How To Dine Like Thai Royalty
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Step inside Noi Thai Cuisine, and it feels like you’ve entered the royal palace of Thailand. The dark wood tables, black napkins with gold wreaths, floating candles and comfortable, plush seats are a far cry from Hawaii’s mom-and-pop eateries.
Open since October 2015, Noi Thai Cuisine sets itself apart by offering Hawaii’s only fine-dining Thai experience. It’s an impressive establishment, occupying 5,500 square feet of the third floor in Royal Hawaiian Center, and the food is like no other Thai cuisine served in the state.
“All our chefs are from Thailand and are professors at the culinary arts program at one of the most prestigious universities in Thailand, and our head chef has served for the royal family,” says general manager Ying Rosawan.
For a limited time, Noi Thai is offering a Chef’s Tasting Menu ($58). It’s reminiscent of the Restaurant Week menus that the eatery offered earlier this year, which did so well that Rosawan says the team decided to continue it. “The menu serves some of the most popular items we offer, so customers can try our best items,” says Rosawan.
The Chef’s Tasting Menu starts with a trio platter of soup, salad and appetizer, gorgeously presented with floral garnishes. There’s tom yum prawns, Thai larb pork, papaya salad and a crying tiger — the latter is a creative name for grilled flat-iron steak, served with a spicy Thai-style dipping sauce that’s infused with ground, toasted rice. The dipping sauce also can be used for Thai larb pork, which is a flavorful Thai-style salad of minced pork with red onions, cilantro, mint leaves, chili and ground, toasted rice with a zesty lime dressing.
As for the tom yum prawns, they offer a refreshing, spicy-and-sour combination of fresh prawns, straw mushroom caps, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, galangal root, spring onions and cilantro. The papaya salad is flavorful and bold with shredded papaya, tomatoes, carrots, green beans, fresh chilies, lime juice, dried shrimp and crushed peanuts.
The two entrees arrive next with the restaurant’s famous Yellow Curry Crab, which is presented in a beautiful gold serving dish. The succulent crab meat is cooked in slightly sweet coconut milk, and the yellow curry is addictive and not too spicy. There’s also a plate of pad thai, with stir-fried thin rice noodles, mixed with a tangy tamarind sauce combined with eggs, tofu, bean sprouts and ground peanuts.
Save room for two desserts at the end: the black sticky rice, drizzled with coconut milk, is sweet and warm, and the tapioca and cantaloupe is chilled and refreshing. It’s the perfect ending to a three-course traditional Thai meal.
Pro tip: For locals who dread driving into Waikiki, there’s two hours of validated free parking.
“We strive to serve authentic dishes,” says Rosawan. “We pride ourselves in our beautiful presentation and bringing prime, high-quality ingredients.”
Noi Thai Cuisine
Royal Hawaiian Center, building C, level 3
2301 Kalakaua Ave., Waikiki
Daily, 10:30 a.m.-11 p.m.; happy hour, 3 p.m.-close (bar and lanai only)