Nunam, Northbridge

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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.

Miang of prawn with mango, herbs, coconut milk and lime, served on betel leaf Jac’s canape – miang of prawn with mango, herbs, coconut milk and lime, served on betel leaf

Duck pancake with spring onion, cucumber, coriander and hoisinMy canape – duck pancake with spring onion, cucumber, coriander and hoisin

Pomelo salad of prawns with shallots, lemongrass, coriander, chilli and lime Pomelo salad of prawns with shallots, lemongrass, coriander, chilli and lime – more a prawn salad than pomelo salad (we enjoyed the large prawns but had expected more pomelo in a ‘pomelo salad’).

Salmon sashimi with mandarin, crispy garlic, coriander, green chilli nahm jim Salmon sashimi with mandarin, crispy garlic, coriander, green chilli nahm jim. Get down low and go go go – or risk dribbling juice down your front.

Caramelised crispy pork hock with herb salad in chilli and lime dressing Caramelised crispy pork hock with herb salad in chilli and lime dressing. Stunning. I wanted this all to myself.

Grilled White Rocks veal tongue with shark fin melon, pomelo and herbs Grilled White Rocks veal tongue with shark fin melon, pomelo and herbs. The tongue slices reminded us of posh SPAM, flavoursome but ever so slightly rubbery.

Red curry of fish fillet, prawns and scallops, bean, cherry tomato, pickled garlic and Thai basil Red curry of fish fillet, prawns and scallops, bean, cherry tomato, pickled garlic and Thai basil. Our least favourite of the dishes. Plenty of heat and no shortage of seafood and vegetables in the bowl, but to my palate the red curry lacked depth of flavour.

DSCF6326-Edit-EditIt’s street parking. Hyde Park is a short walk away. Modern Japanese restaurant Nine Fine Food is next door and Sayer’s Sister is just around the corner on Lake Street.

Nunam
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

Nunam (Nahm Thai) on Urbanspoon

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  • erin

    Great write up TFP – I enjoyed both the delicious-looking photos and the frankness regarding service!

    Interesting comment about the pomelo salad. I’ve occasionally felt that restaurants ‘cash in’ on unfamiliar foods without doing them justice. Pomelo is certainly not a strange fruit, but also one that many people haven’t come across in my experience (I absolutely love them and have had to explain to many a friend what they are!) – I woudn’t say it’s particularly common here. Perhaps calling it a pomelo salad, even if it’s a little skimpy on the actual pomelo, piques the interest of customers enough to get away with including only a little of the ‘main’ (and, sometimes, more expensive) ingredient?

    • Thanks, Erin.

      Hmmm… if a restaurant was intentionally doing that though, they’d risk the diner feeling misled when the dish placed before them was not what they were expecting based on the menu description. Why take that risk?

      I’m not sure what the intention was here, not suggesting there was anything sinister behind it. I like prawns, so it was no biggie, but I would’ve definitely liked more pomelo in a ‘pomelo salad’. If only that was all I had to gripe about in relation to this meal!

  • Maeve Lander

    Sounds and looks like beautiful food. I’m very tempted to give it a try, despite the less than impressive service. Hey would you say this was a quiet restaurant? Too much background noise really spoils a nice dinner out for me and it’s sometimes hard to know until you try it.

    • Maeve,
      Noise levels were fine, though admittedly we were there early in the evening so the place only really started to get busy after we’d been there a while. I know a few people who’ve eaten here at various times and no one has particularly commented on the noise. So I reckon you’d be ok as far as noise goes.

      • Maeve Lander

        Great! Thanks Cynthia.