Wednesday, 2 January 2013

naamyaa café - bangkok street food in islington

naamyaa café, islington 
alan yau’s newest addition to london’s casual dining scene is a bangkok style café in islington. his signature style is evident in the modern and sleek dining space accentuated by terraced golden bodhisattva’s. the menu here is based on bangkok style street food and that element of the street is fashioned through an open plan kitchen and bar. the air is heady with spice and the cacophony of human conversation as it rises above the theatre of cooking sounds - hissing and sizzling.

a view of the kitchen
the café is dedicated to a particular kind of dish called naamyaa. naam refers to water or liquid in this case indicating sauce and yaa refers to spice. together it is a spicy sauce cooked in traditional clay pots and served with kanon jin (fresh rice noodles). i am puzzled by the presence of burgers, nicoise and caeser salad on the menu but presumably it echoes the global nature of bangkok street food.

we went to naamyaa on a night when all i wanted was a bowl of noodles with bright, sharp and spicy flavours. naamyaa supplied all that in good fashion. a naamyaa meal is constructed of various parts – a rectangle of kanon jin that are meant to be quartered and customised with the naamya sauce and condiments such as bean sprouts, thai herbs, a soft boiled egg and star fruit. the heat of the chilli is mitigated by the clean freshness of herbs and starfruit and soft boiled egg. the green melon soup is intended to be a palate cleanser. the clear broth ends on a peppery note. i had the naamyaa neua that was a brick-red sauce with strips of beef. o’s had coconut milk based naamyaa that considerably lessens the spice.

thai baby calamari
naamyaa neua
in general there is little restraint on the chilli and should you need more each table comes equipped with a bottle of sriracha. it is the kind of chilli that leaves the skin flushed and makes the lips tingle. a starter of thai baby calamari packed a punch as it was spicy and warm with ginger, galangal and turmeric. it reminded me of how good busaba’s thai calamari was when it first started.

o and i really enjoyed the dinner. i know that we will find our way back given that angel has very little to choose from. there is a difference of opinion about yau between o and i. o is still a steadfast busaba lover and although we go every so often i never know what it is going to be like. the last few times the thai calamari has been scant on the green peppercorns which to me are the soul of the dish. i guess the challenge at naamyaa especially when it grows will be in the consistency of the menu.

notwithstanding it is to yau (and in this case thompson) that we owe the introduction of new flavours. in a year that has been dominated by street food it is interesting to have an option to enjoy it in a modern café without having to contend with the elements or reach in time before the food runs out. 

Naamyaa Cafe on Urbanspoon

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