While the broth colour was not appealing, the seafood and green curry tang worked well.

Noi Thai Restaurant
10724 95 St. NW
780-423-3213
Noithairestaurant.com

Delivery service: Skip The Dishes

Tues. to Fri. 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Sat. and Sun, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Closed Monday

Food: 4 of 5 Suns
Ambience:  4 of 5 Suns
Service: 4 of 5 Suns

Dinner for two excluding tip, taxes or beverages: Basic, $30; loaded $60

By GRAHAM HICKS

There is something alluring about Thai food and Thai restaurants.

At its best, Thai cooking is delicate and clean, never oil-heavy, lovely colours, the aroma inevitably described as “fragrant.” The restaurant interiors are spotless and pretty. Servers are exquisitely polite.

Lesser Thai kitchens haven’t the same intangible delicacy, somehow don’t come across as so “clean” in the food presentation. The spring rolls can be greasy.

My attention was directed to the humble Noi Thai when WHERE Magazine, in an unusual decision, named the little-known restaurant between 97 Street’s Chinatown and 95 Street’s Little Italy — as its “best new restaurant” of 2018.

I’m not sure I’d go that far — at Noi Thai, the food is excellent, but, with a few exceptions, it’s the same recipes one finds at most Canadian-Thai eateries. There’s not the fusion or culinary adventure of, say, LOFT Thai. But what the husband/wife team of Noi and Air Syhatheb produce from their kitchen is consistently good, fresh, hot and flavourful.

Noi Thai is refreshingly physically clean. You could eat off the floor. The beautiful flower mural takes up an entire interior wall. With amber yellow and puce colours, the ambience is calm and serene.

Noi Thai’s spotless, soothing interior.

There is a familial relationship with Viphalay, the well-known downtown Thai restaurant run by Noi’s two nieces. Viphalay originated in the same space. At first the two menus were virtually identical, but Noi is developing its own culinary identity based on Air’s cooking.

Each dish was full of character. Our only problem was over-efficiency on the kitchen’s part. Why do so many Asian restaurants send out all the dishes at the same time? Fine for groups, but not for two to four people gathering for a leisurely meal. Despite instructions to the contrary, our stuffed tofu, veggie stir-fry and green curry all arrived at the same time … and we were only halfway through our red wine shrimp appetizer.

The ‘wine’ in the red wine shrimp appetizer was a subtle thing indeed — hardly discernible within the plump gently spiced tamarind/cinnamon shrimp, but leaving an interesting sweet/sour finish in the mouth.

Shrimp in a red wine sauce is not something expected in a Thai restaurant. But it worked.

The green seafood curry, despite being an unappealing gray colour, was full of coddled spicy heat. The  fresh seaside morsels were pulled off the heat with perfect timing, cucumber slices added at the last minute for something different and interesting.

With the first bite, the deep-fried tofu pieces, stuffed with a fish/mushroom mince, produced a delicious squirt of juicy paste that contrasted with the crispy tofu exterior. Too addictive! Good thing there were only six. Too bad the chili sauce was out of a bottle.

The stuffed tofu delivered an internal punch of a delicious, hot, fish and mushroom mince.

The veggie stir-fry was elegant in its simplicity — beautiful colours, quality fresh-chopped veggies, again off the heat at the perfect time, delicately herbed only to coax out inherent flavour.

For Thai classic dishes and charming hospitality, plus a few Viphalay/Noi specialties, you won’t find much better Thai cooking in town.  Just emphasize to server Noi …. SLOW DOWN the food flow!

FOOD NOTES

• Another neighbourhood dining week festival — Eats on 118th Avenue — happens June 17 to 23, with special menus and $10-$15-$20 discounted meals. I see some of my favourite 118 Avenue haunts — Battista’s Calzone, Green Onion Cake Man, Passion de France and Handy Bakery. But I don’t see other treasured locales like Swiss2Go or Uncle Ed’s … more info at alberta-avenue.com.

• Good for the famous Padmanadi vegetarian restaurant, 17 years on 101 Street north of downtown, bringing its friendly family-like atmosphere and multi-cultural Asian cooking to a second location later this summer on the south side, on Gateway Boulevard north of Home Depot.