Samui Wining & Dining
Noori’s Pinnacle

Every restaurant wants to be the best, but with Noori India it’s their customers who are making all the claims!

 

6You can learn a lot by saying nothing. In fact I have a theory that the more you talk, the less you listen. And it’s only by listening to what’s happening around you that you can gain a sense of perspective – that you can get to the heart of what’s really going on. Take Thailand, for instance. I recently heard somewhere that more than 15% of the visitors to Thailand don’t like Thai food so much. True or not, that might explain why the beer gardens, English pubs and Italian restaurants seem to be so busy all the time.

    But things are never as simple as they seem. There’s another factor: given a choice, the majority of people won’t want to eat the same kind of food every day. And, here on Samui, that whim can be constantly indulged – fish ’n’ chips today, burgers tomorrow. There’s sauerkraut and stroganoff. And then there’s just about every cuisine that Asia has to offer, all the way from Pakistan to Japan, taking in the delights of China along the way. And that just leaves us with India.

      There are several Indian eateries scattered around the island and, if you’re a visitor, you’d be forgiven for simply heading to the nearest one you come across. But, if all restaurants are born equal – to coin a phrase – none of these ever find that greatness has been somehow thrust upon them; they have to achieve it. And that’s when the idea of listening comes in useful. In our hi-speed techno age, in practice, this actually means reading what people think. Particularly on the respected and feared TripAdvisor – that ‘tell-it-like-it-is’ mirror of the masses. And that’s where you’ll find one name, mentioned over and over again with glowing and positive comments. The name of this restaurant is Noori India.

      Noori has been going for a while now, well over a decade, and this is reflected in the steady and continual improvements that have been instigated by part-owner and manager, D.D. Pande. Although, theoretically, it’s possible to suggest that the cuisine itself hasn’t improved – it was authentic, and already quite superb from the word go! Noori’s menu is geared to authentic Rajasthani cuisine, which hails from the north-west of the sub-continent. This is very much ‘the Indian’s Indian’ favourite, as can often be witnessed by the groups of people from India (and the wedding groups, in particular) for whom dining at Noori is the only acceptable option. And, to drive home the point, in a significant number of other Indian restaurants you’ll find Nepalese, Burmese or even Thai cooks in the kitchen. But Noori’s chefs all hail from the Punjab region, and grew up with the traditional cuisine and its recipes.

       D.D. himself is something of a character, and his warm and witty conversation is an additional reason that customers tend to return to Noori. He’s a teacher, writer, poet and philosopher, and also has a degree in Hotel Management and Tourism, just to round things off. “The menu actually has been improved,” he interjected with a mischievous gleam in his eye, “we reprinted it earlier this year and now it’s got lots of photos!”

       Which is actually quite a serious point and one worth commenting on. If you’re anything like me – love Indian food but tend to stick with the favourites that you know – then seeing pictures of everything is a real incentive to try something different for a change. Although each of the dishes on the menu has a few words of description, D. D. is not only a mine of information but will readily eulogise about any item that you might not be familiar with. Oh – and the other significant ‘improvement’ is that menus are now available in German, Japanese and Russian, as well as English.

      The restaurant itself doesn’t have an imposing presence – there’s no flashing lights or neon strips – and the location and style is very much in keeping with the overall ethos; quiet, efficient and competent, with an open frontage that’s to be found just a little way north of Chaweng’s Tropical Murphy’s. The décor is refined and easy on the eye, the orange hues harmonising gently with the deep brown of the solid wooden furniture. You can opt to sit in the open front area, cooled by a battalion of ceiling fans, just perfect for street-watching, or withdraw within, to the dusky-glassed rear area that’s pleasantly air-conditioned.

      And, so, to the food. There are separate menu sections that cover soups, salads, starters, tandoori, lamb, chicken and seafood dishes, breads, rices and desserts – plus a kiddies’ menu, too, offering a variety of alternatives to the richer tastes of India. The selection of breads is impressive, with each of them being illustrated for clarity – there are 13 different varieties covering variations of chapati, puri, kulcha, roti, naan and paratha. The vegetarian selection is similarly outstanding, with well over 20 items to choose from: an important aspect in the light of our current health and lifestyle awareness. And all the portions are just right; Goldilocks would be delighted at both the quality and quantity!

      The service is super, too, with a pleasant and friendly staff and dishes arriving quickly and without drama. But there’s a greater incentive. The pricing is reasonable throughout, but Noori is currently running a ‘special’ which is particularly attractive. It’s a set menu for two. You’ll get two samosas, an onion naan bread, a garlic naan bread, a mushroom rice and a saffron rice. Plus one chicken tikka bhuna and one navaratan korma (a mild curry containing no fewer than seven different vegetables). Also included is a couple of local beers or soft drinks. And, when you’ve worked your way through that and are reaching for your wallet, you’ll quickly agree that 499 baht for two people represents great value for money.

      But don’t just take my word for all of this. Sit awhile with your iPad. Listen quietly for 15 minutes or so. Hear what all those folks on TripAdvisor are saying. You can learn a lot by sitting and saying nothing – particularly about Noori India!


 

Rob De Wet


 


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