The Dining Out team has known Louis Noll and his Mata Hari restaurant for many, many years, going right back to the single shophouse restaurant on Second Road between Sois 7 and 8, to now the well known Mata Hari Restaurant and Wine Bar at the top of Thappraya Road.
The location is on the ground floor of Nirvana Place and is in two sections, with the Wine Bar taking up one third, and the restaurant proper, the other two thirds. The décor is classical European, without being over the top, marble floors, carver chairs, heavy linen tablecloths and excellent quality napery. The staff are in classical long black aprons and white shirts/blouses and maroon waistcoats, and are friendly, well trained and efficient. And overseeing it all, and seemingly able to be in three places at once is Louis Noll himself.
We discussed the latest menu with Louis who admitted that his greatest problem was taking items off the menu, because as soon as he did there were complaints from the regular patrons looking for their favorites! However, he has recently placed some new items such as fresh home made seafood ravioli (B. 330) and shashimi tuna carpaccio with wasabi sauce (B. 330), another being pan-fried crab crusted red snapper fillet (B. 390) and another the Rock lobster tails in vermouth cream sauce with snow peas (B. 490).
Some of the ‘special’ dishes include a Jamon Iberico (Pata Negra) which is a Spanish ham from black pigs fed on acorns (B. 550). This ham has regular flecks of intramuscular fat, and because of the pig’s diet of acorns, much of the jamón’s fat is oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid that has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol. Another is the veal ossobuco (B. 650) which is proving to be a very popular item.
In the ‘regular’ category are items such as the steak Diane with whisky and garlic sauce (B. 390) and Australian grilled steaks – T-bone, rib eye and fillet (B. 790-890), and a wild grouper fillet, pan-fried in butter with parsley and lemon (B. 350). And of course there are two pages of Thai items.
The wine list has labels which reflect Louis’ dictum of ‘the balance of performance and price’. We selected the Peter Lehmann Shiraz 2004 and at B. 1250 this is good drinking. Do try it.
We chose a starter from the blackboard menu in the wine bar, a Portobello mushroom, stuffed with spinach and bacon and topped with lightly grilled mozzarella. This was a superb dish, moist and flavorsome.
For mains we chose the lamb fillet steak with a grainy Dijon mustard sauce (B. 620) for Madame with a side of salad vegetables, while I went for the new item of the Rock lobster tails in the vermouth cream sauce with snow peas and steamed vegetables. The lamb was correctly cooked and the sauce excellent. My rock lobster tails were sweet and succulent and not overcooked, as otherwise they can become tough, and the vermouth cream sauce did not overpower the lobster. An excellent new dish for the Mata Hari menu.
Louis Noll’s Mata Hari has remained as one of the top restaurants in Pattaya and there are many reasons for this. Continuity in the kitchen, in the charge of Louis’ wife, is one factor keeping the standards high. There is Louis himself who still goes to the markets in the mornings to select the ingredients, and who floats around every table ensuring everything is going fine and is on hand to bid the diners goodnight. The prices are reasonable and the portion sizes are large. The staff are trained and are unobtrusive. This is a restaurant where you can enjoy the company of your dinner companions as well as the food and wine. In some ways, this would have to be as close to perfection as a restaurant can get. It obviously gets our highest recommendation.
Mata Hari Restaurant and Wine Bar, 482/57 Thappraya Road (ground floor Nirvana Place), telephone 038 259 799, fax 038 259 798, email [email protected] mataharirestaurant.com, www.mataharirestaurant.com. Open six days (closed Mondays), Wine Bar from 5 p.m. and restaurant from 6 p.m., secure on-street parking. Book!