I didn’t plan to visit this restaurant. I was supposed to eat at another, a new place in town, after some late-night shopping.
However, we hadn’t booked, and there were no tables free. “Come back in an hour,” the staff suggested frostily. NO WAY.
"Underneath a wicker bird cage cloche were two rose-shaped dumplings"
Feeling hungry, with sore feet and sour grapes, I fell to my knees on the pavement outside and demanded an emergency pizza fix. No, not really – instead I phoned this new Thai eatery to ask if they had a table available in 15 minutes.
“Of course, you’d be very welcome,” said the lovely young man on the end of the line.
Compared to the cool style bar we’d first tried, entering this place was like a warm hug from an auntie. They’re super welcoming, lovely people. According to the waiter, this is a brand new family business, in the former premises of another Thai restaurant, Songkran, which was here for 15 years. The small, low-ceilinged space was almost full on our Thursday night visit.
Since this place’s name, Nok, means bird, I ordered a starter of nok chom suan (£6.95) – “bird in the garden”. Well, it was a novelty.
Presented underneath a wicker bird cage cloche were two rose-shaped dumplings, each the pastel pink-and-purple colour of a My Little Pony, with a blob of sesame seed scattered coconut cream in the stamen. The star of the scene was a white dumpling dove (or maybe a goose, or spotted redshank), with a long-ish neck, two black eyes like a snowman and a beak made from a hair-pinned sliver of chilli.
The doughy casing of these dumplings was on the cusp of sickly sweet, but was tempered by a nutty salty centre of macerated prawn, chicken, peanut and shallots. I ate it all, except for the bird’s head, which remained as a memento mori on a bit of iceberg lettuce. Alas, poor Dumpling Birdie, I knew him well.
Our other starter, the karee puff (£4.95), featured three buttery russet-brown pasties, each stuffed with a curried sweet potato chilli-spiked mush, and there was a little bowl of clear cucumbery syrup on the side to lighten the richness.
Anything with an egg on top is a must-have, and the pad ka prow (£10.95) was crowned by a crispy-fringed deep fried oeuf. Sweet joy. This stir fry dish was presented inside a roasted yellow pepper, and contained tiny pebbles of chicken, holy basil leaves, and a thin, innocent-looking garlicky brown stock that was shimmeringly hot with chilli flakes.
This firey main course worked well alongside the calamine lotion that was the other, sweeter main course of gaeng phet ped yang (£11.95), or grilled duck curry. Apart from the fatty duck skin, which we peeled away from the meat like a spent leech, this dish was good – sweet with coconut milk and a little spice, with bits of pineapple, holy basil and halved red grapes in the mix. I couldn’t find any of the billed “imported baby eggplant”, though. Maybe they were still napping in their cots.
The coconut rice (£2.95) is nice, though jasmine (£2.50) tasted like plain to us. One per person is required.
My not-to-be-confused-with-a-Rubik’s-Cube pudding of a ruby cube (£5.25) – compressed water chestnut in syrup – was pleasant, though the crispy shallots on top of the accompanying coconut ice-cream are an acquired taste, which I tried but failed to acquire.
There were no such challenges when it came to the Panko crusted ball of deep fried coconut ice cream (£5.25), which was topped with a smudge of thick red bean sauce. “Like a deep fried Tunnock’s snowball,” said my other half.
Compared to other Edinburgh Thai restaurants like the upmarket Passorn and trendy Ting Thai Caravan, the food served in this place is much homelier. A visit to Nok’s Kitchen is like a warm and loving toddy to cure the hungry, sad, under-dressed and over-tired.
Perfect for a Thursday night when you’ve been rejected by a style bar.
8 Gloucester Street, Edinburgh,
(0131-225 4804, www.nokskitchen.co.uk)
Dinner for two, excluding drinks, £50.75