Mata Hari’s Nasi Rames

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Mata Hari Restaurant and Wine Bar on Thappraya Road has been one of the foremost restaurants in the Pattaya fine dining scene.  Run by Louis Noll and his wife, he will modestly disagree with the ‘fine dining’ appellation, so I will instead call it superb food in a fine dining environment.

Mata Hari is situated on the ground floor of the Nirvana building at the top of Thappraya Road on the left hand side driving towards Jomtien from South Pattaya.  It is divided into two sections, with one third of the building a dedicated wine bar, and the other two thirds the restaurant proper.

The décor is classic Euro style, with comfortable carver chairs and large tables which are all well spaced, so conversations can remain private.  There are marble floors, 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.  The spotless kitchen is against the far wall, and overseeing it all, is the ubiquitous Louis Noll himself.

The normal menu is quite extensive and not overly expensive at all.  Our experience of it has been that the portion sizes are also very generous.  However, on this occasion we had come to taste one item from his specials blackboard.  The wine list is selective and reflects Louis’ policy of balancing performance and price.  We chose the Oxford Landing Australian Chardonnay, and this fits the equation very well.  It also fits better with Asian food in my opinion.

However, before we go further, you have to understand a little of Louis Noll’s background.  He was born in Indonesia (hence the name of the restaurant being Mata Hari) to a Dutch mother and a Dutch-Indonesian father and spent his formative years in Indonesia, eating Indonesian food.

Louis is also someone who likes doing something different, and in response to repeated requests to provide some Indonesian food, he has responded with an Indonesian ‘special’.  This is called Nasi Rames (B. 450) and is a sort of ‘primer’ in Indonesian cuisine, being presented as a mix of items, all with individual flavors.  This is, according to Louis, “a time-consuming exercise,” and the mix of items may also change, according to Louis’ mood.  He also added, but tongue in cheek I am sure, “It might be too stressful for me!”  So I believe that if you want to try Louis’ Indonesian food, I would do it sooner, rather than later.

It is worthwhile sitting down with Louis Noll to get an inkling of the style of Indonesian cuisine, which appears to be very broad and encompassing more items than the usual Thai cuisine, for example.  Several items are presented at the same time on one plate with our Nasi Rames featuring (amongst other items) Beef Rendang, croquettes, duck egg, satay, chicken, prawn crackers, nut crackers and an Acha pickle.

The Nasi Rames is not eaten with bread, as apparently, the Indonesians do not eat bread.  It comes with a central portion of rice, with all the other items surrounding it, plus an extra container with three spices.  It is simple dining, but one where you can just soak up the flavors and wash them down with wine.  We both enjoyed the Indonesian experience immensely.

I have gone on record many times to state that food should be ‘fun’ and not just sustenance.  Our dinner at Mata Hari of the Indonesian Nasi Rames was certainly a fun evening.  The variety of tastes, flavors and textures were such that we were discussing each item and trying to work out just what was producing its flavor.  Louis, of course, refused to be drawn into the discussion, and with a wave of the hand would leave us still guessing – but I think it was fried garlic on the satay!

The highest recommendation possible.  Do try this special, before Louis tires of making it.

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], 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!