NaiYaRa is located at 1854 Bay Rd. This area is becoming a hotbed for great restaurants in the Sunset Harbour area. People who live nearby must be thrilled. Pubbelly, Pubbelly Sushi, Lucali, Ice Box, Barceloneta and of course my favourite True Loaf Bakery. NaiYaRa opened across the breezeway from Panther Coffee. Chef Bee from Oishi Thai in North Miami, showcases an eclectic menu featuring Thai street fare and Japanese food.
The restaurant has a massive open kitchen and zinc topped bar. There are massive fishing baskets hanging from the ceiling, and hand painted elephant murals throughout. The tables are Indonesian teak. The atmosphere is very nice. I wish they would turn down the air conditioning a notch as the place was an ice box.
So people are calling this authentic Thai and Japanese food. Sorry, but I beg to differ. I have only travelled to Thailand three times and Japan once, but I can tell you my food there did not taste like this.
Every item seems to be saturated in sugar and fish sauce. Most everything tasted cloyingly sweet or salty. The tastes were not what I would call subtle. The food had more of a commercialized taste to them. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of the food was good, but I don’t recall one outstanding dish.
But, the kitchen was creative, the food was fresh. We started with some rolls, like the NaiYaRa Roll, which was probably my favourite. It contained salmon belly, cucumber, avocado and truffle oil. We also tried the Sunset Harbour Roll with crab, mango, cucumber and avocado. The Rock and Roll was a shrimp tempura with spicy mayo, asparagus and avocado. The presentations were all pretty, but if you know good sushi, you are mostly getting pretty rolls. Is the quality of the rice or the fish transporting? No. It is more designer rolls, which is fine.
Next we had some salmon tacos, also very pretty and a favourite by some at our table. The pad thai was weak for me, but others liked it. My favourite dish was the Waterfall Salad with tender skirt steak, cucumbers, bell peppers and tomatoes. It had a good balance of flavours. The deep fried chicken dumplings were okay, nothing special. The papaya salad had too much sugar and fish sauce. The popcorn shrimp was a little too doughy, and I guess I hold everything to Nobu‘s rock shrimp standard. The crab rice was good but I recommend not using the accompanying sauce with it, which was so salty it was inedible. We all enjoyed the red curry duck in a sweet coconut broth with pineapple. It was accompanied by some jasmine rice. However, curries usually have a kick to them and I think they are afraid to do this with their American crowd. You have to give your diners more credit, people travel and have more sophisticated palates, then just sweet or salty. Same goes for the green curry with sea bass which could have been more fiery than just sweet. Ying and Yang is a better balance.
There are not that many vegetarian options, even the eggplant has pork and oyster sauce in it.
For dessert we had some donut balls, which were okay and a chocolate mousse dish that many enjoyed.
Our server was very attentive, maybe even overly attentive. He must have asked us ten times how everything was. But better that than the opposite.
This place is still a great alternative for the neighborhood. The place has a good energy, people seem to be having fun. The chef is really trying to be creative. I personally feel it is more culinary entertainment rather than fine cooking. But sometimes that is what you are in the mood for too.