When I was younger, I have always considered cultural dinner shows as a very tourist kind of itinerary. I remember clearly the times when I was on family holidays with group tours and cultural dinner shows was always one of the itinerary. Now as I am older, I discovered that such shows can also be a quick way to learn about another country’s cultural and cuisine. For example the flamingo dance in Spain or belly dancing in UAE. I had the chance to visit this Khantoke dinner in Chiang Mai during a business trip.
There are many Khantoke dinner shows in Chiangmai but Khum Khantoke is one of the most popular and biggest. Khantoke or Toke means a round rattan tray, serving various kinds of authentic northern Thai dishes and national Thai food. When you first arrive at Khum Khantoke restaurant, you will be greeted with warm Thai hospitality. Visitors are sometimes served cold towels and lemongrass drinks. The environment is very tranquil and serene and looks very much like a Thai palace with huge spacious gardens and lotus ponds.
There are also ladies dressed in the traditional Thai costumes showing you traditional Thai handicrafts like fruit craving, flower weaving and Khim which is a traditional Thai music instrument. Visitors can take pictures with them as well.
The entrance to the main restaurant area is very grand and has delicate Thai carvings. You can relax in the lavish environment and luscious greenery while waiting for dinner to start.
The entire restaurant area is free of footwear so all visitors will have to leave their shoes at the designated areas just outside the entrance.
There are 2 areas for seating, the platform seating which is similar to the Japanese or Korean floor seating but with a hole below the table for you to place your legs. This is perfect for people who cannot sit cross-legged for too long.
The other area is nearer to the performance area and is purely floor seating. This is more traditional as you eat and watch the performance sitting on the floor with these Thai cushions.
There is only 1 menu for Khantoke dinner and they will serve you a combination of 9 dishes which are the representation of North Thai cuisine. The dishes are refillable so if you like a particular dish, you can ask the server to top up the dish. The dinner cost approximately THB 590 and drinks are not included. The menu includes : Chiang Mai Style Banana Fritter, Chiang Mai Style Pork Curry with Ginger & Tamarind Sauce, Grilled Young Chili Paste With Steamed Vegetables, Crispy Pork Skin, Crispy Rice Noodle, Deep Fried Chicken, Minced Pork in Tomato Sauce, Stir-Fried Mixed Vegetables, Sticky Rice or Steamed Rice and Seasonal Fresh Fruit. There are also Halal and vegetarian menu available.
In all fairness, the price is very high for the food that is served. Most of the food items are very simple and mainly vegetables and minced meat sauce that is suitable to eat with large quantity of rice. There are many reviews about the food being lousy but I think we need to keep an open mind on the demographics of north Thailand which has many farmers and these are really traditional dishes the locals eat. Although with the price you pay, you can have other better dishes in the city restaurants. My conclusion is that only visit if you are prepared to enjoy an experience in its totality and not just expecting value for money dishes. Personally, I love the simplicity of the dishes and how each of the meat or vegetable sauces is so savoury and unique and goes very well with glutinous rice.
The performance starts from 8.00 pm so you can choose to come earlier to have dinner at the platform area and move to the floor area for the performance. The dance performance is approximately an hour and covers a few genre like welcome dance, war dance, sword dance and even animal dances.
Again I repeat, visit only with an open mind and zero expectations and you will enjoy your experience. If you are not keen for such shows and would only like to try the north Thai cuisine, there are other restaurants available.
Address: 139 หมู่ 4 ต.หนองป่าครั่ง Amphoe Mueang Chiang Mai, Chang Wat Chiang Mai 50000, Thailand
Operating hours: 6.30 pm to 9.00 pm