What is it? With a love affair with Thai cuisine dating back to her frequent childhood visits to Bangkok to visit her grandfather, HK restaurateur Pearl Shek – co-founder of Isono in PMQ – has collaborated with Narawadee (Yuki) Srikarnchana of acclaimed Nara Thai Cuisine in Bangkok to bring the chef's spicy-sour-salty-sweet flavours to Hong Kong.
The decor: Apinara has been done up in a classic, elegant style with modern gold accents. We were immediately attracted to how bright, open and airy it is, especially for a restaurant located within a shopping mall. The gorgeous colonial-style bamboo ceiling fans are the standout features.
The food and drink: Apinara’s bartenders shake up a good range of Thai-inspired cocktails and mocktails, Thai spirits, craft beers and herbal teas. We got the ball rolling by sampling one of the bar’s HK-exclusive cocktails, Are You Tired, Honey? ($78), a potent concoction crafted with Mekhong whisky, lime, cinnamon and mint; just take a look at the presentation below and you’ll see why were hooked even before our first sip. And speaking of fatigue, if you’re feeling a bit weary, during happy hour Apinara offers complimentary on-the-spot Thai massages, 10 minutes a pop. It may seem awkward at first, being kneaded away in full public view, but it’s a great gimmick nonetheless. On the non-alcoholic side, the butterfly pea tea ($45) was as pretty as a picture with its deep purple hue, but there was nothing special about the flavour.
Our lunch feast was uniformly delicious, and we were impressed that the fiery flavours this cuisine is known for have not been toned down for local palates. Our first dish was the kung chae nampla, or prawn carpaccio ($138), a generous portion of first-rate Japanese sashmi-grade shrimp topped simply with garlic chips and sliced red chilli. It was the knockout dressing made with lime, basil and chilli that set this one apart from the other starters.
We also enjoyed the larb tord ($98). These are north-eastern-style pork meatballs, deep-fried and accompanied by lettuce and cucumber and a spicy tamarind sauce to help to offset the heavy meatiness. The pork balls were on the salty side on their own, but once dressed up with the veggies and sauce, the flavours melded seamlessly.
The tom yum kung soup with prawns ($118), that Thai restaurant staple, was one of the best we’ve tried this side of Bangkok. It was ridiculously fragrant owing to a healthy dose of lemongrass and lime leaves, and the seafood-broth base was rich and concentrated.
Our main course highlight was the yellow curry soft-shell crab, or phunim phad pong karee ($198); its moreish egg-enriched curry slurry enveloped a mound of deep-fried soft-shell crab that still managed to maintain their crunch despite the rich sauce.
The phad Thai diet ($118) was also noteworthy. Made with sautéed shredded papaya instead of rice noodles for those health-conscious folk out there, the flavour profile of traditional pad Thai was successfully captured without all the carbs.
We can never pass up an order of mango sticky rice ($58), and Apinara’s version was solid. But it was the shaved ice with 12 toppings ($68) that won our hearts. This refreshing treat is an ideal way to cool down the taste buds, and we gleefully mixed and matched the various toppings (shout-outs to the herbal jelly, peanuts and nata de coco).
For those dining with little ones in tow, Apinara’s kids’ menu ($78) is recommended. The weekly-changing set includes an appetiser, soup, main, rice (shaped like baby elephants – bless) and dessert.
Next up: Later this year, the restaurant plans to unveil an atrium seating area that will also feature a bike stall selling takeaway Thai snacks, papaya salad and mango sticky rice.
Shop 205, Level 2, Pacific Place, 88 Queensway, Admiralty, 3107 1888/0688