If there is one thing I’ve learned during my visit to Southeast Asia, it is how much everyone cares about giving back to the community.
Chiang Mai, Thailand alone has been one of the most impressive cities in terms of hands-on philanthropic efforts that go beyond giving money, but actually equipping the community with the tools they need for a better life or taking action-oriented steps to make change.
Paak Daak Restaurant
Paak Dang, a 4.5 trip advisor rated restaurant located only a short walk or tuk tuk ride across the river from the Chiang Mai old city walls, is one of the restaurants that have wowed me with their giving model.
Their owners, K-Lin and K-Jin, are from Singapore and have recently taken ownership of the restaurant to beef up its overall standing, and transform it into a an opportunity for labor-intensive and business work that less privileged people from poorer communities, hill tribes, and villages can be trained and employed to take on.
Observing Change As We Dine
Though we visited the restaurant to do a review of the cuisine, we received an off-menu surprise as topping on the cake of their delicious meals.
From the moment we entered the restaurant, greeted by a sign that welcomed (by name) every person who made a reservation, we felt the timid, yet enthusiastic, aura of young staff members eager to learn. K-Lin, co-owner and a very evident powerhouse leader to the pack, personally greeted us and the other guests as well.
As we enjoyed a robust menu of traditional fares, we observed the way K-Lin guided the waiters in training on restaurant and customer service etiquette. Through nervous smiles, they rehearsed the English words, “Can I repeat your order”, and gave more gracious bows than ever needed.
Skills Learned At Paak Dang
Employees at Paak Dang have the benefit of not only embracing good customer service, but also (led by the two perfect English-speaking owners – seriously, K-Lin’s grammar was better than mine) learn English, basic math and accounting, and of course – restaurant etiquette.
These are skills that are crucial to each employee’s professional development, but also personal development, as the confidence that comes with knowing you can find work and provide for your family are a sure morale boost.
Of course we were initially there for the food. We were hungry and anxious to give first-hand accounts and recommendations of local restaurants. So here are some photos and our ratings.
Paak Dang Special Starter Set
How can you go wrong with a sampler? Am I forever a sampler spokesperson? Chicken Wings, Thai Fish Cakes, Spring Rolls, Tempura Vegetables---- I can't decide what I loved most. Let's just say, after trying these tempura veggies, I now ask for tempura veggies in every restaurant I dine at. Paak Dang made me a new fan!
To be frank, depending on how hungry you are, one can have a light meal on this sampler alone. It's quite large. Alex and I shared it and didn't even fight about who got the last item... there was enough to go around.
Roasted Duck Curry
The roasted duck in a red curry paste with lychees, pineapples, grapes, and cherry tomatoes was quite filling! While we are more in love with spicier foods, this dish is full of flavor and felt like a perfect pair with our riverside table during the humid evening. Anything spicy would of left us sweating.
Pla Lard Prik
I LOVED my Sea Bass topped with spicy sauce of fresh ginger, pepper corns, tamarind, and sweet basil. It wasn't overwhelmingly spicy and the bass was fresh. fresh. fresh. I especially loved with combination of tamarind and basil sweetness followed a kick of ginger flavor. There were a few very fine bones that really pricked me, so that tainted the experience a bit. I just wanted to eat it all so fast that I couldn't bear pay attention to digging for bones!
I was way too full to truly enjoy the Sweet Sticky Rice and Mango dessert we had. To be honest I am more of a sugary and sour person and love lemons, over-sugared coconuts, and cake. Lot's of cake. This dessert wasn't sweet enough for me, but Alex LOVED it. He thought it was a delightful light dessert and the mango was perfectly ripened.
My Recommendation: GO!
I am really proud I was able to dine at Paak Dang and was extremely impressed with the food and experience. Thailand is full of notable restaurants so it takes going the extra mile to really stand out from the rest.
The fact that Paak Dang is committed to social change, gives you a personalized welcome, and cooks spectacular food - not to mention being Riverside and romantic (and providing mosquito repellant!!!) - makes Paak Dang a top restaurant recommendation for Chiang Mai.
For more information and to reserve a romantic riverside table visit PaakDang.com