Chiang Mai’s global gastronomic scene
Agrasut, who grew up in England with a Thai father and Chinese mother, opened Café Compassion in 2011 with her fiancé Paul, an experienced raw food chef from Singapore. The menu largely reflects what they like to eat. “We don’t have a microwave and we don’t use any processed foods,” said Agrasut. The bulbous burger, another popular menu item, features a dense mushroom patty, packed with herbs and served on a soft wholegrain bun, with optional egg and cheese toppings. If you are after something more decadent, the shareable banana bread ice-cream sandwich with homemade butterscotch sauce is the only way to end the meal.
After dinner, stop in for some coffee at Ristr8to, a latte cafe that opened in 2011 with astonishing success. “I’m obsessed with the number eight,” said Arnon “Tong” Thitiprasert, the owner and barista. “There are 44 chromosomes in Arabica coffee and double that in a doppio ristretto [a short espresso], so 88.” Somehow this logic has resulted in opening hours from 8:08 am until 11:08 pm, the price of every drink contains an 8, and Arnon even named his son Ristr8to. When this obsessiveness translates to coffee preparation, good things happen.
Thitiprasert, originally from Trang in Thailand’s south, spent time in Sydney studying English. He got a part-time job in a coffee shop and made up to 1,200 cups a day, without ever tasting a single drop. “I didn’t like coffee,” said Thitiprasert. “I found it very bitter.” Then he began working in an Italian restaurant, where it was considered unacceptable to serve something he wouldn’t try. “I started with two sugars and eventually none,” said Thitiprasert, who now tastes every cup before it reaches his patrons.
The sixth place winner in the 2011 World Latte Art Championship, Thitiprasert flies to Singapore to select his coffee beans and offers up to eight blends from every corner of the globe. His menu is designed to educate, explaining the regional differences in coffee, including grade, processing and roasting techniques. “I got people hooked on flat whites [an Australian take on a latte],” said Thitiprasert rather proudly. “Most locals didn’t even know what a flat white was until I introduced it to them.”
Thitiprasert uses a stir-shake-blend-build strategy to prepare the Shaken Irish Coffee, a combination of Jameson whiskey, Kahlua, and Colombian coffee, served in a tall glass over ice. His after sunset menu also features a Shaken Ristr8tini, possibly the world’s first coffee cocktail to contain the number eight.