There’s no doubt the old Tsim Sha Tsui East area is making a comeback. Since the opening of East TST’s MTR station exit almost 10 years ago, the area has undergone a slow but steady rebirth, with newly renovated malls and a marked improvement in infrastructure. Mody Road itself has stretches of malls that line the harbourside, taking advantage of the relative quiet and the stunning views of Victoria Harbour. It’s a mystery, really, that this area once fell by the wayside. But no more – this district, popular with locals, expats and tourists alike, is now on top of its game. And that’s no more obvious than with the emergence of some cracking restaurants like Eastside Tavern and the new-look Spasso. And now, Namo. In a prime location on the ground floor of the Empire Centre, this innovative Thai spot, just like East TST as a whole, aims to strip away an old image (in this case run-of-the-mill Thai cuisine) and give it a contemporary breath of fresh air.
The kitchen at Namo, plugged as an ‘avant-Thai’ eatery, is well-equipped with expert staff. Michelin-starred Spanish chef Alejandro Sanchez has teamed up with chef Wijannarongk Kunchit, who has worked with stars like Bobby Chinn, to create a new type of Thai food that uses international ingredients and cooking techniques. And the place personifies this approach – clean, spacious and with great views, it’s opening a new breed of Thai cuisine up to everyone and anyone.
So, the food. We start off with an aperitif of mango sticky rice martini ($120). This fires the synapses with its mix of sharp and sweet flavours and reminds us of having the dessert on the streets of a Thai city – however, be careful. You can barely taste the alcohol and it’s easy to gobble this yummy drink in one...
The manager strongly recommends the moules marinières ($148), a typical French bistro dish but made with a chilli, galangal (blue ginger) and coconut broth at Namo. It’s stunning. Creamy Bouchot mussels are immersed within an aromatic pot and enhanced with fresh basil. This draws out the flavours of the sea while juxtaposing them with the sweetness of the coconut. We chase it with garlic bread ($48) and soak up the soupy goodness.
Other dishes like the ‘tuk tuk tofu’ ($88) – Japanese silken tofu with a desiccated coconut crispy coating and chilli jam – also shine. The ‘tuk tuk’ has all the elements of Thai street tofu but with clean, refreshing ingredients and a little ‘less than street level’ spiciness. The beef stickers ($108) – skewered ox tongue cubes with peanut sauce and kaffir lime – are great too. The peanut sauce is nutty and rich, although the beef itself, could do with being marinated a little longer.
The XLO ($168) is chef Sanchez’s signature dish and is definitely worthy of praise. The Atlantic octopus is chargrilled to tender perfection before being drenched in a lemongrass and coconut foam. The perfume of the lemongrass and coconut brings a new freshness to the Spanish octopus dish, which would traditionally be seasoned with herbs. If you’re looking for classic Thai, Namo also has a few traditional dishes on offer which receive only tiny twists – like the red prawn tom yum ($108), which is a lighter version of the soup, packed with fragrant herbs like galangal, lemongrass and kaffir lime, and is topped with a coconut foam.
We end the meal on a sweet note with a chilli choc rock ($68) – a chilli chocolate muffin with orange marmalade and a coconut soup. The muffin fires up a decent but not too overpowering amount of spice to tease the cocoa out of the cake – however it’s a little dry. Fear not, though. Dip it in the coconut soup and Asian-inspired orange marmalade with ginger for an explosion of flavours.
We had wondered what a Spanish chef would produce at a Thai restaurant. Now we know. He creates Thai food that really exceeds all expectations and would appeal to a cross-section of diners. Which is apt, really, given Namo’s positioning in an area which appeals to all. We look forward to the next innovative inventions at this exciting new restaurant.