I’m a college student, and between studying for exams and rushing to meet deadlines, the kind of food I eat is never a big deal – just something edible and relatively good tasting entering my stomach. I’ve dabbled in some Chinese dishes, but my eating career has been mostly Filipino and American food. I’ve never tasted Thai cuisine but I’ve just had the opportunity to actually try my first ever Thai food in this quaint restaurant called Nav Modern Thai Cuisine in Kapitolyo, Pasig.
Owners Janus and Marlo Naval
Its name, ‘Nav Thai’, comes from the owners’ last name. Owners Janus and Marlo Naval shared with us that they played around with the dishes, offering modern twists to some traditional Thai food. Inside this Asian restaurant are wooden chairs and tables suitable for an intimate and cozy lunch or dinner with your barkadas or loved ones. The blackboards hanging on the walls contain the day’s specialties or best sellers written in colorful chalk, making it a good place to browse when you haven’t tried or are clueless on Thai dishes.
When we went to Nav Thai, it was around 1:30 in the afternoon but the place was still quite full. Nav Thai gets packed at around 11:30, so it’s best to visit earlier or later at around 2:00 pm when the people have left; visiting here during weekdays is also much easier than on weekends or holidays when there are more people.
Thai Tea Milk
Let me take this opportunity to say that although it’s more fun in the Philippines, it’s also a lot hotter. I began my Thai experience by cooling off with some Thai Tea Milk (P110) served in a tall glass that showed off its orange hue, and is apparently the traditional color of ice teas in Thailand. This one was smooth and very sweet, just the way I like it and good for those long kwentuhans with friends on a summer day, but you can opt to change the sugar level to suit your taste. If you’re planning to get adventurous with the dishes here, then it’s best to order an extra glass of water, the tea might not be enough to ease the spiciness of the dishes.
Chicken Satay with Satay Sauce
First dish: Chicken Satay with Satay Sauce (P235), which comes in a triad of skewered chicken and is good for sharing between two to three people. The skewered chicken forms a pyramid that houses two kinds of sauces, vinegar and the other, their homemade satay sauce topped with nuts. It adds a nice visual feast to compliment your dining experience. The chicken skewers were fastened together by a strip of dried leaf that easily comes undone. The chicken, as shared by the owners, were actually marinated overnight with a mixture of turmeric sauce, onions and garlic.
The overnight marination must’ve done the trick because while eating the chicken, which was oh so tender, it came off the stick cleanly. Nav’s homemade satay sauce, topped with nuts, was sweet and paired nicely with the chicken, offering a moderately spicy dish that opened up my taste buds and made me crave more food. You can even distinguish the nuts in the sauce, it was perfect, except for some tendon that got in the way of my blissful eating. It was a great start to Thai food.
Grilled Stuffed Squid with White Shrimp
The next course was Grilled Stuffed Squid with White Shrimp priced at P320; it’s worth your buck because the squid is generously stuffed to the end with shrimp. Sticking out of the squid are some lemon grass sticks that add a punch of green to the dish. The soy sauce mix, which was sweet and spicy, complements the shrimp and squid that you can easily cut into. In fact, the squid wasn’t gummy at all, perfect for easy chewing and biting. The owners shared that they sautéed the inside of the squid and browned the sides after. My verdict? A definite win. The dish gave me a seafood ride of squid and shrimp flavors mixed in one.
Whole Crispy Tilapia with Chili Spiked Tamarind Sauce
More seafood dishes like the Whole Crispy Tilapia with Chili Spiked Tamarind Sauce was next on our menu. Its price (seasonal) depends on the catch. I’m not the master at skillfully removing bones from Tilapia, and I really miss out on a lot of meat that’s left, so a thousand thanks goes to Nav who made eating Tilapia a lot easier. They’ve already deboned and filleted the tilapia into several pieces that neatly sit on top of the fish’s body. The sauce combined with the fish offers a sweet, spicy and sour taste, a familiar Filipino taste that I’m used to and I love. The fish is soft, and eating it with the vegetables makes it less spicy. It’s a good dish that will make you full with its generous fish fillet pieces.
Nav’s Bagoong Rice with Fixings of Khao Krok Kapi
Nav’s Bagoong Rice with Fixings of Khao Krok Kapi (P225) actually made me wonder if this dish would sit well with me but once I tasted it, it wasn’t so bad. The Bagoong flavor was not too overpowering. The rice, with a sunny side egg sitting on top with meat, plus cucumber and mango slices on the side, are cleanly aligned. The mango slices are a bit sour and when eaten with the bagoong rice, reminds me of mangga at bagoong of my childhood. The cucumber and mango also adds some crunchiness and tones down the bagoong taste.
Morning Glory with Pork
Nav also serves Morning Glory with Pork (P250), a traditional dish in Thailand that is composed of pork with bagoong and spinach vegetables that are quite strong when bitten into. I feel it’s a dish for people who are more experienced with Thai cuisine.
Wok Fried Red Curry
Nav’s Wok Fried Red Curry (P290) has a smoky and spicy flavor to it that is totally different from what I’m used to, but in a good way. The owners shared that frying with the wok actually intensifies flavors, which explains the spiciness that made me drink water countless times.
Crisped Dory with Yellow Curry Sauce
We also had Crisped Dory with Yellow Curry Sauce (P320) but you can choose the kind of curry that you want. The fish fillets, which are six large pieces, are lined up on one side, with the bowl of curry sauce on the other. This dish is best for Thai beginners like me as it fills the stomach without clashing with your taste buds. But don’t let this dish fool you because hiding in its seemingly safe serving is some spiciness that Thai cuisine is known for.
Thai Sticky Rice
My Thai experience became complete with the Thai Sticky Rice (P170) done in Nav style. The dish offers a very interesting and modern take on the traditional way of serving the dish, as what the owners explained. In Nav, the sticky rice is deep fried, so they appear as balls with a nice golden brown coating. The milky sauce is placed in a bowl, and a cubed mango topped with coconut shavings and nuts is placed on the other side, instead of the classic sticky rice laid out in the center of the plate with the sauce on top. Nav also lets you choose if you want the dish done in modern Nav-style or the traditional way.
The dessert won me over, it was crunchy on the outside and soft and gooey inside. The warm deep fried rice in your mouth tastes better with the cool sliced mango. It was a nice break from all the spicy dishes we ate and a good first impression of Nav’s Thai cuisine. Take your time with this dessert though because it’s quite filling, as all their dishes are.
So, whether you’re a Thai expert or a Thai virgin like I was, I encourage you to visit Nav Thai and try their grub!
Nav Thai is open from 11 am to 11 pm.