Acclaimed as the Best Thai Restaurant by the Times Food Awards 2016, 2015 & 2014, Neung Roi is a distinct dining experience for those in love with artfully authentic Thai cuisine, and even for those who wish to savour something original and out of the ordinary, which takes them on a culinary journey to an exotic land, in this case Thailand
Celebrating Sum Rap Thai or the Thai way of eating, Neung Roi is a luxe dining experience which leaves you floating on a cloud of flavours, subtle and sharp, of colours, vibrant and varied, of aromas, pea-nutty and pungent, long after you have eaten your way through a four course meal, while soaking in the softly lit, spacious and soothing ambience of Neung Roi, Radisson Blu Plaza Delhi’s Thai Restaurant. The stress here is on authentic Thai cooking and Chef Yenjai Suthiwaja is at the helm of affairs, her petite frame underscoring the firm grasp she has on Thai culinary traditions which is what she attempts to showcase through Neung Roi’s awarded array of dishes.
With a menu inspired by cuisines from four distinct culinary traditions of Thailand, representing the country’s four regions, [Isan or the northeast, Lanna or the north, the Isthmus of Kra or South and the Central Plains], Neung Roi is a microcosm of Thailand’s rich gastronomic diversity, as served on a plate. In a candid conversation with Chef Suthiwaja, the secret of the restaurant’s distinct demeanour came out to be a variety of reasons, but the primary one being the fresh ingredients imported straight from the local markets of Thailand, every week, for the homestyle Thai cooking which she champions with the recipes she has mastered. What then sets Neug Roi apart from the other Thai fine dining establishments in the city is its adherence to the authenticity of Thai cooking and cuisine, where there is no attempt to adapt to the local tastebuds, rather inviting them to savour the original, and keeping the fusion limited to the style of presentation. The Chef says, “The key to good Thai food is in the fresh raw ingredients, whether vegetable, fruit, meat, seafood or the seasonings. They play a major role to produce authentic and flavourful Thai food.” While the menu is a testament to this stress on traditions, where the dishes retain their original Thai names with description in English beneath each, the Chef is a storehouse of anecdotes such as the ‘kingly’ origins of Nam Pla, or the ubiquitous fish sauce that features without fail in Thai cooking and which is also one of ingredients, besides shallots, chilli, garlic, without which Chef Suthiwaja cannot imagine cooking.
Starting with the amuse bouche, grilled aubergines in a lemon chilli sauce, the fare here goes beyond the regular red and green Thai curry into so much more, all expertly combining meat and vegetables. Chef Suthiwaja has interpreted Thai cuisine in a modern and refined way to capture the delicious and exciting range of flavours, textures and aromas her home cuisine has to offer with more focus on seasonal fresh ingredients.
A veritable feast, the lunch menu starts with a select appetizers and salads, and there is grilled mushroom skewers with coriander roots and roasted chilli sauce [Hed Yang], succulent grilled chicken with coriander roots and roasted chilli sauce [Gai Yang], crispy prawn lemongrass skewer with chilli lime sauce and tomato dip [Goong Pan Takrai], a tangy pomelo salad with crispy onion, garlic and a palm sugar tamarind dressing [Yam Som-O], and the freshly delicious Yam Mamuang, i.e., sweet and sour raw mango salad with toasted cashew nut. An explosion of flavours, tickling every part of the tastebud and taking you on a culinary roller-coaster ride, and all the while your eyes are feasting on the vibrant colours each platter holds. A palate cleansing soup, Tom Yum Goong, which is a spicy, sour, subtle prawn soup with lemongrass, kaffir lime and galangal, comes in to break the crescendo before you pick it up again, giving in to the sight of a steamed fish with lime chilli sauce, Pla Neung Manao, at once delicate and fluffy seabass meat, threaded with the sharp and sour bite of the sauce. The toppings of fresh coriander, sliced lemon adds to the beauty which is feast for the senses.
The meals at Neung Roi are to be had at leisure, and rush is not the name of the game here, as the cultivated hush and hazy lighting are supposed to heighten the awareness and appreciation of food that is so lovingly crafted and presented before you. Taking our food journey forward was the other star of the lunch menu, Goong Thod Ha Rod, or fried tiger prawn in a home made five flavour sauce with fresh coriander, which is uncompromisingly bold and spicy. And bring up the rear is the indulgent Khao Niew Mamuang, the trademark Thai dessert of sticky rice with fresh mango and coconut cream which is not just sinfully rich like a chocolate cake but is subtle, sour, sweet, smooth and creamy, all at once. As one nears the satiation of senses with this lavish spread, one wonders how close the food is to the flora and fauna of a region, in the sense that Thailand’s proximity to the sea and flourishing greenery is visible in their cuisine and its abundance of seafood, fresh herbs and other exotic produce. Also, the one thing that goes with Thai food is its unapologetic use of chillies, as many varieties abound in the region, which is then tempered with coconut cream, turmeric, sour fruits and salted relishes rendering a perfect balance to the dishes, as is the case with the remarkable fare at Neung Roi which leaves your palate singing for long after.