Like celebrity chefs Assaf Granit and Eyal Shani, acclaimed chef Shahaf Shabtay has joined the exclusive ranks of Israeli chefs who have opened restaurants abroad, with a first outlet in Berlin and another European one in the works. Fortunately, locals do not have to travel that far to enjoy his food, although the prices at Nithan Thai do not ordinarily encourage frequent visits. Now, however, a newly revised business lunch menu offers two-course meals starting as low as NIS 68.
Business lunch hours, and even days, have also been augmented; the discounted meals—comprising a complimentary first course with the order of a main course—are served from 12pm-5pm not only on weekdays but also 12pm-4pm on Fridays.
There are also reduced prices on cocktails, wine and sake during business lunch hours. The fully stocked bar serves creative specialty cocktails featuring spirits from Asian countries, as well as exotic, refreshing natural juice blends made from fresh fruits.
Business lunches are detailed on an extensive separate bilingual menu listing 10 starter courses and 15 main courses, with prices ranging from NIS 68-160. (Four of the starters entail a slight extra charge; and some starters from the regular menu may be substituted as well, for an extra charge).
There is also a section of the business lunch menu called “Winter Experience,” containing brand new dishes in the repertoire of the restaurant’s cuisine-Southeast Asian using Thai ingredients.
The range of choice at Nithan Thai can be bewildering, so I am partial to letting the talented kitchen suggest a tasting menu; the staff will ask about culinary preferences and foods to avoid, and then you can relax and let the parade of dishes begin.
The first recommendation was the Krapao Corn Soup, made with coconut milk and containing shrimps, glass noodles, kemiri nuts, shallots and lemon. As expected, the slightly spicy broth was delicious, imparting a pleasant tingle of gentle heat.
Next came the intriguingly named 5AM Beef Salad; slices of sirloin steak piled atop a salad of arugula, scallion, red onion and bamboo sprouts, and served with a dipping sauce of Thai miso stock. Typical of so many of the sauces at Nithan Thai, the complex condiment defies description, but it gets the job done, deftly enhancing the perfectly grilled meat without overwhelming it.
A beef dish served warm, meanwhile, is the Beef Jalapeno: slices of entrecôte topped with spinach greens in a blood-red sauce of tomatoes, miso and peanut butter that looked more fiery than it tasted. The dish is not served with rice, but it is worth ordering a side dish of steamed white rice that can absorb every last drop of the outstanding sauce.
Nithan Thai has quite a few raw fish dishes, and the Tuna Thai-Thu from the Winter Experience menu is a prime example. Tuna tartare was served in two pear sauces—one a spicy sriracha, the other a sweetish yakitori—alongside a crispy papadam. It was great fun comparing and contrasting the two very different flavors, and even greater fun combining the two.
Another new dish is the giant Argentinean shrimps in Osaka curry, served with naan bread and crême fraîche. The butter and lime sauce seemed hardly consistent with common wisdom’s definition of a curry, but that certainly did not detract from the succulent shrimp that practically melted in the mouth.
Finally came the Trout 7132, named after the restaurant of a 2 star Michelin chef from Switzerland who collaborated with Chef Shabtay during the 2017 American Express Round Tables. This was the one dish where the two combined sauces—brown butter and dashi carbonara—threatened to overpower the delicate white fish; the best way to savor the flavor of the filleted fish is to order one of Nithan Thai’s large soft rolls in order to mop up the distinctive sauce.
The dessert menu here is unlike any other in town: it is printed on the cover of a box containing table games, like dominoes. Similarly, the desserts themselves are unlike those of any other Asian restaurant anywhere, since Nithan Thai’s dedicated pastry chef learned his trade in Paris.
Two of the restaurant’s newest desserts—the Ginger Spiral, candied tuiles sandwiching vanilla creme patissiere on a bed of chocolate ginger ganache, and Chocolate Pumpkin Mousse with pumpkin seeds ice cream—are as decadent as any you would find elsewhere, while resting easily on the stomach after a full meal.
The service here is impressive, with attentive waiters constantly changing plates, refilling glasses and proffering wet naps from pre-torn wrappers.
Altogether, Nithan Thai delivers a premium restaurant experience, made more palatable by the attractive prices during the generous business lunch time frames.
Ha’arba’a St. 21, Tel Aviv
Tel. (077) 997-7066