Take a Bite

Noi Thai's grand opening fête

January 22nd, 2016
PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.comImagery of Thai shadow puppets line the space designated as the "inner palace" at Noi Thai Cuisine, with an interior modeled on the concept of the Thai royal palace.

PHOTOS BY NADINE KAM / nkam@staradvertiser.com

Imagery of Thai shadow puppets line the space designated as the "inner palace" at Noi Thai Cuisine, with an interior modeled on the concept of the Thai royal palace.

Noi Thai Cuisine hosted a grand opening Celebration last night, with festivities continuing through Jan. 30 to benefit Kapiolani Medical Center for Women & Children.

It was a fun evening if you consider there was plenty of food and drink to go around in the beautiful space, Thai music and dance, and interactive puppetry, even if one puppet got a little out of hand in feeling up the guests. Naughty!

Ten percent of all proceeds from meals through Jan. 29 will be donated to Kapiolani. Then from 5 to 9 p.m. Jan. 30, local celebs will be the servers, with all gratuities turned over to Kapiolani.

Noi Thai's Golden Pavilion, a private room seating eight to 10, is decorated with bo leaves representing the Bodhi tree under which Siddartha Gautama found enlightenment.

Noi Thai's Golden Pavilion, a private room seating eight to 10, is decorated with bo leaves representing the Bodhi tree under which Siddartha Gautama found enlightenment.

The restaurant is the first upscale establishment from the Bai Tong family of six restaurants in the Pacific Northwest. The original Bai Tong in Seattle was a favorite stop for Thai Airways crews at Sea-Tac airport.

During a trip to Hawaii, co-owner Chadillada "Noi" Lapangkura fell in love with the islands and longed to bring her family’s Thai dishes here, envisioning a royal experience. The restaurant is build with the idea of the Thai palace in mind. The space is divided into outer, central and inner palace spaces, including a protected "War Room," which serves as a private dining/meeting room, as well as a Pavilion Room festooned with golden bo leaves symbolic of the Bodhi tree under which the Buddha found enlightenment.

Minimums apply for meals in two private rooms, the Golden Pavilion and the War Room, accommodating eight to 10 people, with advance reservations

Among Thai specialties offered during the grand opening were egg yolk sweets tong yod (golden drops) and foy tong (golden threads). Their golden color symbolizes wealth, fame and fortune. Those flowers are carved from vegetables, by the way. And the sweets look a lot like those I saw when I was in Bangkok.

Among Thai specialties offered during the grand opening were egg yolk sweets tong yod (golden drops) and foy tong (golden threads). Their golden color symbolizes wealth, fame and fortune. Those flowers are carved from vegetables, by the way. And the sweets look a lot like those I saw when I was in Bangkok. A little peek here.

There is also a chef's table that offers an up-close view of the kitchen, where co-owner/executive chef Settapong “Pag” Nilket, head chef Jutamas Kanjanamai and sous chef Jamrus Singduang aim to present cuisine worthy of Thailand's royal family, for whom they have cooked. Those who request this glass-enclosed private room will enjoy a special off-the-menu meal prepared for up to six guests.

Since testing the Noi Thai concept in Hawaii beginning with its soft opening in October, the family is proceeding to open next month in Downtown Seattle, near Pike Place Market, and a third is planned for San Francisco later this year.

Food for the event was presented in pupu form, such as this ahi salad. Below is salad as presented when I first visited in November.

Food for the event was presented in pupu form, such as this ahi salad. Below is salad as presented when I first visited in November.

During regular dinner service, the ahi salad is presented on a lotus leaf and lotus petals, which are edible.

During regular dinner service, the ahi salad is presented on a lotus leaf and lotus petals, which are edible.

The room was filled with examples of their vegetable- and fruit-carving skills.

The room was filled with examples of their vegetable- and fruit-carving skills.

Presentation here is elaborate. This is the first look at a dish of tom yum lobster; $32. Where's the soup, you ask? ...

Presentation here is elaborate. This is the first look at a dish of tom yum lobster; $32. Where's the soup, you ask? ...

... The spicy sour soup is presented in this device that sends the steaming broth up to meet the mixture of kaffir lime leaf, lemongrass, cilantro and onion for infused flavors eventually poured over the lobster.

... The spicy sour soup is presented in this device that sends the steaming broth up to meet the mixture of kaffir lime leaf, lemongrass, cilantro and onion for infused flavors eventually poured over the lobster.

Grand opening pupu of goat cheese wonton with injection of red chili sauce.

Grand opening pupu of goat cheese wonton with injection of red chili sauce.

Prawn pad Thai is $29 on the regular menu.

Prawn pad Thai is $29 on the regular menu.

A regular dessert of green banana simmered in coconut milk.

A regular dessert of green banana simmered in coconut milk.

If you wish, you may ask to light a candle, symbolic of letting go of transgressions and negative thoughts, and opening oneself up to wishes coming true, as I am trying to do here.

If you wish, you may ask to light a candle, symbolic of letting go of transgressions and negative thoughts, and opening oneself up to wishes coming true, as I am trying to do here.

What I saw.

What I saw.

The private chef's table overlooking the kitchen, where you can arrange for a special feast of dishes that aren't on the regular menu.

The private chef's table overlooking the kitchen, where you can arrange for a special feast of dishes that aren't on the regular menu.

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Noi Thai Cuisine is on the third floor at the Royal Hawaiian Center Building C, above Cheesecake Factory, at 2301 Kalakaua Ave. Open 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. or lunch, 5 to 11 p.m. for dinner, and 3 p.m. to closing for happy hour. Call (808) 664-4039 or visit opentable.com. Information: Noithaicuisine.com

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Nadine Kam is Style Editor and staff restaurant critic at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser; her coverage in print on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Contact her via email at nkam@staradvertiser.com and follow her on Twitter, Instagram and Rebel Mouse.

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