Bangkok Post reviews
Crossing culinary borders
- Writer: Bangkok Post Editorial
- Published: October 4, 2013 at 8:35 am
Nara Thai Cuisine opens first overseas branch in Singapore
Nara Thai Cuisine which opened last month in Singapore is a joint-venture between its founder, Yuki Srikanchana, and four young entrepreneurs from Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia.
Culinary speaking, no one can deny that one of Asia's biggest melting pots is Singapore. Despite its size, the island nation with a population of 5.3 million is a sanctuary of refined flavours, which an astounding number of out-of-town, star-studded chefs from across the globe regard as their second home.
Yet Thai cuisine does not seem to be much represented in the Lion City. The handful of notable Thai dining establishments include Jim Thompson's, Tawandang Micobrewery, Coffee Beans by Dao and the latest addition, Nara Thai Cuisine.
Nara Thai Cuisine was first established in 2006 by Yuki Srikanchana, a successful business woman with a passion for the culinary arts. Her flagship restaurant was opened at the ritzy Erawan Bangkok shopping plaza with the aim of offering an urbane interpretation of the much-loved Thai street food in an upscale setting. The response was tremendous from the day the restaurant opened its doors, 11 years ago. Seats aren't easily available at meal times and additions to a list of regulars _ local and international _ never stops.
It can take up to three days to get some of the best tables at Nara Thai Cuisine restaurant.
Following the success of the original, two branches were opened at nearby spots, and soon became as popular as the first.
The 112-seater that opened last month at Singapore's stylish shopping plaza, ION Orchard, is Nara's first overseas outlet and a joint-venture between its founder, Yuki, and four young entrepreneurs from Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia.
Yuki said timing plus perfect business partners were the main reasons why this highly cherished home-grown Thai restaurant brand decided to cross national borders. She also sees Singapore as a perfect starting place for international growth. The city-state is a hub of all things refined and the people are great fans of Thai cuisine.
"Judging from the number of Singaporean diners we've had at Nara restaurants over the years, I'd say they love our cuisine. And for the new branch in Singapore, feedback has been extremely good even before the restaurant was launched.
Tom yum goong is an all time favourite dish with Singaporeans.
"As soon as news broke that Nara was going to open in their city I got so many pleasant responses from the locals. Everyone there seemed to know us," Yuki said.
According to her, it can take upto three days to get some of the best tables at Singapore's Nara. The eatery, decked out in black, purple and gold hues, was smartly designed by a cutting-edge architect and interior design firm from Bangkok, to showcase the exquisiteness of age-old Thai craftsmanship that blends perfectly with a modern casual ambience. Most of the furniture and decor were imported from Thailand. The same for all the gourmet ingredients and chefs.
Of the extensive menu, which is quite similar to Bangkok, the most popular with the Singaporeans are yum som-o (pomelo salad), guay tiew ruea (Thai-style noodle in brown soup), stir-fried soft shell crab with yellow curry, tom yum goong, green curry and steamed fish with sour and spicy seafood dipping sauce.
One of Nara Singapore's managing partners, Christopher Tan, said that Thai food is regarded in Singapore as one of the most favourite cuisines among locals, following Chinese and Japanese.
The best-selling boat noodle, or Thai-style noodles with beef in brown soup.
"Because Singaporeans love Thai food so much and Bangkok has been a top destination to enjoy a vast variety of tasty Thai dishes, the challenge for us is to bring authentic Thai cuisine and we will not settle for anything less," said Tan, who also owns a Spanish tapas bar and an Italian pizzeria in the Lion City.
"Because of the selection of Thai eateries in Singapore, Singaporeans perceive Thai food on two different levels. One is the street-style, fast-food-like fare. The other is very fine dining for which you would have to dress up and pay S$30 (750 baht) for phad Thai.
"The difference is very extreme. So we try to present something in-between. Authentic fine Thai cuisine that caters to the masses with affordable prices. We want to benchmark ourselves at the middle range but with the quality at the higher level of that range. We are trying to make Nara one of the best Thai restaurants in Singapore," he said.
Nara’s signature coconut milk ice cream with colourful assortment of toppings.