Enter head chef Olivier Guilmain and his wife and restaurant owner, Sakorn Guilmain. This exciting pair have brought new life to the long standing restaurant, combining the best of the old menus and some of their own additions to create a more refined, more welcoming menu and atmosphere which is not to be ignored.
Chef Olivier Guilmain has over 30 years’ experience working as a chef following five years intensive study at Strasburg Culinary School. After his time studying as a chef he spent a few years focusing on management so one day he could lead both the kitchen and the business! “It was not long after I started working in France that I felt I needed to get out and explore the world, work somewhere hot,” said Guilmain. “I moved to the Caribbean and worked as chef there instead – it was an amazing experience.”
Since then Guilmain has always had a taste for hot sun, great food and lively atmospheres. Soon after he settled he opened a restaurant and boutique villa in the Dominican Republic called Eva Luna. “The concept was to chat with the guests and find out what food they don’t like, then serve them a blind degustation menu using as much of that ingredient as I could,” said Guilmain. “I just wanted to show them that you could enjoy that ingredient after all!” Within no time at all, the restaurant was known world over, with well-known food publications publishing reviews and stories about the times they were tricked into eating their least favorite food, and how they often changed their opinion thereafter!
Following a divorce, his ex-wife took over the business and Guilmain was free to venture further afield for something new and inspiring. Hopping between Australia, the Dominican Republic and even Myanmar, Guilmain decided to try his hand at the wine industry, teaming up with Wine Connection in Singapore. “I opened and managed two outlets, a Tapas bar and a Cheese bistro,” he explained. “After both became successful in no time at all, it inspired me to build my own wine business in Jakarta.” Now Guilmain is the CEO of Food & Wine Corporation, with a number of successful speakeasy themed bars and restaurants around Southeast Asia.
However, despite all of his successes and styles, Guilmain missed a cuisine that was too close to his heart to forget. “I had to go back to French food, it’s the food I love to cook the most,” he said. “My wife suggested we move to Chiang Mai and enjoy a slower paced lifestyle, where I can open my own French restaurant.”
In 2017, Guilmain and his wife Sakorn took over Le Bistrot de Chiang Mai from its previous owner. It was lucky that this restaurant was already equipped to be a fully functioning French restaurant, so with a few tweaks, menu creations, and high-end imports of cold cuts and other meats, Guilmain transformed this simple French restaurant into a French bistro, full of flavor, atmosphere and love. “I try to recreate my time at Eva Luna on a small scale here too,” he explained. “I like to talk to my customers, find out what they like – if it’s something that’s a bit different we can play with the menu to make something perfect for them. This is a bistro after all, not a fancy restaurant. The days of pomp and six sets of cutlery are over, even for the French!”
Le Bistrot de Chiang Mai serves up a range of freshly made cold cuts to French stews, risottos, steaks, fish and vegetarian dishes – many of which are modern recreations of old French classics. The risotto is made with locally grown bolet mushrooms (the second most expensive in the world after the truffle) as are the seasonal pasta sauces. Their stews are made using the best French sausage, beans and bacon and the steaks are simple classics, but all served with a twist. We recommend the Tournedos Rossini – a filet of tenderloin served with foie gras and potato puree with truffle or if you are sharing, the grass-fed Australian Angus tomahawk steak is always a good choice. Their steaks are so good they even made the Citylife best steak in Chiang Mai list!
Over the next few months, the Guilmains will be building up the menu, slowly transitioning away from the old restaurant menu and bringing in more of their spectacular creations. “We wanted to keep some of the favourites as some regular customers may miss them if they are gone,” Sakorn said. “But what we are finding now is that the old favourites are being superseded by our own dishes so we are working on even more new dishes over the next few months.”
For those who may have given up on Le Bistrot de Chiang Mai, then now is the perfect time to try it once more, and for those who didn’t know about them in the first place, well now you do and we highly recommend booking a table and tucking into some of the best French food Chiang Mai can offer.
The best place in town! I love eating here.
My favourite restaurant!