Nara Thai, founded in 2003 by a group of women entrepreneurs, has consistently been voted as one of the best restaurants in Thailand since 2006. The cult status of Nara Thai, which has outlets in Bangkok, Singapore and Sri Lanka, is not without reason—authentic Thai dining in a stylish setting, a formula that has worked brilliantly in its favour.
Cut to Mumbai, in September 2017, where Nara Thai opened a ritzy new outlet at the heart of the city’s swanky business district Bandra Kurla Complex. “Besides the occasional Thai restaurant in a five-star hotel or pan-Asian restaurants, there hasn’t been any noteworthy standalone Thai restaurant in Mumbai,” says Karyna Bajaj, the face of Nara Thai in India. The executive director of KA Hospitality, she also manages the high-profile Hakkasan and Yauatcha restaurants in Mumbai.
Nara Thai Mumbai stands out with its sophisticated yet casual aesthetic. The design concept was overseen by Thai interior decorator Nitipattara Yensup, who is also responsible for the decor of several Nara outlets. The look of Nara Thai Mumbai is characterised by large windows, while the oversized Bangkok-style ceiling fans are unmissable. Small, subtle details and motifs in the restaurant constantly remind you that you are in a Thai restaurant—embellished lamps, silk cushions, Thai orchids, bevelled mirrors and, of course, lots of purple.
“We are not looking to innovate or experiment with Thai food. It is traditional, regional Thai cooking, which is comfort food for our diners, presented beautifully. The dishes served here are true to their origins and are strongly rooted in Thai culture,” says Bajaj.
As I pore over the menu, it is not hard to see that Nara Thai is indeed a celebration of Thailand’s vibrant flavours in their purest form. The menu comprises a range of salads, curries, stir-fries, noodles, rice and a host of other native specialities. “While the menu in Mumbai has remained largely unchanged and features most of the Nara Thai signatures from Bangkok, we have added a whole bunch of new vegetarian options for our diners,” says Bajaj, alluding to the standout vegetarian dishes like crispy-fried morning glory leaves drizzled with a sweet and sour Thai dressing, okra with Thai herbs and a colourful Pomelo salad (Yum Som O), which had everyone at the table craving.
Some of the other signature dishes were the fascinating Butterfly Pea Rice (which changes colour as a special Thai dressing is poured on top of it), stir-fried crab with yellow curry, crispy shrimp cakes, grilled pork with Nahm Jim Jaew sauce, the all-time favourite Pad Thai and the red chicken curry, with the goodness of kafir lime and delicate spices. There was a visible focus on regional Thai fare and the staff were quick to point out the origin of your dish.
My meal at Nara Thai culminated on a wonderful note with the hospitable Bajaj herself assembling a dessert for me—coconut ice cream topped with a bunch of sweet Thai condiments, a refreshingly light combination. Nara Thai joins the ranks of highly specialised region-driven restaurants in Mumbai, with a strong focus on experience. It scores on all counts, including food, ambience and service, making it a new must-do on the Mumbai food scene.
Raheja Towers, Bandra Kurla Complex, Mumbai.
Meal for two with a drink: Rs 2,500