Barely a month old, Nara Thai has become one of the busiest restaurants at the SM Megamall Fashion Hall. Its sampler plate of pandan chicken, satay, fish cakes, meaty rolls and pomelo salad introduces diners to the textures and subtle flavors that define traditional Thai cuisine.
An international chain, Nara Thai was established more than a decade ago by Thai businesswomen who liked good food.
The local franchise was acquired by the Roku Group, led by Sheila Romero and her daughter Milka.
Romero says that every time she and her family hied off to Bangkok, Nara Thai was their go-to place for comfort food. They loved the fragrant but delicate sourness of the lemongrass, the fresh aroma of basil, the tartness of the kaffir lime, the sweetness of cinnamon sticks and the muskiness of coriander leaves permeating the spicy sauces.
Romero’s favorites include the duck in red curry sauce, the prawn pancake and the prawns carpaccio with fish sauce marinade, complemented by fried rice with chili shrimp paste.
Nara Thai maintains its authenticity by not compromising on the level of spiciness. To remain true to Thai flavors, the menu gives diners spice-level options. Conservative palates can enjoy crispy chicken in lime sauce or the chicken pandan. The adventurous may partake of mild spicy green chicken curry or the hot red chicken curry.
Romero declares that the food in the local franchise is on par with Thailand’s standards. Unlike other pomelo salads, for instance, Nara Thai’s starter is flavored with shrimp and palm sugar, and topped with roasted cashews.
One of the most popular dishes is massaman curry, made of chewy beef brisket boiled in rich coconut milk, then blended with herbs and potato.
Another hit, the tom kah gai, is a delicate, milky, semisweet chicken and mushroom potage with the spicy aftertaste of galangal, onions and kaffir lime leaves.
The prawn tom yum goong is a subtle amalgam of hot and and sour lemongrass. The crispy soft-shell crab, meanwhile, is dipped in rich yellow, egg-like curry.
For the health-conscious, the steamed grouper is cooked to the right tenderness and bathed in a sauce of chili and lime sauce.
The phad pak boong or stir-fried morning glory is crunchy water spinach with a hint of fermented soy paste, and the stir-fried kale comes topped with Thai anchovy.
A Thai restaurant is not without its signature dish—the pad Thai krob. Here, the thin noodles are laced with caramelized meat sauce and topped with plump shrimps.
The meal is capped with artfully plated classic mango and sticky rice, along with Thai halo-halo which consists of individual glasses of coconut ice cream, sweetened jackfruit, fried peanuts, nata de coco, ruby chestnuts, nata de piña, sweet corn and sticky rice.
The Nara Thai milk tea, on the other hand, is marked by a smoky flavor.
Romero says she herself chose the fast-moving dishes for the restaurant’s debut menu. This summer, she’ll be adding vegan dishes and a lot more surprises. –CONTRIBUTED