Sometimes a lack of knowledge is the best tonic for pretention. For the record, our lunch at Nunam Thai was magnificent, but first I need to explain some discomfort.
When we arrived at Nunam my only expectations had come from the previous occupant, Nahm Thai, which has the same owners, and funnily enough, as I understand it, more or less the same food. I had been past many times when I used to live in Perth and I had taken note that the dining room is clean and good looking. On top of that I knew the food of the old Nahm Thai was excellent across many reviews and many years.
So I was a little surprised when we arrived. Actually, we had to ask if we were in the right place, and Mum had earlier arrived and done exactly the same. There is a café at the entrance and there is not exactly a royal greeting for what appears to be quite a fine establishment. Next we were seated in the café part with comfy banquettes and cushions, rather than where the linen and stemware is set. We asked our sole waitperson and he said that the dining room is for dinner, leading to the only conclusion (which the table next to us voiced at the same time) that lunch is not a popular affair here.
Never mind that, after all it is a very comfortable room and we easily settled in. When our waitperson took our BYO Perrier Jouet out to the café we had a sinking feeling that we might never see it again. I need to say that it was obvious he didn’t have a huge amount of experience, but equally experience does not dictate friendliness, or how hospitable someone is, and he did a great job. We had to have a little chuckle when he helpfully filled our Champagne glasses up with about 25ml, as if we were at a tasting (or a child at a wedding for the toast!)
What followed was an afternoon of impressive Thai food, lots of laughs and conversation, and the feeling we could go back again in a flash. The duck pancake to begin was about as good an entry into a meal that I could imagine. Smacks of flavour, classically combined, and duck that starred rather than falling into the background of the other flavours, as can happen in this amazing snack.
There was a resounding request for the salt and pepper soft shell crab dish, served with charred watermelon and a herb salad. While I’m not sure you can actually char watermelon, the combination again is terrific, and the treatment of the soft shell crab, which can be fickle, is extremely good.
For mains we have another highlight dish with the caramelised crispy pork hock with kimchi and a herb salad. This is seriously well executed food, and I haven’t had perfect pork hock since Ezard. The sauce is beautifully balanced to provide enough acid to cut through the fattiness of the pork, which has deep flavour under the impeccably formed crispy skin. Delightful stuff.
It is difficult for a pad Thai to live up to a dish as good as the pork hock, but it still does a good job in itself. The noodles are a touch soft, which is not unusual, but I have liked some recent renditions I’ve tasted where the noodles are a bit firmer (like al dente pasta). The prawns presented on top are not just garnish, they are fresh and juicy, and actually add to the dish. Lastly, the stir fry Asian greens with garlic, chilli, yellow beans and basil, is refreshing, but there is a strange lack of the first named ingredient. There seems to be a lot more tomato, and it is nice, but feels like we have received the wrong dish.
There were some decisions to be made on dessert and we ended up sharing the black sticky rice and coconut cream, with mango; and the lime tart with vanilla ice cream. The first was refreshing at the end of a heavy meal, but still having the impact of Thai flavours, some of which we don’t encounter enough. The tart on the other hand, while very nice, was a more familiar dessert, with some quite ordinary vanilla ice cream.
What a tremendous meal. Along with the ability to BYO wine there is very good quality Thai food with absolutely no pomp and ceremony about it. Really quite a find for weekend lunches.