Nora’s chef and co-owner Sarin Rojanametin has no formal training (though he cooked at Longrain and The Commoner), the kitchen is laughably basic and there are just 20 seats. But it’s these limitations that make the degustation-only restaurant a fascinating dining experience.
A dish named Too Many Italians and Only One Asian riffs on the location in Carlton, surrounded by Italians. It combines mock pasta (julienned green papaya served warm); pesto made from sator (known in Thailand as “stinky beans”) and fermented garlic. It’s a good example of Rojanametin’s cheeky, instinctual style. So too is Daft Punk is Playing in My Mouth – blue mackerel served under a small hill of spicy green-chilli granita, a slice of compressed watermelon and a black-sesame reduction.
Such creations are challenging, even at dinner. It’s not so surprising that Nora didn’t work when it first opened as a cafe in 2014. A lot of people couldn’t handle the concept: Thai-flavoured breakfasts prepared using Nouvelle Cuisine techniques and a New Nordic approach to produce and presentation. The traditional egg breakfast came sous-vide. Liver, fungus, tongue, roe, pork jowl and fermented shrimp all featured heavily.
Rather than close, Rojanametin and his partner Jean Thamthanakorn installed some wine fridges and started opening later. Even at dinner, these flavours and the degustation-only format aren’t for everyone, but you can’t call it commonplace or boring.