Published: 17 January, 2013
by TOM MOGGACH
WHEN Wagamama creator Alan Yau opens a new restaurant , it’s time to sit up and take notice.
The inexpensive Naamyaa is apparently “an all day dining modern Bangkok café”.
This is a bold and thrilling place to eat, with an intriguing menu full of feisty flavours. The food is well priced, with mains hovering below £10.
The restaurant/café is a stone’s throw from Angel tube station, right next to Jamie’s Italian. As you walk in, it’s clear they’ve splashed some serious cash. The long entrance to the glass-fronted dining room is guarded by a phalanx of golden Buddhist statues, omens for luck. Monks traditionally blessed the restaurant’s opening.
Inside, it’s stylish and slick – 180 tons of Thai brick adorn the walls.
“We’re earning the reputation of being the spiciest place in London,” says the charming manager, leading us to the bar in the centre of the room.
To cool things down, we started with cocktails. My Spiced Cherry Sour, £8.50, was sharp, potent and fragrant with spices, the foam crowned with a nugget of star anise, a goji berry jewel perched on top.
A spicy snack of cashew nuts set the tone for the food, imaginatively wok-fried with sliced shallot, green and red chilli and a handful of crisp curry leaves.
A simple plate of crunchy sliced cucumber was no less exciting, served with a fragrant dipping sauce of coriander, holy basil (a special variety) and more chilli.
The menu is grouped into small plates, salads and main courses, the latter typically lavish one-pot noodly soups or do-it-yourself “sets”, where you get the dish and sides to mix and match as you like.
Of the smaller plates, order the jasmine tea-smoked pork ribs, £8.50. A pan-fried turnip cake was yummy but a touch carb-heavy.
The star ingredients on the menu are the special “kanom jeen” noodles, ethereally light and delicate. Apparently these are hand-pulled for up to three days and flown in fresh from Bangkok. We tried them with a prawn curry, £9.50, rich with coconut and spices. It arrived with a jumble of veg and herbs, including pickled morning glory, sweet basil and star fruit.
To balance the heat, there’s a bowl of simple green melon soup, seasoned with just a few drops of soy sauce and a twist of black pepper.
Our puddings include a layered dessert of a green jelly, made from a pandan leaf, interspersed with a thickened coconut cream, £4.50. The jelly was set a touch too solid, but we bravely dug on through nevertheless.
The only odd note on the menu are the few more Western dishes, such as burgers and a salad niçoise. “The Thais are really quick to adopt Western dishes, but with their own ingredients,” our host explains.
I have no doubt they are insanely delicious, but it reminded me a touch of the crowd pleasers on the menus of international hotels.
I’m sticking with the Thai food, and can’t wait to go back. Naamyaa is open all day – check it out.