Thai & Mighty: Nuanced Niras presents powerful and exquisite fine dining from Asia’s number-one chef
You might not find the go-to Pad Thai on the menu at Niras, but you will be rewarded with the finest seafood, meat and seasonal vegetables enlivened by Thai herbs, spices, paste and sauces. This is inventive modern Thai gastronomy. and while the ingredients are all locally sourced, the core essence comes from the heart of Thai cooking.
Niras is Thai for poetry that celebrates travel, adventure and romance; fittingly enough as this is the first time Thai culinary pioneer Thitid ‘Ton’ Tassanakajohn and his team have left their native land. Chef Ton is the creative culinary mastermind behind Le Du and Nusara in Bangkok, which secured first and third spots respectively in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2023 rankings to reiterate his status as one of the most successful chefs in the region. After earning a degree in Economics and working in the banking industry for a short period of time, Chef Ton swapped his corporate suit and tie for his chef apron and uniform. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Now, by bringing his renowned modern and inventive cooking to Hong Kong, he aims to redefine Thai cuisine from fiery street food to refined, powerful and layered expressions of beloved flavours.
“While I must admit that Hong Kong has one of the best culinary offerings amongst the top cities in the world, it is missing a Thai fine-dining element,” says Chef Ton. “I want to fill that gap because I believe what we do here at Niras is a good introduction to what Thai food in an upscaled style is all about.”
Green and glass are the key interior statements of a chic yet relaxed restaurant where white tablecloths are eschewed in favour of sleek marble and granite tables. Witty framed artworks, created in collaboration with an artist from northern Thailand, also balance the refinement of Chef Ton’s culinary delights – one depicts a drunken Mickey Mouse in the shape of the Michelin mascot; another is a figure inspired by The Simpsons, Baht Sin Son.
A large oval bar is the focal point upon entering Niras. Given that Chef Ton is also a certified sommelier, wine pairings and beverages play a significant role in the dining experience. Whenever he is in town, the acclaimed chef is also the face of his own restaurant – often spotted serving food and talking to guests.
The tasting menu is a plated set of four or six courses. At one moment, you are being served River Prawn with Rice and Tom Yum and Duck with Potato in Massaman Curry, and the next, a fresh, palate-cleansing presentation of Beetroot Sorbet with Tiger Prawn alongside different types of seaweed.
Subtle and sophisticated, the tastes of each individual ingredient in every dish stand out in their own right rather than becoming one overpowering flavour. Case in point, the two follow-ups of Grouper with Thai Kale in Choo Chee Curry and Oyster with Pork Blood and Northern Spice.
The Hong Kong parade of Le Du’s iconic signature dishes is rounded off by Beef with Fennel and Holy Basil and Crab with Mushroom and Homemade Sriracha. The tasting menu, which casts Thai cuisine in an exquisite new light, changes regularly to reflect the local availability of seasonal ingredients. As if there are not enough reinventions, the divine Niras version of the all-time favourite Thai dessert Mango Sticky Rice appears as a final flourish – the perfect ending to the modern and polished Thai gastronomic experience.
Niras is the spot for locals who want their Thai flavour fix in a ritzy setting. Drawing in an eclectic crowd of creatives, foodies and wine connoisseurs as well as more casual diners, since opening in June, it has become the place to be for inspirational and social exchanges over bold, aromatic dishes and refreshing lime-infused gin and tonics. Chef Ton’s vision for Niras is full of character, from the food he serves to the art on his walls.
Niras, Shop 704, 7/F, K11 MUSEA Victoria Dockside, 18 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui. Tel: +852 3905 3022.
Photos: Niras Video: Jack Fontanilla