Tasty Thai at Raya Kitchen in the CBD

Tasty Thai at Raya Kitchen in the CBD

Spice things up at this sophisticated innercity Asian-fusion eatery.

When it opened in December 2015, Raya Kitchen was a joint venture between Andrew Van Heerden and Kitima Sukonpongpao, the chef-owner of the ever-popular, eponymous eatery in Hout Bay that was named EatOut’s Best Asian Restaurant in 2011 and 2013 (and one of The Inside Guide’s Most Romantic in Cape Town).

But things changed in October 2016, when Kitima decided to move back to Thailand and Andrew took full ownership of Raya. (Interestingly, Kitima in Hout Bay was bought by the Thai Café group of restaurants).

Fortunately for Raya, four of the highly accredited Thai chefs from Kitima, including the head chef, moved over to Raya when the changes happened, ensuring that the food here remains of a high standard.

THE AMBIENCE

Raya, which means king in Thai, is located on the first floor of the contemporary Mandela Rhodes building. The lesser-known innercity gem is decorated to reflect its regal roots – striking chandeliers light up the dimly lit gold-and-black two-storey space, which seats 120 diners in total. We sat upstairs, at street-facing table, with a bird’s-eye view of the downstairs bar.

THE MENU

The epic menu (it’s bound, and thick, and long) offers a tantalising array of Eastern cuisines (from sushi and dim sum to noodle dishes and curries – and everything in between), yet its main focus is Royal Thai cuisine, where the abundant use of fresh herbs and spices is what sets its aromatic and flavourful dishes apart.

We arrived hungry (and thirsty) at 6.30pm on a weeknight and, taking one look at the extensive winelist (another bible-sized chronicle) and cocktail menu, handed all decision-making over to our knowledgeable and affable waiter Galvin.

He recommended a Hendricks Cucumber Gimlet (Hendricks Gin, Cucumber, Roses Lime Juice, R85) to start, which was perfect: refreshing, not too sweet, and a punch-packer. Thirst quenched, it was time to order our food.

To avoid wading through the lengthy à la carte menu, go for value-for-money four-course set menu (R295), which is actually the best way to order, because it allows you to experience an array of flavours, cuisines and styles. You will still have to make some decisions, as there are three choices for each course.

I chose the Golden Platter to start: a crunchy, flavourful vegetable spring roll, a tender and tasty chicken satay, and a slightly douhhgnutty prawn cake. Then came the aromatic prawn broth with coconut milk, mushrooms, galangal, lemon grass and lime leaf, which was utterly delicious. Hot, sour, fragrant and herby, it hit all the right spots. For mains, the marinated kingklip, golden-fried in a light batter, and topped with homemade hot, sweet and sour sauce and crispy basil was the perfect choice. Though not exactly Thai (or Asian), the coconut crème brûlée was a superb way to round off my meal.

If you love Thai food, this lesser-known gem in the city is well worth a visit. Its extensive fusion menu is sure to delight your senses…
Opening times Monday – Saturday, 11.30am – 11pm
Contact 021 422 2266, reservation@rayakitchen.co.za
Where to find it Raya Kitchen, Mandela Rhodes Building, 24 Wale Street, Cape Town

Disclaimer:

The Inside Guide has made every effort to ensure that the information in this post was correct at the time of publication. However, we do not assume any liability caused by errors, such as price, cost, time, and location.

