Nara Thai Cuisine is known as an atas restaurant in Bangkok, a shoo-in for Thailand Tatler’s Best Restaurants List for 7 consecutive years. It’s Tatler, not just any magazine. The restaurants are established at Erawan and Central World, easily considered the most high-end shopping malls in Bangkok. (Read: Nara Thai Cuisine Bangkok)
It is not surprising that Nara Thai would choose Ion Orchard as their first overseas outlet, which is an iconic shopping mall in Singapore.
Nara Thai in Bangkok caters more to the middle-upper class (Thai tai-tais with big black hair, customers looking like gorgeous Thai celebrities), with many Hong Kong and Taiwanese tourists turning up armed with guide books.
The décor is in a luxurious royal purple, with traditional Thai furniture design given a modern interpretation, and some dishes coming adorned with orchids.
Therefore food wise, do not expect the super spicy-sweet-zesty-salty-oily-fish saucy that can be typical of some Thai street food, especially Northern Thai cuisine. Nara’s Thai food can be said to be almost safe, comforting, mild (in relative terms) and suitable for the international palate.
One of their signatures is the Kuay Tiew Rua Nua ($14.90) Ayuthaya Boat Noodles served with Beef in dry or soups versions.
Of course I would say get the soup version, tasting thickly robust and complex, that kind of makes you feel it is very ‘nutritious’. Unfortunately, the Singapore version does not include blood in it. Yes seriously, blood in its original incarnation.
The other popular noodle dish, the Phad Thi Phu Kung ($15.90) with soft shell crabs, prawns and chicken is just okay. You probably had better versions elsewhere, but you would still end up ordering it for comparison. Some of their other dishes also tasted too ‘safe’ and boring, but I guess that is inevitable.
Nara Thai’s take of the iconic Tom Yum Kung ($19.90) is a pleasant surprise, using large tiger prawns as importing river prawns would have been less fresh.
Unlike some other tom yum soups which can be one-dimensionally spicy and sour, this broth is a fine balance of being spicy, tangy, sour and milky. The soup may be considered mild, but its taste still packs a kick.
Who would have thought desserts can be fun too? The I-Thim Nara ($8.80) comes with a scoop of coconut ice cream with 8 different cups of sweet condiments, all up to you to play and match. I just couldn’t help piling up with their home-made red ruby and roasted peanuts, making a colourful and crunchy treat.
While Nara Thai Singapore is more expensive than some of the other Thai restaurants, I am glad to say it is not as pricey as what I would have expected for the taste and ingredients used. The Thai lady staff at the door was polite and friendly, in typical Thai fashion “Sawadee Krup!”
Bangkok’s Nara Thai opens at Ion Orchard. Some dishes were good, such as the Tom Yum, but some were just okay. Some love it, some think it’s overrated. What do you say?
Nara Thai Cuisine
#B3-21 ION Orchard, 2 Orchard Turn Singapore 238801 (Orchard MRT)
Opening Hours: 11:30am – 10pm Daily