Niramit Thai’s authentic experience
By Jennifer Brandt, Vermont Country correspondent.
BENNINGTON — Walking into Niramit, at 124 Elm St., Bennington, nestled within South Shire A Little Hotel, feels like stepping through a portal to another place and time. Drawing inspiration from diverse facets of Thai culture, from the grandeur of King Chulalongkorn of Siam during the Victorian era to the organic marvels of the Jariya brothers’ rural Thai hometown, this intimate Victorian Inn conceals a gem that’s as extraordinary as it is hidden (though, hopefully not for much longer).
The first thing you will notice about the exquisite space is the Thai art woven into the elegant sitting room. Open sliding doors welcome guests into a formal dining room and transport you into a Thai flavor paradise.
Full disclosure: the author loves Thai cuisine and culture, so much so that she spent her honeymoon in Thailand, so this country’s cuisine was quite familiar to me before I walked in the door. The service, however, was something I had never experienced in my life.
Jariya has mastered the craft of service after many years of honing her skills in hospitality, owning her own spa in Bangkok for 15 years before deciding to begin a new journey in Bennington, Vermont.Jennifer Brandt – Vermont Country correspondant.
Jariya outlines the five elements she keeps in mind when cultivating a guest’s experience.
- The flavor: how all of the elements of the dish balance and how every element of the meal is balanced with each other
- The sound is everything from the music to the sound of others enjoying each other’s company and their meals.
- The feel of not just the food, but the plates, the glasses, the tablecloth
- The aroma: While many Americans may balk at the appearance of oil on, let’s say, a soup, Jariya insists that it’s essential to leave the oil on to release the aromas of the food truly.
- The visual of how the food looks: Is it beautiful and captivating? Does it capture the essence of the dish?
Dinner is a multi-course presentation, and while Jariya accommodates all of her guests, trust me when I say you want to let her take you on a culinary journey.
She has planned the menu out so that you get a full Thai experience, and the way that dinner is served is exactly how it would be served in a Thai home. Although Thai restaurants exist in Thailand and are increasing in popularity, locals in Thailand typically cook their meals at home, or, if they do eat out, it’s typically from a cart or truck during the day.
We began with two traditional soups, one after the other, Tom Yum Nam Khon and Tom Kha Gai. The first was a twist on a Tom Yum, which is a clarified soup, whereas this version had milk added to the shrimp, chili, herb, and mushroom base, creating a creamy version. The second soup is one of my favorites, featuring lemongrass and coconut milk with tender mushrooms and chicken floating in the tangy, creamy broth.
We had Laab Gai in an unusual presentation to bridge the first and second courses, prettily cupping the minced chicken, herbs, and chilis inside lettuce leaves. This was a perfect palate cleaner for the next course.
Having already experienced a symphony of flavors, the next course served family-style continued the symphonic journey.
Laid out before us were Masamun curry with chicken, creamy, sweet, and earthy, and Gaeng Gari, a mellow tangy yellow curry made hearty with potato and carrots; Choo Chi Pla, salmon in a spicy but balanced red curry and Goong Pad Prew Wan, a sweet and sour crispy prawn dish. All of this was accompanied by large steaming bowls of jasmine rice doled out by our hosts. Everything ties back to extraordinary service, and we were told that the host served the first bite of each serving, and the rest of the dish left on the table to go back for more, which you will surely be tempted into.
The lunch experience here is more casual but not any less extraordinary in flavor.
Much like the Thais eat lunch, the experience at Niramit for lunch is like what you would find in Thailand. Typically, lunch is a quicker affair, a one-pot meal that you might grab from a local street vendor and a dish that is easy to transport (some things are cross-cultural).
Designed with lunch breaks in mind, whether it’s dine-in or takeout, the meals at lunch will be quick and easy for dine-in or takeout, but certainly not short on flavor. In addition to the luxurious multi-course dinner experience, the chefs were also happy to share new items from their upcoming lunch menu with us, including their shrimp pad thai and beef noodle soup.
For fans of Pad Thai, this version may be different than you are used to if you are only familiar with the versions in American Thai restaurants created to please Western palates. The version at Niramit is less sweet and more earthy than other versions stateside, owing to being created with tamarind paste, which is the traditional preparation. The briny shrimp contrasts the earthy sauce, and even after several courses, I kept going in for more bites. The beef noodle soup had star anise and clove notes and reminded me of Chinese five spice. The dish was balanced with bean sprouts and (celery leaf herbs), creating a warming and fresh-tastig dish.
Jennifer Brandt is a born and raised Vermonter and a recent Brooklyn transplant. She has worked as a freelance writer and event coordinator for the past decade focusing on food and Intersection with social justice issues. She has combined her passion for food and sustainable food systems with her Indigenous heritage by creating a series with MOFAD celebrating North American Indigenous folks in the food world. When not touring cities and the back roads of the Vermont countryside in search of the endless array of food and culture, you can find her taking Instagram photos of her rescue pup Bagel.