September’s owners in Bangkok showcase northern Thai dishes at new NOA restaurant

NEW HAVEN — For five years now, State Street restaurant at Winyu Seetamyae, September in Bangkok has been serving up some of the best Thai food in town — but there’s a brand new kid from downtown with a large golden Buddha inside. interior that might give it a run for its money.

The good news for Seetamyae and her partner, Jirawat Saeliw, is that the brand new NOA – aka “NOA by September in Bangkok” – is also theirs. It opened on July 25.

But it’s not a carbon copy.

Where September in Bangkok – a 2022 Connecticut magazine “Experts’ Choice” for Best Thai Cuisine – is largely focused on central Thai cuisine in Bangkok, the capital, NOA wanders further, with an additional emphasis on northern and north- eastern Thailand, near the Laos border.

It’s also a bit of a cross between a restaurant and a nightclub, with music and atmospheric light projections dressing it up – and in just three weeks the opening has already raised the bar for experiences. downtown Thai cuisine.

Seetamyae grew up in the city of Issan, in the northeast region of Thailand, bordered on three sides by Laos and Cambodia. He arrived in this country at 18 on a student visa, first spending two years in Boston, then two years in Vermont, then settling in New York for 16 years, where he worked in Thai restaurants.

Saeliw, who runs the business of the two restaurants, is from Chiang Rai in the far north of Thailand, near the border with Myanmar.

So what does the regional distinction mean?

This means you can still get Thai dishes from Bangkok such as Pad Thai, Drunken Noodles, Pad See-Ew, Som Tum (papaya salad), Tom Kha Kai (chicken soup with coconut milk) and Tom Yum (soup lemongrass noodles).

But you can also get harder-to-find dishes such as Khao Soi – a Chiang Mai-style yellow curry coconut milk noodle soup – Northern Thai sausages and several varieties of Larb; a hot, peppery and tangy meat salad from northeast Thailand, including an Isaan-style larb duck dish made with kaffir lime and Bird’s Eye chili.

At both restaurants, “people don’t just come for the food but for the culture and the style,” Seetamyae said.

Generally speaking, Northeastern and Northern Thai cuisine has less sugar, less coconut milk, is less creamy, and contains more chillies and chilies than Central Thai cuisine, has he declared.

Other signature dishes mentioned by Seetamyae include Moo NOA – grilled and marinated pork with spicy tamarind sauce – “Mexican Larb”, Po-Tak, spicy seafood tamarind soup, Tom Yum ami rice and a duck noodle soup.

Seetamyae, a soft-spoken restaurateur who considers himself both a cook and an artist, said he was not worried about having two Thai restaurants in town. The downtown market is separate enough from Upper State Street and it will target a younger clientele in NOA, while September in Bangkok is more family-oriented, he said.

NOA, decorated with colorful northern Thai umbrellas hanging upside down from the ceiling, is also putting more emphasis on the bar sector – a reaction in part to the 30% rise in food prices it has observed recently.

“Right now, making a profit is a bit difficult,” and alcohol sales are the most profitable part of a restaurant operation, Seetamyae said.

The Buddha, who can’t help but be one of NOA’s focal points, is very much in the Thai style, which is similar to Buddhas you might find in Myanmar and Cambodia, he said.

Seetamyae plans to beef up the entertainment side of NOA once it picks up traffic from the brand new restaurant a bit, with plans to bring in a DJ on the weekends.

“I try to put a lot of Thailand here,” including old-school Thai music, as well as more contemporary music. NOA opens at 11 a.m. The kitchen closes at 11 p.m. but the bar remains open until midnight on weekdays and 2 a.m. on weekends.

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