Apinara’s tale is as much about female empowerment as it is about the celebration of Thailand’s cuisine.
The flagship restaurant in Bangkok, Nara, is Sanskrit for ‘Thai woman’ and is also the name of one of the founders, Narawadee Srikarnchana (nicknamed Yuki), who together with a group of female entrepreneurs opened the first iteration in 2003. The restaurant has since expanded to four more branches across Thailand’s capital city, grabbing the attention of Hong Kong restaurateur, Pearl Shek, during her many trips to Bangkok.
While visiting her grandfather in the Thai capital, Pearl immersed herself in the culture and cuisine, ensuring every trip included at least one meal at Nara. Not only was Pearl captivated by the restaurant experience but upon meeting Yuki she was instantly inspired by her ambition, generosity and warmth of spirit when it comes to delivering an unparalleled dining experience. After many trips to Nara, Pearl and Yuki forged a relationship and in 2016, they decided to open a Hong Kong branch of Apinara, Nara’s sister brand that introduces a well curated bar program to the dining experience.
Located in Pacific Place, Apinara features the most loved recipes from the original restaurants, as well as a handful of dishes exclusive to Hong Kong. The menu is extensive and guests are encouraged to begin with a cocktail before perusing the offering. There’s the Siam Myth, featuring a vodka base charged with plenty of chilli and lemongrass, as well as the light and refreshing Siam Rose Mojito, tinged with mint leaves and rose syrup for a lovely light pink hue. The eye-catching presentations of the cocktails are worth a mention too, with aesthetic touches such as a spray of indigo flowers or a glass elephant figurine to accompany the Thai-inspired beverages.
As for the food, the menu weaves in and out of the traditional. Appetisers adhere to conventional recipes including the tord man kung – doughnut-shaped crispy shrimp cakes, and the prawn and BBQ pork satay. On the other side of the spectrum, a number of dishes present the more playful side of the kitchen – for example the tom yum prawns fried rice and pad Thai diet that creatively twists the traditional pad Thai with shredded papaya in place of noodles.
All seafood and vegetables are sourced locally for optimal freshness, including the magnificent steamed sea bass sitting in a zesty, lime-scented broth and the yellow curry prawns, which take on an intense fragrance in a curry sauce that’s been mixed and muddled with a handful of Thai spices and aromatics.
Though inside a mall, the setting is far from uninspired – gold accents decorate an airy, elegant space reminiscent of a centuries-old Thai residence, with wooden ceiling fans and delicate flower instalments arranged by Pearl herself.
A large bar area dominates the entrance – a place to stop for happy hour drinks. Although there’s plenty to choose from it’s hard to go past a craft brew imported from Apinara’s spiritual home, Thailand.
Founded upon an unwavering dedication to hospitality, Apinara offers a warm experience with an uplifting dose of female empowerment to brighten up Hong Kong’s dining scene.