I flew all the way from Los Angeles to Bangkok to dine at Na-Oh, a Lockheed L-1011 TriStar jet that has been turned into a gourmet restaurant with exquisite cuisine and a unique dystopian theme.
Na-Oh Bangkok Review – L-1011 TriStar Restaurant
First I made my reservation. Then I booked my airline ticket. Yes, this evening was the primary purpose of my long journey to Bangkok through Europe, the Middle East, and North Asia in the midst of a global pandemic.
I took a taxi from my hotel to ChangChui, an outdoor market on the outskirts of Bangkok that is home to a former L-1011 jet, HS-AXE, that flew for Delta Air Lines from 1974 to 1999 and then flew briefly for Thai Sky Airlines, a defunct charter airline. It now is one of the hippest restaurants in the Thai capital.
It was this video that first caught my attention and altered me to the restaurant:
From the entrance, I could see the majestic TriStar glowing in the night sky in a constantly-changing hue of light.
A wooden sign with a carved animals and the words Na-Oh Bankgok marked the entrance to the restaurant. I was greeted by name (perhaps I was the only foreigner on the reservation list that night?) and directed into an elevator, where the host explained the concept of the restaurant.
Na-Oh is a play on Noah’s ark and the L-1011 is styled as a modern-day ark, transporting humans and animals through a dystopian age.
Stepping onboard, I was greeted by a pair of polar bears (and another host) and directed to my table. But I couldn’t stay seated. What an incredibly ingenious theme and decor. The choice of furniture, artwork, and taxidermy is a carefully curated collection and is essential in giving the restaurant its unique character.
In the rear of the aircraft is an elevated area with a single table, ideal for private dining. Look up and you’ll see the third engine over the fuselage has been removed and a window put in its place.
Down a few steps is a lounge and bar area. The lounge has a large cocktail menu, beer, and wine and it’s not only a cool restaurant, but a cool bar.
In the center of the restaurant is stairs going down to a lower deck. Delta used this area as a large galley to heat meals (while other L-1011 operators like PSA Airlines used it as a lounge). It now includes velvet couches and a menagerie of wild animals.
Upstairs the main dining area includes tables set along the windows with taxidermy in between.
In the front of the aircraft, in the former flight deck, is another special private dining area.
The restaurant was not crowded and I noticed it attracted young, well-dressed Thais…I was probably the oldest one in the restaurant. The whole ChangChui market has such a different feel than central Bangkok; a wealthier, far less-touristic vibe.
Oh yes, and the food. I enjoyed a delectable five course dinner.
Dinner was at my pace. I began by ordering a cocktail and slowly sipped that as I walked around the restaurant.
When I had taken enough photos (and by the way, everyone was taking photos…it is that kind of restaurant), I returned to my table and a waiter promptly appeared and asked if I would like to start my dinner.
Dinner began with an amuse-bouche.
That was followed by a refreshing appetizer salad:
Fancy tomato salad with gazpacho ice ball, sundried tomato chutney, pickled wild tomato, tomato gumbo, smoked cream cheese, dill oil and crispy quinoa.
Next came duck liver…something I generally am averse to, but wanted to eat the entire menu and must admit it was still tasty (though my least favorite course…there’s something about liver that has always been off-putting for me). I would have preferred the grain on top be left off, but the grilled peach was so delicious.
Pan-seared duck liver with crispy mixed grains, grilled fresh peach, peach paper and caramelized peach sauce.
The next course was my favorite; a buttery halibut with a grilled brussels sprouts and pickled cucumber.
Pan-seared halibut with caper lemon butter, green pea purée, grilled brussels sprouts and cauliflower, pickled cucumber cubes and corn purée with curry powder.
The main course, of which I had a choice between grilled duck, filet mignon, or rack of lamb, came next. I ordered lamb, which was cooked a perfect medium rare as specified and served with with a lovely truffle potato croquette.
Pan-seared rack of lamb with cranberry madeira sauce beetroot purée, pickled beetroot cubes, roasted baby carrot, truffle potato croquette, caramelized onion and crispy onions.
I concluded the meal with dessert, a dash of pineapple cream with lemon meringue and other morsels.
Spiced salted pineapple ice cream with cinnamon crumble, pineapple granite, lemon sponge and meringue, pineapple gel and fruity mousse, coral tuile and butterfly fondant.
Just in the last month since my visit, the menu has changed a bit. Rather than a five-course or three-course option, there is now a first class, business class, or economy class option. The first class option includes seven courses (3200THB), business class five (1800THB), and economy class three (999THB).
I requested coffee after dinner, but the restaurant does not offer coffee! My bill came out to 2,808 Baht, about $83. Look, I know that you can dine royally for 83 cents in Thailand, but this was a special treat.
During dinner, a musician floated through the restaurant playing a saxophone.
Midway through dinner, the “storm” began. It’s a light and music show meant to convey the 40 days and 40 nights of rain in the biblical account of the flood. O Fortuna by Carmina Burana is used. The funny thing? Moments before the light show began it started to pour rain outside.
Indeed, for much of dinner it rained so hard the power went out during two different occasions. While this was not intentional, it added richly to the experience and the flickering candlelight at each table provided sufficient light to continue my meal.
The food was delicious – I met the assistant chef on my way out (Chef Mo-na Teeratada had the night off) and enjoyed a brief conversation about the genius behind this restaurant concept. I’m so proud of this expression of entrepreneurship.
Despite being an aircraft, the lavatories have been removed. However, there are restrooms on the ground level.
A shout-out to the excellent staff at the restaurant: everyone was a pleasure to speak to.
I simply loved my dining experience at Na-Oh Bangkok. The food was superb, but it was so much more than the food: it was the entire dining experience that made this one of the most memorable restaurants I have ever dined in and will bring me back next time I return to Bangkok, hopefully not alone next time. This restaurant is meant to be enjoyed with friends or loved ones.