Giving Patrons The Royal TreamentCover Story Features
January 18, 2016
Story By: Ali Resich | Photos by: Bodie Collins
Like a culinary castle towering above Kalakaua Avenue on the third floor of Royal Hawaiian Center, Noi Thai Cuisine has arrived in Waikiki to treat island patrons like royalty with an exquisite fine-dining experience.
The majestic eatery recently had a soft opening in October 2015 and is gearing up for its grand opening just days away, which will commence with an exclusive event Jan. 21 and continue for the public to enjoy from Jan. 22 to 29, when 10 percent of earnings will be donated to Kapiolani Medical Center (KMC).
Noi Thai Cuisine may be new to the Islands, but its rich roots stem back to 1989, when owner Noi Chadillada Lapangkura’s mother first moved from Bangkok, Thailand, to Seattle, Washington, to open casual Thai eatery Bai Tong. When her mom was ready to retire, Lapangkura and her husband and fellow owner JJ Chaiseeha decided not only to take over the eatery, but also to expand on the family business with additional locations and more culinary concepts.
Noi Thai is the third concept the couple has launched, emphasizing the upper echelon of service and presentation in dishes highlighting the central region of Thailand. The Hawaii branch marks the second Noi Thai to open and is one of six overall locations throughout Washington, Oregon and the 50th State.
“The reason why we choose Hawaii is because I love it here and it feels like home,” says Lapangkura. “Actually our honeymoon was in Hawaii about 10 years ago … we drove around and tried to find Thai food and couldn’t really find a lot of that — and we thought, one day we’re going to come here and open a Thai restaurant.”
Now that the duo’s dream has come to fruition, Lapangkura credits her husband with pioneering the gold-studded vision for the sophisticated menu and decor. While most Hawaii patrons are used to eating Thai food in low-key restaurants, they now can be enchanted by a new, elegant and unique Thai dining experience in the confines of a truly stunning space inspired by royal palaces in Thailand.
Amid modern adornments and cultural accent pieces, guests will enjoy a refined traditional Thai menu enhanced with upscale ingredients and tableside service. The company brought chefs from Thailand who have worked in five-star hotels to the States in order to get the flavors just right. “We wanted to bring very authentic Thai tastes to another level because we feel that Thai cuisine has been so Westernized and adapted overtime that it looses its authenticity and its charm,” explains general manager Ying Rosawan.
Head chef Jutamas Kanjanamai, known as Chef Kwan, brings the authenticity right back to Noi Thai’s menu, using her artistry to create a delicious — and theatrical — dining experience with dishes such as Angry Ocean ($49). The chef — who previously has cooked for the royal family in Thailand and won the gold medal for the Thai Ultimate Chef Challenge 2013 — stir fries a treasure trove of lobster tail, squid, scallop, mussels and prawns in a head-turning dish that comes to the table with mesmerizing fog in tow (thanks to the dry ice it is presented with). The enticing drama of the dish is matched by its tantelizing flavors.
The menu also is home to a number of exceptional curries, from Red Curry Roast Duck ($39) featuring duck perfected in a jar with applewood smoke, lemon grass, galangal and kaffir lime leaves, to Green Curry Beef (Wagyu; $54) served with first-class wagyu meat sizzling in a hot stone pot. As for the popular Yellow Curry Crab ($35), diners may be intrigued with the entree’s unique use of betel leaves as well as Alaskan crab meat and snow crab claws.
Special for the Waikiki location, Noi Thai introduces Royal Hawaiian Dream ($44), consisting of mahi mahi on a bed of fresh spinach with crispy taro and pomegranate seed. The whole masterpiece is topped with a dreamy cotton candy cloud.
Across the board, Noi Thai’s regal fare shows diners a new facet of Thai cuisine, complete with intricately seasoned dishes that aren’t too spicy. The restaurant also has an affordable lunch menu with prices starting as low as $10.95, as well as a full bar and creative cocktail menu worth exploring. Additionally, happy hour offers $5-$12 specialties like Crispy Taro Roll and Tom Kah Coconut Soup, while two private rooms are available for use.
Let Noi Thai Cuisine impress you, and be sure to inquire about its Celebrity Server Fundraiser Jan. 30, in which 100 percent of proceeds go to KMC.
Good As Gold
Rich cultural symbolism is behind all the decorations, accents and layout at Noi Thai Cuisine. Take a closer look at the interior:
This space is modeled after the central palace of a Thai royal estate, where activities and celebrations are held.
The chic bar area represents the royal Thai palace walls.
Noi Thai Cuisine
Royal Hawaiian Center, Building C, level 3
2301 Kalakaua Ave., Waikiki
Daily, 10:30 a.m.-11p.m.
Lunch menu served 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m.; dinner menu available all day Happy hour daily, 3-7 p.m. in the bar and lanai only
Validated parking available