I’m working my way through Chiang Mai’s vegetarian/vegan scene slowly but surely, and my quest continues with one the most highly rated eateries around.  Amrita Garden is another one of those eateries that features highly on most websites, being especially praised for their vegan burger.  This is a 100% vegan eatery, run by a Japanese lady.  Amrita Garden is centrally located, within the iconic square fort, which is the epicenter of the tourism industry in Chiang Mai.  One can find countless vegetarian eateries within the confines of the fort, all of which I will get to reviewing over time.

Amrita Garden
Location: Samlan Road, Soi 5, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Contact: 086-0539342
Opening Hours: Daily 9.00am-8.30pm.  Closed on Tuesday.

 

The ambiance of Amrita Garden is excellent, there is both indoor and outdoor seating – I particularly like the outdoor seating, which is really like a beautiful garden (there is a starfruit tree growing at the back).  Out of everywhere I’ve been in Chiang Mai, I would say that ambiance (minus the noisy farangs) is clearly the best at Amrita.

As soon as I started flicking through the pages of the menu, I started getting more and more excited.  The menu has a number of fascinating dishes, it proved difficult to choose.  Perhaps some might say the menu is somewhat confused (natto on the same menu as spaghetti bolognese etc), but I couldn’t help applaud the selection of dishes, and how well the menu looked visually.  The items that particularly caught my attention was the burger section (which comes in several customizable options) and the vegan cheeses.

Vegan cheese is something that all vegans are captivated by, I begrudgingly divorced myself from cheese many years ago, and it is still something that I crave on a shamefully frequent basis.  Therefore, people like myself are hoping for a miracle, a vegan cheese which is just like the real thing – So far my vegan cheese exploration has been only met with disappointment, so I didn’t have too high of expectations from the vegan cheese at Amrita.

So now that I’ve confessed my cheese lust to you all, needless to say it was inevitable that I would be ordering the Vegan Cheese Platter of the Day.  The platter comes in three different sizes – Three cheese (120THB), four cheese (150THB) and five cheese (180THB) – I went for the latter.  The platter comes with three pieces of sliced white bread, a nice tangy relish, cucumber, tomatoes and of course the five vegan cheeses.  The five cheeses consisted of smoked cheese, feta, pepper jack, gouda and another which I am not sure what it was.  Overall the vegan cheeses didn’t hit the spot for me.  The three cheeses closest in the picture had an almost jelly like texture, and was ultimately lacking in authenticity in both taste and texture.  The saving grace was the vegan feta (made primarily from tofu), which did have a somewhat authentic texture, and was quite enjoyable when eaten with the bread.  For the price, I thought more bread should have been added, and better quality too – The bread was a little on the stale side.

Price: 180THB.     6/10

 

Natto is a controversial Japanese dish consisting of ferment soya beans, which divides people into love and hate categories.  A good natto should be slimy, smelly and strong tasting.  It is distinctive by its spider web style strings (similar to that of yam when separated) when picked apart.  This natto was a little too mild for me, and I suspect that it had not fermented for long enough.

Price: 30THB.     5/10

Next is the Tempeh with Sio-Kouji Sauce.  For foreigners unfamiliar with Asian delicacies like tempeh and natto (i.e. everyone who has probably ever visited Amrita) it is probably best to stay away from them, as they are acquired tastes.  I read a lot of reviews online saying the food at Amrita is salty – This is something I disagree with, and suspect it stems from customers ordering a dish like tempeh and being surprised by the salt level.  This tempeh was salty, but of course that is how it should be.  The tempeh was cooked well and had that slightly fermented nutty flavour, which makes tempeh so delicious.  It is a simple dish, but if you like tempeh then surely you will enjoy it.
Price:  70THB.     7/10

The moment we have all been waiting for.  If you call yourself the No.1 Vegan Burger, then you really have to back it up – To be fair, Amrita did indeed back it up on this occasion.  I started off with the burger set meal, which consists of the basic standard vegan burger and a choice of tea or coffee.  This burger was excellent in almost every aspect.  The sesame bun texture was superb, it was crisp, firm and perfectly designed for burger consumption – Imagine the complete opposite of Nomvnom’s frankly hilarious Chinese style bao (包).  The vegan mayonese was great, the mustard was tangy, and the ingredients inside were fresh.  The burger held itself together pretty well also, instead of collapsing pathetically into mangled heap of indecipherable mess after the first nibble (again, see Nomvnom).  The mock patty was a little on the plain side, but I can’t take away many points from what is really an excellent burger.  Probably on par (or could be even better) than the tangy tartar burger which I love from Vegan Burg.

Price:  110THB.     9/10

We then progressed to ordering the No.1 Vegan Burger with Cheese.  Let me start by saying this – Who in the history of serving cheese with bread (in any form), puts the cheese separately from the bread/burger?  The cheese should be inside.  Aside from this baffling mishap, I am struggling to think of anything except praise for this delicious burger.  See above, excellent bread, fantastic sauce and fresh ingredients.  I adore this burger.

Price: 150THB.     9/10

 

Lastly for the savory section, we have the Vegan Spaghetti Bolognese.  For this dish, the customer can opt to have it with the standard semolina pasta, or rice pasta (which is gluten free).  Making a vegan bolognese without using any meat replacement (TVP, tofu, soy etc) is always going to be tough.  This was a very basic dish, the spaghetti was cooked well, but the overall flavour was pretty bland.  If the pasta was cooked in saltier water, it would definitely help heighten the flavour.  For the bolognese sauce, it was really lacking substance and depth in flavour, particularly in terms of herbs, which seemed to be virtually non-existent.  The lack of flavour is particularly inexcusable given the fact they are using onion and garlic here.  For 130 baht, spaghetti and tomato sauce really can’t possibly justify the cost.

Price: 130THB.     4/10

 

We move on to the desserts, starting with two different types of Brownie.  I am not a dessert expert, but the brownies were a little on the dry side for my liking, lacking in moisture.

Price: 45THB (per piece).     6/10

We also finished the meal off with a Homemade Soy Milk Yogurt.  Accurately replicating animal products such as cheese, yogurt and butter is not an easy task.  This soy yogurt was thick and had the slight sourness yogurt typically has.  It is made to replicate the Greek style of sugarless yogurt (never been my favourite).  However, the discerning difference was in the texture.  Instead of being thick and cloying, it was slightly grainy.

Price: 40THB.      5/10

 

Conclusion – The price for a filling meal at Amrita Garden is equivalent to that of a meal in Singapore, all in all I paid over $30 for this meal.  I would have to say frankly that the majority of the food was quite underwhelming, and not worthy of the price tags.  However, the burger did indeed live up to the hype.  Needless to say, due to the pricing, no Thai will be caught dead in this restaurant, so it is ultimately aimed at farang’s.  That being said, the ambiance is lovely and I would definitely entertain the idea of returning…Just for the burger.

Overall Rating
Food – 6/10
Ambiance- 9/10
Service – 6/10
Value – 4/10