Saturday, January 5, 2008

Naraya ~ 7

I'd driven by this tucked-away Thai place a hundred times, down S. Robertson on my way to the 10 freeway. Late one night I was craving a new, close-to-home (BH) Thai experience so I meandered into Naraya and was pleasantly surprised. The tiny space possessed a casual, Zen elegance and the food was both unique and good. I soon returned with my camera to write a blog … here are my findings. Their fancy cocktails are inexpensive anyway but they offer happy hour everyday from 4-7pm. Half price starters and drinks! We missed magic hour but indulged nonetheless in a Water Melon Martini (2 actually) and a Blue Mojito. There’s not a completely full bar but they serve wine, beer and made our drinks with Han, and Asian vodka that I liked. My melon-tini was smooth and the mojito perfectly minty but not overly sweet.

We began our adventure with the Naraya Radish Crowns. The texture was intriguing; both crunchy and soft. The sweet, nutty flavor was a smart contrast with the crispy garlic garnish. Each crown perched on one pristine spinach leaf, and surrounded a cabbage slaw dressed with creamy chili sauce.

We devoured a second appetizer (and over ate just to give our fellow foodies a better blog report.) Golden Pouches arrived, artistically presented on circular banana leaves. The crispy wontons enveloped succulent rock shrimp and were tied together with ribbons of green onion … pure pleasure for the mouth.

One of their specialties, Duck Salad, truly lived up to its simple name. Elsewhere when I’ve ordered duck salad, there has been a miniscule portion of duck. At first glance, we were worried but then discovered a plentiful amount of smoky, peppery duck layered beneath mixed greens, which were perfectly coated with chili-lime dressing. Candied walnuts (menu reads pistachios) mingled with grape tomatoes and I enjoyed le canard (the duck) in almost every bite!

Last, we tried steamed Chilean Sea Bass. Now, maybe it was and maybe it wasn't of true Chilean ilk, but I haven’t seen Chilean Bass for $18.00 in a long, long time. In any case, Chilean Sea Bass is really just Patagonian toothfish, but that name didn’t go over well commercially. (It’s known as Mero in Japan and Merluza Negra in South America.) The white fish was tender, but slightly undercooked and we were pulling bones. The emerald city of vegetables built around the fish however, was a delicate garden of freshness. Chinese celery, Japanese shitakes and baby bok choy were perfectly cooked with a touch of fresh ginger; simple but satisfying.

I look forward to another meal at Naraya. The menu is creative and priced fairly for the quality of food, ranging from $4-$21 for Australian Lamb Chop with Thai panang curry sauce, kaffir lime leaf, and green tea rice. The service is excellent and very personal. On my first visit, I inquired about their Pad Thai and was told they use real tamarind which is expensive and most restaurants replace it with sugar and peanut sauce. My server actually brought out some tamarind to show me. Maybe that’s why their Pad Thai a little more expensive … you get what you pay for. I love restaurants like this; Small, family run, with a focus on high quality food and friendly customer service. Naraya also offers great lunch specials.

THE BOTTOM LINE: A creative fusion of traditional Thai food and modern flavors, served in a casual, but stylish atmosphere. See my rating for Naraya on my blog, Foodflirt90210.


1128 S. Robertson Blvd. LA, Ca 90035