About Nara Thai
Founded in 2006 by Thai businesswomen who love cooking and eating street food, Nara Thai has had phenomenal success both in Thailand - where it has consistently been on Thailand Tatler's Best Restaurants List - and in Singapore, with the opening of its second outlet at Westgate Mall.
The restaurant aims to bring the best of Thai street food to customers in a comfortable restaurant dining environment. The dishes at Nara are all derived from authentic recipes, evoking a sense of culture and comfort that are sure to delight Thais and Singaporeans alike. We were there recently to see if their food lived up to the hype.
The Food at Nara Thai
When the first dish, Kung Chae Nampla ($13.90) arrived, I felt my heart beat a little faster. I've never had raw prawns of this size before. But you can't call yourself a foodie if you're not willing to be adventurous with your palate and try new dishes, so I quite literally bit the bullet and I actually really enjoyed this!
The super spicy and tangy sauce compliments the sweetness of the raw prawns, which were marinated in fish sauce. The texture was a little slimy but not unpleasant when eaten with the crunchy cabbage. The contrast in texture and flavour really showed how well put together this dish was.
As for mains, their Stir-fried Soft Shell Crab with Yellow Curry ($18.90) is one of the star dishes at Nara Thai. The curry was luxuriously thick and goes perfectly with rice. They were also very generous with their soft shell crab, which was light and crispy despite being slathered in that decadent gravy.
Their Tom Yum Fried Rice ($13.90) is available exclusively at the Westgate outlet. The rice had a good spicy kick to it but for the price, I didn't find this anything special and would stick with plain white rice instead.
Nara's coconut ice cream with assorted Thai sweet condiments, I-Thim Nara ($8.80), really stole the show for me and was my favourite dish of the entire lunch. For just $8.80 you can choose the topping for your ice cream - be it Attap Chee, Jackfruit, Peanuts, Nata de Coco, Chendol, Corn, Sticky Rice or Red Rubies.
This dessert gives you bang for your buck. Even after I was done with my ice cream, I was still happily munching on the remaining red rubies, which are made in-house and are so delicious.
If you're more into hot desserts, their Bua Loy Sam Si ($4.80) is worth a try as well. The Thai dumplings come in 3 different flavours - Taro, Pumpkin and Pandan - and have the same chewy texture as bubble tea pearls. The piping hot coconut milk was also very comforting after a spicy meal.
Interview with John Wangwanitkul
I had the opportunity to do a quick interview with John Wangwanitkul, the Managing Director of Nara Thai Cuisine, to find out more about the man behind the brand.
Q: Why did you choose to open a Nara Thai branch in Singapore after all your success in Bangkok?
Singaporeans have high spending power and they love eating Thai food. We can see it in Thailand, where you'll see a Singaporean next to you in every restaurant. Especially Nara in Erawan, there's lots of Singaporeans who go there.
I remember coming to Singapore when I was younger and how there weren't many good options for Thai food. The good options - for example, those at Orchard Towers - were not as easily accessible and the ones accessible to most people, I feel, were not something I considered Thai in spirit.
Q: What then makes Nara different from other Thai dining establishments in Singapore?
Brand wise, I think Nara is already very established and well known. Most of my Singaporean friends always ask me to bring them to Nara once they touch down in Bangkok. There was such a hype when Nara first opened its doors in Singapore.
After that hype dies down, the main thing I wanted to focus on was getting people to come in and try the food and realize that the food is authentic. Then again, I'm very hesitant to use the word "authentic", because what exactly is authentic Thai food? To me, authentic is something that a local would say is good. Even in Thailand, there are so many ways of making the same dish.
If a Thai person comes to my restaurant, they'll say that this tastes like home. That's my version of authenticity, and I'd happily say that is when we've successfully recreated Thai food in Singapore.
Q: What's your favourite dish at Nara?
I have so many favourite dishes here at Nara! In Thai cuisine there are so many flavours so it really depends on my mood. I eat here every day - I have to, as part of quality control. I'll randomly select stuff under the radar so that the staff thinks that it's actually a customer.
There are so many things I would order on a regular basis, but my default is still Basil Chicken with Rice and a Fried Egg. I also like the Plaa Goong and all the appetizers. The Boat Noodles are good as well and make an excellent hangover cure.
Q:Just to conclude, why don't you tell our readers what they can expect when they dine at Nara Thai?
Authentic food! Most of our staff are Thai and they act as a check and balance as well. If I taste something wrong with the food, I'll actually get the staff to taste and tell me what they think as well. The Thai staff know what it's supposed to taste like at home and this helps me to check my palate as well.
I can comfortably say that our food is very authentic to what you will find in Thailand.
So does Nara really deliver on their promise of providing Singaporeans with authentic Thai street food? My answer is a resounding yes! While it is pricier than establishments at Golden Mile where most Singaporeans get their Thai food fix, the quality of the food, service and ambiance makes up for it.
Nara is a place I would bring my Mum for a special treat, and their portions are also generous enough for a family to share. With outlets at ION Orchard and Westgate, Nara is also easy to get to when you have a hankering for Thai food.
Getting to Nara Thai
Address: Westgate, 3 Gateway Drive, #03-07 | ION Orchard, 2 Orchard Turn, #B3-21
Hours: 11.30am - 10pm (Monday to Sunday)
Phone: 6634 5787
This post was brought to you by Nara Thai.