99 Essential Restaurants 2014

Lum-Ka-Naad

photo by Danny Liao

In a single meal at Lum-Ka-Naad, you could taste something from every region of Thailand. What you ought to concentrate on, though, is food from the north and the south. Then you would get the expert input of owner Alex Sonbalee, who is from Chiang Mai in the north, and his wife, Ooi, from Krabi in the south. Try Northern kang ho: stir-fried vegetables and meat seasoned with a Thai-Burmese yellow curry powder that’s hand-carried from Thailand by any staff member traveling there. Or spicy, aromatic hin-le pork curry, flavored with a special curry paste made at the restaurant. Moving south, turmeric root enters the cuisine, as in Krabi-spiced chicken from Ooi’s hometown; a spicy papaya and shrimp curry; or baby back ribs, stir-fried with a turmeric-seasoned curry paste. Even rare ingredients turn up fresh here, as Alex collects greens such as cha-om and chaplu from local Thai growers. He also has managed to get fresh young jackfruit for a Northern soup and salad and grows mangoes himself.  The enormous menu ranges through all the popular Thai dishes, from pad Thai to panang, for days when you want comfort rather than adventure.

-- Barbara Hansen