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Review

Krescent Carasso

Nari

$$$$
Thai  in  Japantown
Written by
Krescent Carasso

We learned growing up that it’s not polite to tell people what to do, so we don’t. But there are exceptions, and this is one of them: Make a reservation at Nari now.

So why the sense of urgency? This Thai spot in the Hotel Kabuki serves some of the most creative and exciting food in the city. It’s also one of the most beautiful restaurants around. And when you finish a meal here, you’ll feel like you just witnessed greatness, like watching Freddie Mercury work a crowd, Babe Ruth call his shot, or Serena Williams win a 23rd Grand Slam.

Krescent Carasso

The food at Nari is an explosion of flavors, textures, and spices that command your attention more than a fireworks finale on New Year’s Eve. And much like watching colorful whistling palm trees and hoosker doos in the night sky, the sour and spicy yum som-o salad and bright betel leaves topped with coconut, fish sauce caramel, pomegranate, and roe will leave your brain synapses firing in all directions (and your body trying to comprehend the intense happiness coursing through it). And when you take one bite of the tender duck breast in a rich curry, don’t be surprised when you turn to your neighbor and yell “holy sh*t!” before making a mental note to replace Charlie Conway as your favorite duck of all time.

And just when you think Nari’s dishes couldn’t get any better (or more surprising), an intensely spicy charred mushroom salad with Thai bird chilies will land on your table and fill your mouth with a lasting burn you’ll never want to go away. Or a plate of sweet pork jowl and squid that balance each other better than a performance by Michaels and MacElroy.

It’s not just the food that makes dinner at Nari so incredible. The inside looks like a lush greenhouse filled with ferns and potted plants, and large windows that amplify every beam of sunlight. It’s the kind of place you’ll want to keep ordering creative cocktails and plates of stone fruit mah hor just to have an excuse to stay. And if you flat-out ignored our original request (seriously, you still haven’t made a reservation?), go for cocktails and small bites in the upstairs bar that feels like a hidden mid-century lounge.

If you were offered the opportunity to see Tiger win his fifth Masters, you wouldn’t think twice before saying yes. Apply that same attitude when we tell you to go to Nari. The scene is that pretty and the food is that outstanding. Plus, no one wants to live with crushing regret. So pick a date and get here already.

Food Rundown

Stone Fruit Mah Hor

We need this recipe so we can serve this refreshing dish as an appetizer at all our parties. It’s a slice of blood orange topped with a small ball of pork, shrimp, garlic, coriander root, and coconut sugar.

Laab Hed

These lettuce cups with charred mushroom and puffed rice salad are easily the spiciest thing on the menu. It will set your mouth on fire - but you’ll like the burn so much you’ll eat it up until it’s all gone.

Gaeng Gradang Bites

If you’ve never eaten head cheese before, these incredible spicy pork croquettes are a great place to start.

Miang

Someone challenged Nari to stuff every flavor and texture into one delicious bite - and Nari won. The toasted coconut, fish roe, pomegranate, and fish sauce caramel make this crunchy, salty, oily, and sweet at the same time. Of the snacks on the menu, this is our favorite.

Squid And Pork Jowl

The pork jowl is covered in a sweet, sticky sauce, and melts away like cotton candy. This is the best thing you’ll eat all week.

Yum Som-O

The spicy Thai bird chilies and cooling pomelo and cucumber make every bite hit like a boxing match. We can’t remember the last time we called a salad exciting, and this one is.

Khao Tung & Ngob

If we were stranded in a desert and had to choose between this seafood curry and a backpack containing a GPS, a phone, and a canteen of life-saving water, we’d choose this dish.

Ribeye & Namprik Makmaad

The prickly ash relish, charred scallions, and sticky rice make this one of the more interesting ribeyes we’ve had in awhile. But it isn’t as great as the other mains.

Massaman Gai

You’ll want to record a video of how tender this lamb shank is when you pull it off the bone - so you can watch it (and salivate) later.

Gaeng Golek

Nari’s duck is a perfect medium with crispy skin, and you’ll want to eat the southern-style curry with nigella seeds, fenugreek, and cumin through a straw if it were an option, but they’re best together.

Dreaming Of Lod Chong

This pandan parfait is lightly salted and comes in a bowl with chipped ice. As long as you’re OK chomping down on small ice chips, it’s a really refreshing dessert.

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