’s actually spicier than what’s expected.
I generally love the mango salads that other Thai restaurants offer, but this one took my breath away and won my heart. Rui, on the other hand, prefers the traditional and well-known Thai mango salad recipe; however, he still agrees that Chiang Rai’s papaya salad was very pleasing!
Overall, Rui and I thought this salad was superb and delicious – definitely one of the best we’ve had. We recommend it and would definitely order it again.
2. Thai Green Curry
You can’t go wrong ordering a green curry dish – it has been a favorite of mine since my first time having it at PAI Northern many years ago. Oh, how I miss those days hanging out in the core of downtown and exploring different restaurants on Thursday and Friday nights!
I don’t have a recollection of how PAI Northen’s version tastes since it’s been a long time, but Chiang Rai’s recipe offers a mix of green curry paste with coconut milk, sweet peppers, basil leaves, bamboo shoots, carrots, and broccoli.
While taking my first several bites, I was comparing it to my Jatujak food review. I was able to remember since I had it sometime this year.
My opinion is that Jatujak’s recipe doesn’t even compare despite it being one of the best Thai restaurants in Scarborough, North York, and overall GTA. Rui agrees with everyone else that it’s one of the best, but probably due to its elevated amount of flavour, which is usually soaked with salt, sugar, and fat. And not surprisingly, an overload of MSG too.
The green curry at Jatujak was decent, but offered too much coconut milk (it felt a little more fatty and kind of greasy too). Not to mention, it contained too many bamboo shoots, making it a little “stinky” for my liking – yes, Jatujak’s bamboo shoots were a little too strong and it gives that “stinky” and unpleasant taste whenever you bite on it.
However, I didn’t feel that way about Chiang Mai’s green curry dish. One word describes this recipe, and that’s – amazing! It had the right amount of flavours that made it worthwhile for Rui and me to indulge. We loved it so much that we wanted to learn how to make a healthier version at home since all restaurant’s recipes are usually packed with unhealthy fat, sugar, and salt.
Despite the unhealthiness of it, if you like green curry in general, then Rui and I believe that you’ll love this dish.
3. Beef Pad See Ew
Pad See Ew is a popular Thai stir fried noodle dish that has a sweet taste to it.
It’s made from flat noodles called “sen yai” and are stir-fried with garlic, Chinese broccoli, eggs, and your choice of meat.
If it’s new to you, or you’ve never heard of it, the texture of the noodles and overall taste is somewhat similar to the Chinese noodle dish, “stir fry beef ho fun”.
Compared to the Beef Pad See Ew we tried at Mengrai Thai (another Thai restaurant downtown), the recipe at Chiang Rai tasted SO much better!
I am even surprised Mengrai Thai restaurant has high ratings on Yelp – it really blows my mind because their dishes weren’t as great as what I saw in the online reviews.
On the other hand, Chiang Rai nailed it with their recipe – Rui and I thought that the stir-fried noodles were cooked to perfection. The beef was tender and did not feel tough or chewy, which is a common problem for some noodle dishes.
The noodles had a nice sweetness along with a spicy flavour to them without being over-the-top greasy. Mind you, it’s still very greasy at least by my standards, but the strong flavours compensate for it.
Rui, on the other hand, thinks that the amount of grease and sauce was fair to normal standards, but he said they could afford to tone it down a tad bit. Despite the grease, it was still a wonderful dish!
If you’re someone who likes stir-fried noodles with a sweet and overpowering spicy taste, then you must try Chiang Rai’s version of the pad see ew.
This is actually one of the best Thai cuisines we’ve had in the GTA and in my opinion, it is comparable to PAI Northern in Toronto. I think PAI Northen in Toronto is just more popular due to its location, so they have that “unfair” advantage.
If Markham is too far from Toronto, Chiang Rai also has a location in North York, but we haven’t tried that location. I believe the one in Markham is more popular.
As mentioned in our review above, Rui and I were really satisfied with all the 3 dishes we ordered. We give all of them over 4 stars. The only downfall was the papaya salad being a little spicier than usual. Oh yeah, it would be nice if the chefs were a little easier on the sauce and grease of the pad see ew.
One word here- outstanding! The server we had was excellent despite being busy. I have to say we were lucky to get her.
She was very attentive and extremely helpful. I asked for her name because I wanted to mention it here, but now I forgot. I think it was “Elle”.
She was very accommodating and kept checking up on us to ask if we liked our dishes. Water was always refilled without us requesting it.
Her demeanor was so gentle and polite, and we can immediately tell that she was a hard-working server who wanted to make all her customers happy about their food. It’s one of the best birthday gifts I could receive from a server – and she doesn’t even know that it was my birthday since we didn’t mention it to her.
To be honest, I haven’t had a server like her before. If I could give her a rating over 5, I would – that’s just how amazing she was to us and everyone else she served. Rui agrees that she went above and beyond to make the experience better!
The place was very cozy and inviting. It was more trendy and modern than classy. Lanna Authentic Thai Cuisine is definitely more grand, spacious, and classy. But Chiang Rai is still a very clean and comfortable dining environment. We like the atmosphere here more than Eat BKK and Jatujake for sure!
We find that the price is quite comparable to other Thai restaurants. But because we loved their dishes, AND our server had amazing service, Rui and I think the price was very worth it.
Including tax and tips, we paid exactly $72.00 for 3 different dishes.
The portion sizes were all generous, and in my opinion, it was way better than what we expected to get for the price.
You may hear my complaints of Sala Modern being expensive (despite its similar pricing) due to the fact that their food wasn’t as great as what we had at Chiang Rai.
Overall, our experience at Chiang Rai was definitely worth the price! We would recommend it to anyone living around the Markham area or willing to come from a bit of a distance.
Overall Rating of Chiang Rai Thai Kitchen & Bar: 4.5/5
Everything was incredible – food, service, and atmosphere, which is why we don’t mind paying the price. The only thing that could be improved was the spiciness level of the papaya salad, but as I said previously, it’s only a minor issue.
For all those reasons, we give Chiang Rai Thai Kitchen & Bar 4.5 stars out of 5.
We wouldn’t hesitate to come back for more at Chiang Rai to try their other dishes – we highly recommend it! It’s definitely one of the best Thai restaurants we’ve been to and you should definitely check it out!