I love Victoria’s various villages: James Bay, Cook Street Village, Fernwood, Cadboro Bay, Oak Bay Village are just a few. A favourite is tiny, overflowing, Estevan Village in the heart of Oak Bay near Willow’s Beach.
A single block boasts shops offering fashion, decor, gifts, flowers and a handful of restaurants, and true to Oak Bay’s reputation, these establishments offer a level of sophistication, modestly presented, that is a little above the norm.
At Norha Thai Kitchen, an intricate Thai crown of woven gold and silver threads and ruby accents captures the attention. It sits atop a gleaming rod in the centre of an empty circle through which the main dining room in austerer gold and white can be seen.
|Allan Reid, Monday Magazine restaurant reviewer|
We were seated at a window street in the smaller dining room, near the bar where tables a bit cozier. We started with wine. Now, I find that wine lists at most Thai restaurants are an afterthought. Cheap to mediocre wines offered only because someone is bound to ask. Not so at Nohra, where a variety of BC wines have been carefully selected by chef Phen Bryan to pair well with her culinary creations.
A Wild Goose Pinot Gris ($9 for six oz.) started our adventure. Dry, well balanced and tasting of pears and peaches, this Okanagan Falls wine paired well with an appetizer of spring rolls (Por Pia Tod: $10): Four thick flaxen fingers served with a golden sweet chili plum sauce and a tangle of lacy carrot. Delicious.
For my main, I ordered the Kua-Kling (Turmeric Chicken: $22). The plate contrasts Nohra’s austere elegance, spilling over with hummocks of vivid vegetables, served raw but artfully cut – julienned beets, ribbons of carrot, shredded lettuce and fresh-flavoured sprouted peas – that outshine the whitish mound of shredded chicken on a bed of banana leaves. But the chicken, ordered at medium heat, sparkles with tantalizing spices and exotic flavours. A woven sleeve of sticky rice and an exquisite side of roti, elastic and buttery, accompany the meal.
Two friends ordered Green Curry ($15), which is served in elegant Jingdezhen pottery. Blue and white; footed and lidded. Coconut rice ($4) is served in a matching, lidded dish. My friends raved about the fresh flavours and intricate spices.
Our fourth ordered Chicken Pad Thai ($14), which was absolutely delicious but a little spicy, considering he had asked for no spice at all. After apologies, he was offered a fresh new meal made without the spice. He declined, explaining that though his lips were on fire, he’d been unable to resist the fabulous flavours and it would be inappropriate for him to accept a second meal, having finished the first. But a few moments later, a golden to-go box arrived, followed by chef Phen Bryan, still in her apron, to apologize in person, and to thank us for coming.
Phen is a pleasure at the table. She is a proud, eager owner, dedicated to her native cuisine and an accomplished people-person happy to share a laugh with her customers.
Nohra Thai Kitchen
2524 Estevan Ave. 250-595-7868
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