Thai food is one of my favourite cuisines – which is why I was excited to be invited to try brand new “Avant Thai” restaurant, NAMO.
NAMO (from the same people behind Tamarind and Saigon) is conveniently situated in Tsim Sha Tsui, with a killer view of the Hong Kong skyline. It’s sleek décor of dark wood, splashes of lime green and quirky wine glass-inspired light fittings make it a cool place to chill out and relax. But what exactly does “Avant Thai” mean, you ask? Well, this is exactly what I was thinking… and I couldn’t wait to find out!
NAMO’s menu is divided into different sections according to the key characteristics of each dish, including “Crunch”, “Relish” and “Sip”; this unique form of categorisations makes it easier for diners to choose a range of dishes that will compliment each other. One of our “Crunch” dishes was the “Yum Yum Salad” with smoked Hiramasa sashimi and fennel slivers, tangy green mango and roasted coconut flakes. This salad was packed with flavour from strong fresh herbs and sweet pops of pomegranate seeds. Refreshing and light, it was the perfect start to our heavier main courses.
Next were crispy chicken tenders, free-range chicken pieces marinated in pandan leaves. Perhaps I’m a little biased towards this dish as it brings back childhood memories (it was one of the only meals I would eat in Thailand because I loved it so much!), but NAMO’s version of this classic, homely dish was done really well. The chicken was super tender and beautifully flavoured… and was made even more delicious by the accompanying roasted pineapple dip!
First from the mains was a bowl of moules marinieres. A case of same-same but different, the mussels were surprisingly juicy, but the coconut sauce lacked flavour (especially if you avoided the huge chilli slices… watch out for them!).
The stars of the evening were the other two mains, where the “Avant Thai” concept came more into play. NAMO has two chefs (one Thai, one Spanish) and with the introduction of more European ingredients, I began to fear a foodie ‘fusion’ cuisine nightmare! However, after tasting the chargrilled octopus with asparagus and lemongrass foam, I realised this wasn’t the case. This play on Thai cuisine was risky but the dish tasted beautiful, and the octopus was cooked perfectly.
Meanwhile, the Iberico pork curry was to die for – so tender and juicy… and I don’t usually even like pork belly! Despite the European ingredients, the main flavours of these dishes were still Thai, and I respected the chefs for steering away from the dreaded ‘fusion’ feel; instead, Chef Alejandro simply hopes to give traditional Thai recipes and flavours an update, enhancing them by using the quality ingredients and techniques they deserve. If NAMO keeps on doing what they did with the dishes I tried, then I think they’re onto a winner – I just hope that they can stay on top of keeping those traditional Thai flavours. The great thing about NAMO is that Chef Amoo is also there to make sure the food has some real Thai authenticity.
As for desserts, NAMO’s mango sticky rice looked unusual but stayed true to the flavour we all know and love, with sweet mango pieces and creamy coconut rice.
Meanwhile, the sweet corn cassata was more of a new experience for me; I was dubious about sweet corn in a dessert, but it didn’t taste as offensive as I thought it might! The sesame cookies that sandwiched the shredded coconut and sweet corn were addictively sweet… even so, I still preferred the classic mango sticky rice!
I also have to mention what must now be one of my favourite cocktails in Hong Kong! NAMO’s Oman Sticky Rice Martini is exactly as it sounds – that deliciously comforting dessert in drink form. Warning: this tastes so good, you’ll finish it very quickly… and you might not realise quite how much alcohol is in there before you start reaching for your second!
Overall, our experience at NAMO was highly enjoyable. The staff were friendly and attentive, the food great, and the setting perfect for a relaxed but private meal. Although they tread a fine line between fusion and Thai, they have just gotten away with it, as each dish does still have Thai flavours.
With prices starting at $88 and going up to $338 for mains, I reckon you get your money’s worth for some delicious food and a unique experience. NAMO is a great chilled-out place to go for drinks too; we hear that in the summer they’ll have a pretty sizeable outdoor area… so don’t forget to order that sticky rice martini!
NAMO, Shop G18, Empire Centre, 68 Moody Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, 2739 1133