When one stumbles across the rare breed of people who clearly love what they do, it shows in the quality of the food and embodies the soul of the entire restaurant.
I was kindly invited by my fellow blogger traveler foodie to taste and experience NaraDeva Thai restaurant located in the Mall of Millennia vicinity (strip mall next to Super Target). Not the ideal walk-in location but since when has location or distance factored in my quest for discovering restaurants offering delectable food? Moreover, it’s not often that one finds restaurateurs who will open their kitchens to critique; it is a bold move which can swing both ways. Personally to me, it speaks volumes about the confidence and pride the owners feels for their food.
NaraDeva is the brain child created by the love affair of 26 years. It’s owned by a husband and wife duo. The owner’s talent lies not only in her exquisite cooking but is showcased by her ‘hands on’ approach of personally staining the beams, laying down the floor tiles, and even distressing the fireplace.
Too many restaurants tone and even change the originality of their food to appeal the masses. The extensive menu at NaraDeva boasts of a menu inspired by her mother’s cooking, a few dishes from the streets of Thailand and some handed down by family generations.
Pricing might seem a tad higher when you glance at the menu, but the generous portions and fresh cooking seems justifiable. Even though I had researched the menu; I felt it appropriate to let the lady of the house (restaurant in this case) recommend her favorite dishes on the menu. I had no clue what a lavish spread I was in for.
Very few restaurants make Tom Yum soup from scratch; they do. It was the perfect balance of salty, sweet, sour, and spicy with a delicately flavored clear broth.
The chicken curry puffs were delicate in flavor, melting in your mouth, encased in delicate buttery dough. Did I mention the dough was made in house too?
The Chicken Satay was grilled perfectly sweet; the fresh peanut sauce was delicate yet bursting with flavors.
The Papaya Salad dressing was light and fresh, dressed with a bold burst of fresh Thai chili. How refreshing!
Thai dishes are often altered to appease the American palate. The owner holds her own with Pad Thai by keeping the dish close to home in flavor. One of the best we have had the pleasure of tasting.
The Pork Ribs were a unique item; I haven’t seen in Thai restaurants. True, the pork wasn’t similar to the ever popular southern style pork BBQ in texture, but the addition of the sweet wine sauce, served with the BEST Fried rice I have ever tasted, made this dish worth trying.
Crispy Duck – Most restaurants should remove the ‘crispy’ from their menu. It is made well but fails to disappoint me in their crispness. NaraDeva is one of the few places where the crispy duck literally crackles in your mouth. And tossed with her deep flavored sauce, it was an impeccably made dish. Same can be said about the Crispy Duck Salad.
Sautéed pork coated with sweet garlic sauce got an additional lift from the generous black pepper serving, nicely done.
I might be responsible for the mildly flavored dishes in regards to the heat, since I chickened out at the mention of ‘Thai hot’. However, with the interplay of deep flavors in each dish, for once the addition of heat was unnecessary. It was just that good.
I per se, don’t have much of a sweet tooth. Since, I have a soft spot for sticky rice; we got to try the Coconut Custard, Black Sticky Rice with Coconut Sauce, and Sticky Rice with Pumpkin Custard. Another place the owner’s passion for good food is showcased. Both the versions of sticky rice were freshly made, in house. It is rather time-consuming, not to mention finding the right quality of black rice; an apt delicate finish to our wonderfully flavorful meal.
Unlike French cuisine, South Eastern cuisine cannot be given justice by skillfully presented photographs or eloquent writing. The savory-spicy flavors of Thai food have to be tasted to truly relish its worth.
Only on extremely rare occasions do I venture out to Indian restaurants outside of India simply because I cook Indian food and nothing remotely tastes even similar to what I am accustomed to having being raised in India. I can relate to the owner’s commitment to maintain the sanctity of authentic Thai dishes, inspired by her mother’s cooking. This being said short of taking a flight to Thailand, NaraDeva seems to be one of the rare places reminiscent of authentic style Thai cooking.
For all the people hooked on heat and complex yet comforting flavors Thai cuisine has to offer, NaraDeva is one restaurant I am pleased to endorse is worth the trek, regardless of which suburb of Orlando you reside in. So for the exotic in you, give NaraDeva a chance and I encourage you to share your experience with family and friends.