Time of publication: 20 January 2017

3 Responses to “Tasty Thai at Raya Kitchen in the CBD”

  1. Kevin Tong

    I visited Raya after seeing the place Nov last year . Was impressed with the interior and also spoke to a lady chef who told me that I should try the place some time .
    During Nov and Dec I had the priviledge of treating some Family and their friends on visit from Australia . Over 2 weeks I took them to different restaurants of which most of them were highly commended by the visitors . The first stop they insisted in me cooking them my favourite ‘AUTHENTIC ‘ Cantonese dishes I have served over my 35 years as a home chef as well as 26 years as a restauranteur in JHB . Since moving to Cape Town 20 years ago I was more involved in trouble shooting restaurants or assist with new food places with both training the kitchen staff ; serving staff as well as being an accountant introduce various control systems from Accounting ; Costings ; Food Costings ; Suppliers Sourcing and kitchen and restaurant layout . Applying for the necessary finance as well as negotiating with landlords and getting involved with labour resolving etc .
    It is often so sad that many food places don’t last longer than 5 years and when they ‘Lose’ their popularity not maintaining its consistency , are forced to go belly up . Every week there are auctions held for these eating places having to close down ; repossessed by banks ; shut down by landlords and having to lose ones’ lifetime savings including spending pension monies or family assisted finance or retrenchment packages . My personal observation is many of these places have not done their homework correctly or opening a restaurant depended on the chef or staff . Passion for food alone cannot lead to a successfull restaurant . Top Owner Chefs like Reuben Riffel ; Luke Dale-Roberts ; Henry And Mari Vigar ; Giovanni and Nicolas of Giovannis etc are all hands on people and therefore they are sucessfull . Many of these failed restaurants I know of the main failure was their own ability not to be able to be COOK . They often because of having the funds available open to replicate the popular places or even following the same old boring menus . They then ‘BUY or ‘ Poach’ or partner a chef and blindly open a restaurant .
    Sometimes chefs or people than can cook like to visit a restaurant so that they can in turn enjoy a meal instead of preparing it themselves ( eat out and treat yourself ) . Often its a disappointment or leaving the place feeling ripped of especially when I know what the food cost was . I don;t mind paying premium prices for a meal if its say an ingredient I don’t often use or its just too much trouble to do a molecular meal for 2 then I will venture out . Example is the miso cod At Nobu @R610 ,( because we don’t often can get Alaskan Cod ) I rather order such a meal and then not eat out for a while instead of going to a place knowing all you did was have a awefull meal and contribute towards their high overheads .

