Nithan Thai has been through a lot since it had opened a year ago. It first started as a Royal Thai restaurant, offering an authentic experience that “treats each guest as a member of royalty”. Publications began circulating claiming a crazy weeks-long waiting list and reviews talked about subpar, kitsch food. The inclusion of Thai girls in traditional outfits whose job is to wash guests hands was met with skepticism and awkwardness.
The concept didn’t last for long and within five months of opening, the owner ditched the “Royal experience” concept and hired a new chef – Shahaf Shabtay, who is one of the most successful Israeli chefs. Shabtay specializes in Asian cuisine and cooked in restaurants all over the world. SaSaZu, The restaurant he founded in Prague won a Michelin star. In Nithan Thai he created a new menu which is based on Thai ingredients but showcases dishes influenced by different Asian cuisines.
The restaurant is dominated by a gold motif. Even the silverware is golden! The design itself is very extravagant, with Thai statues, paintings and artwork strewn across the entire restaurant space. We made our way to the restaurant on a rainy Saturday. Not long after we set down for lunch the tables quickly filled up with a mix of young couples, adults and families. The music is soft and allows for conversation, resulting in an all around pleasant atmosphere – where you can sit for long hours and enjoy a slow meal.
When the waiter approached our table she emphasized the restaurant is not, in fact, Thai, but actually Asian, and that the ingredients used are Thai. Even though the menu had a manageable size (35 dishes) something about it made it hard to understand what dish exactly were we going to get. It is divided to 5 sections, each representing a different cooking technique:
Water – Evaporation and seawater
Inner peace – Stone ovens
Sunrise – Health
Golden sun – Crispy and Crunch
Sound – The Whisper of the flame
I needed some alcohol before I could wade through the menu, so I ordered the Bangkok Sling – Wild Cherri Stoli, Umeshu, Cherry Heering and Benedictine (52₪ \ $13.5). This is hands-down one of the best cocktails I’ve had. Very light and fruity-sour-y, topped with lichi and shredded coconut chips. The minced ice was also a welcomed addition. Towards the end of the meal, when I was already pretty tipsy (soon you’ll understand why) the waiter noticed I attempted to scoop out the lichi with the straw and handed me a fork, which got the job done! Opher got a bottled Leffe Radieuse (34₪ \ $9), which granted, isn’t Thai – but a much more interesting choice than Singha, the bottle of industrial Thai beer they had to offer.
After consulting with the waitress, we decided to first order a few starter dishes and only then order the next ones (“the kitchen pushes out dishes very fast”). The waiter warmly recommended the Thai Roll – Tuna, Salmon, Forest Mushroom and Indonesian Sesame Sauce (88₪ \ $23). I expected something completely different but what we received was 5 pieces of crispy tempura roll swimming in sweet-spicy sauce and wasabi.
I have a few issues with this dish: first – the menu didn’t mention anything about wasabi. Second – the waitress stated the menu is perfect and meant for sharing. 5 is a prime number, and according to math this 5-piece dish can only be shared by either one person or five people. Third – what’s up with this price tag? This dish is nowhere near being worth that much. Lastly – the sauce was overly sweet and the roll itself wasn’t that tasty.
Luckily for us, this was the lowest point of the meal, and from here on things got much better. The second dish we ordered was “the only dish not suitable for sharing” since it comes in a small mug. It is also the cheapest dish on the menu, besides the rice side dishes section. The Krapao corn soup – Kemiri Nut , Shallot , Lemon Grass , Brown Coconut , Lucky Chili ,Glass Noodles and Shrimps (32₪ \ $8.5) was one of most satisfying dishes we had there. This comforting soup had a smooth, creamy texture and deep, complex earthy-sweet flavor and aroma.
After a short break we ordered two more dishes, both from the “Sound” section, which consisted of more massive dishes. The first was the Tamarind Ped Yang – Scorched Duck Breast on Open Flame, Rice Noodle, Long Bean, Sichuan Tamarindi Honey (78₪ \ $20.5). On a tray were 3 different plates: One with the duck pieces with sauce and noodles, second with the beans and third with a more thick version of the sauce. The marching orders were – take a bite from everything together and just dip in the extra sauce dish, and not pour it into the bowl. We very much enjoyed this dish but again, composing a bite was such a non-trivial task which makes it hardly optimal for sharing.
At this point we were served on-the-house cocktails comprised of gin, cucumber and celery, served in off-axis golden martini glasses. The bartenders at Nithan Thai know their craft and these cocktails were nothing if further proof of it.
We closed this part of the meal with Chantaboon Lamb with Fresh Turmeric, Laksa , Bird’s Eye Chili , Macadamia Nut, Dried Tomatoes , Coriander , Tahini Bread (84₪ \ $22). The slow cooked lamb stew was super tender. The sauce was sweet and spicy and the bread was a match from heaven. This dish is also quite big and can easily make you full. Fun and comforting.
The service at Nithan Thai is excellent and very hospitable. We really felt like we were being cared for and taken care of. This wasn’t only true for us – we noticed an incident where a waitress accidentally served a dish to the wrong table and then insisted they still keep the dish and enjoy it. This should be a lesson to other establishment on how to keep customers happy and back for more.
I was excited for dessert since its head pastry chef is the much talked about Sunny Deri. I was undecided between two dishes: Pineapple Meringue, Rum and Louisa and Ginza Matcha – Cream Puff with Matcha Cream, Caramel Miso and Thai Basil (56₪ \ $14.5) but eventually went for the the latter. The dish was just OK and I think it’s a bit overpriced. The condiments were thin, and not viscous enough to hold on to the puffs after being dipped into.
We didn’t leave empty handed and as a farewell token received a box of yummy buttery cookies.
Together with one Cappuccino (16₪ \ $4), and sans the gratis cocktails, the bill came up to (440₪ \ $115). Definitely not a cheap experience. Even though some dishes were hit and miss, overall we had a fun, enjoyable lunch and we will surely want to come back in the future.
Nithan Thai Online: