We never made it to Nahm Thai but knew it by reputation. During its time, Nahm Thai received multiple awards and the praise of Perth’s professional food critics. The restaurant is still run by the same husband and wife team but is now known as Nunam (pronounced ‘new-nahm’). The latest West Australian Good Food Guide has awarded Nunam a coveted star.
It’s not your typical Thai restaurant; the contemporary a la carte menu features main course dishes averaging around $32 – including pad Thai for $26 – and no green curry chicken in sight. The banquet option for two (AU$68 per person) gave us our choice of a canape each, two entrees and three mains. Steamed jasmine or coconut rice was included – we chose jasmine. By our quick calculations, had we selected the same dishes at a la carte prices we’d have paid $22.50 more.
We thought our food was terrific, although I daresay the chef heavily favours palm sugar, which won’t be to everyone’s taste. Our dishes were bright, vibrant and loaded with fresh herbs. The canapes did their job brilliantly as little hunger teasers. The salmon sashimi entree was plate-lickingly good, every slice of soft salmon brimming with nahm jim dressing and sprinkled with fried garlic, coriander, sneaky slow burning green chilli and bursty specks of mandarin (I’d love to know far a mandarin stretches in Nunam’s kitchen). The caramelised crispy pork hock was a pork lover’s beautiful dream, a golden-brown coat of crisp salty skin wrapped around fall-apart flesh and no bones to fiddle about with. The strips of tender green mango, leafy herbs and radicchio helped cut through the richness of the pork.
While we would return for the food, sadly, the kitchen was let down by the service. We had booked an early (6pm) dinner, and it seemed that the floor staff were preoccupied with finishing their prep – setting tables and lighting candles – while we grew thirstier. Yes, prep has to be done, but it should never be at the expense of the customers already sitting in your dining room.
We understand what it’s like when staff are under the pump in a busy restaurant, but for the majority of our meal, the dining room was not even half-full. There appeared to be no shortage of staff on duty, and the collective lack of awareness and attention to detail was frustrating. For example, despite multiple waiters circling the floor and ample opportunity between entree and main course, our prawn shells on plates we had pointedly pushed aside were not cleared – until we asked for their removal and for new plates to eat our main course from, just as the first main course dish was served. And we were not only table that had to do this.
There’s a difference between ‘having a bad night’ service (which I suggest this wasn’t) and plain old bad service. Nunam isn’t a food hall or cheapie greasy spoon joint; it’s an ambitious, award-winning modern Thai restaurant, and we had expected at least that the basics would be right. The service didn’t ruin our meal, but certainly tarnished the experience.
223 Bulwer Street, Northbridge WA
Monday to Thursday 6pm to 10pm
Friday and Saturday 7am to 3pm; 6pm to 10pm
Sunday 7am to 3pm
Breakfast menu available Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings
Telephone: (08) 9328 7500