    Reply
  2. Kevin Tong

    I visited Raya after seeing the place Nov last year . Was impressed with the interior and also spoke to a lady chef who told me that I should try the place some time .
    During Nov and Dec I had the privilege of treating some Family and their friends on visit from Australia . Over 2 weeks I took them to different restaurants of which most of them were highly commended by the visitors . The first stop they insisted in me cooking them my favourite ‘AUTHENTIC ‘ Cantonese dishes I have served over my 35 years as a home chef as well as 26 years as a restaurateur in JHB . It includes crispy skin roast pork belly ; Stir fry flower carved calamari ; Peking or Chinese Roast duck ; Beggars Chicken ; Stuffed Dry Chinese Shitake mushroom with mince prawn ; Chinese Style Red roman and Crayfish Sashimi ; Hand Pulled Noodles ( I stand to be corrected but other than one chef in JHB I am not aware of anyone who is trained or able to do the proper hand pull noodle ( not just the simple hand stretch noodle which some Thai restaurants are doing in Cape Town . ) Was very fortunate to be personally trained by a master noodle from China with 38 years experience who trained me this ART whilst I was in Hong Kong ; Steamed Durban Rockcod or Garoupa with fresh ginger and soya sauce ; barbeque roast Pork and Salt and Pepper prawn in the shell ( shell eaten as well ) .Since moving to Cape Town 20 years ago I am more involved in trouble shooting restaurants or assist with new food places in both training the kitchen staff ; serving staff as well as being an accountant introduce various control systems from Accounting ; Costings ; Food Costings ; Suppliers Sourcing and kitchen and restaurant layout . Applying for the necessary finance as well as negotiating with landlords and getting involved with labour resolving etc .
    It is often so sad that many food places don’t last longer than 5 years and when they ‘Lose’ their popularity not maintaining its consistency , are forced to go belly up . Every week there are auctions held for these eating places having to close down ; repossessed by banks ; shut down by landlords and having to lose ones’ lifetime savings including spending pension monies or family assisted finance or retrenchment packages . My personal observation is many of these places have not done their homework correctly or opening a restaurant wholely depended on the chef or staff . Passion for food alone cannot lead to a successfull restaurant . Top Owner Chefs like Reuben Riffel ; Luke Dale-Roberts ; Henry And Mari Vigar ; Giovanni and Nicolas of Giovannis etc are all hands on people and therefore they are sucessfull . Owners who sit at the bar sipping conjac dependant on staff could find themselves without a chef or unable to take over the kitchen if this happens . Many of these failed restaurants I know of the main failure was their own ability not to be able to be COOK . They often because of having the funds available open to replicate the popular places or even following the same old boring menus . They then ‘BUY or ‘ Poach’ or partner a chef and blindly open a restaurant . often I get sushi restaurant owners ask me to teach their chefs how to make a 4X4 or Rainbow Roll like Will———bys . Another establishment tried to ‘COPY’ this place and a wellknown Japanese chef was involved in introducing all these yuppie Amercican style menus and became very busy but has since closed down . This chef many of his fellow Japanese Chefs thought he made a huge mistake trying to be ‘HIP’ .
    Sometimes chefs or people that can cook like to visit a restaurant so that they can in turn enjoy a meal instead of preparing it themselves ( eat out and treat yourself ) . Often its a disappointment or leaving the place feeling ripped of especially when I know what the food cost was . I don;t mind paying premium prices for a meal if its say an ingredient I don’t often use or its just too much trouble to do a molecular meal for 2 then I will venture out . Example is the miso cod At Nobu @R610 ,( because we don’t often can get Alaskan Cod ) I rather order such a meal and then not eat out for a while instead of going to a place knowing all you did was have a awefull meal and contribute towards their high overheads .
    When I have a disastrous meal I would bring it to the attention of the manager and often land up meeting the chef to explain why . Fortunately even though most chefs are arrogant ( confident) and don’t like to be criticised but if its backed with reasons a good chef will thank you . Chefs are human but high end establishments cannot afford to drop catches . A while back a visiting Japanese Chef and my family had a disastrous meal at Nobu . He wrote to co -owner Nobu Sun and Robert de Nero as well as 2 or 3 other shareholders as well as the Cape Town manager and we were all invited back for a ‘MAKE UP ‘ meal . Since then chefs were changed and the last 3 visits have been phenomenal . Being myself trained by a Japanese Sushi chef by a in 1985 ( Ichirio of Daruma and JHB Sun in JHB ) who I in turn shared my Chinese Cuisine knowledge with , I have been unfairly very critical when eating out Japanese . The only other Authentic Japanese Rest I would eat at is the very unpopular restaurant with locals – Fujiyama . 99% of the locals I am sure will disagree with me but 99% of JAPANESE very seldom eat at American style Sushi restaurants where everyone enjoy commercial dishes like californian rolls ; Yuppie style sushi ; 4×4’s ; Rainbow Rolls ; and every piece of sushi dunked in a lot of cheap soya sauce etc . The Japanese embassy only entertains their visitors there . Everwhere else everything is made with a salmon or tuna content . Some might offer line fish but the supermarkets sushi is what I mean . Enjoyable but not authentic . It saddens me when a sushi chef is fast track trained to work in these supermarket outlets as well as some commercial branded ones as well . A high end authentic Japanese restaurant in Cape Town who is the only Restaurant who often have authentic wasabi ; sweet prawn ; uni ; crayfish sashimi ; langoustine sashimi ; top grade tuna and fresh line fish in season and very seldom use Norweigan Salmon ( but do offer it ) , and to finish off a biggest selection of Japanese Whiskys etc . In 2015 won the Platters ( old name ) and Eatout best asian restaurant in the country beating all the ‘POPULAR ‘ places and since then have been extremely busy . Sushi Chef is Japanese . I cannot name the place as some might say I am promoting a place I am involved with directly or indirectly . I will gladly share the name by contacting me personally not to show conflict of interest . SERVICE might not be 100% but its a place where one goes to enjoy the meal ; decor and part with their hard earned money .
    With regards to Dim Sum Places I can also do so likewise privately . It will however be based on the Dim Sum and not the decor !! If people prefer top end decor then maybe a take away . Problem also is you need to know what to order . Again I can recommend privately .
    I often find that some diners might not compromise on decor or vibe and that is more important then the meal and prefer the show and presentation while with me food comes first then yes decor etc is a bonus ……example Waterkloof and La Mouette etc you get everything . Most others is following and copying Hestor Blumenthal Or Ferran Adria instead of Paul Bochuse and Rick Stein etc . Take away the dry ice or liquid nitrogen or molecular processes most of these SHOW places are lost . The trend is now back to proper home cook recipes and full wholesome meals rather than serving a show piece .
    Overall we have great restaurants in SA especially in the Western Cape . Those who have done well is also they only use the best ingredients . What can be off putting is chefs who offer cooking lessons and not teaching students the authentic way eg chef teaching a student how to cook a Chinese Dish with Shitake mushroom and failing to even know how to treat the dry mushroom before cooking ; A chef who claims to have cooked all over the world and teach a Indian Granny how to cook a curry skipping or missing all the secret steps or methods . Its like going to a mechanic who will fix you car without the correct tools and knowledge of a particular make and depends on a manual . Charging students for this service is a NO NO to me .
    Finally my visit to Raya was not perfect but have shared with the manageress my concerns and whether she will discuss it with her chefs ; waitrons I don’t know . My view :- Great decor other than I pointed out to the Manageress that the Chinese Terracotta soldiers randomly placed in the restaurant is not Thai and might be picked up by a Thai person . The upstairs section a bar counter with bright lights spoilt and made the place look like a deli . The tables were filled with expensive high quality red and white wine glasses at most times had to be taken off and untidily placed on the counter areas . A fire extinguisher was in your face and could have been placed in a more appropriate place . Menu too extensive and that slowed down service . After ordering a beer and whisky water to start the beer came after 10 minutes and whisky 20 , the reason is that the barman had to make cocktails for a table . ( only 3 tables were occupied at that time ) . The DimSum starters I ordered were enjoyable but main courses too sweet and overcooked. After requesting for some raw chillis mixed with Fish sauce ; lime and coriander it somehow toned the sweetness down . The manageress was amazed . The Prawn Coconut soup tasted like sugar cane drink and not a Thai flavoured soup . The serving dishes as well as presentation was good . I did tell the manageress that I was being unfair to compare or pitch it with another Thai establishment we had the privilege in dining recently and those flavours were still fresh on my palette . The restaurant was voted the world’s top Thai Restaurant – The Blue Elephant in Phuket They have 2 other outlets one in Thailand and another in Paris . Being voted the top Thai rest in the world the Thai Government even gave her a State owned mansion where she now runs her restaurant as well as a cooking school . I was chatting to the owner/ chef Nooror Somany and her Head chef to praise the wonderfull meal we had there and she told me that many SA have visited her establishment . She also told me that many of her products are sold at Woolworths but yes at a premium price . So after you have tasted the authentic meal its easily picked up when chefs cooking the same cuisine drop catches .
    Sorry to be so long winded but food is my passion and am so enjoying sharing with youngsters or even older folks my recipes and method in various type of cooking that I have practiced over my 35 years of cooking . Yes I do not charge .
    I am however still learning and having covered most of the various dishes I ENJOY . My last dream to fullful my personal learning cooking career is to acquire a BLOWFISH or FUGU licence , then I can part this world happy . btw I am useless in baking and desserts but Chinese baking yes .
    To those who have also shared there favourite eat out places as well as disasters thank you . As there are many unknown chefs and restaurants it is only through this platform we can share with fellow South Africans . Maybe the inside guide team should have clarified that the top 10 awards was based on what they have now explained to me as at first I also thought it was one of these Diners Club / American Express or major awards which includes many processors of even being nominated then awarded .

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  3. Katia de Sa

    I went and the food was fantastic but I heard it’s closed down?

    Reply

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