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Thursday, June 16,2011

Thai one on at Naraya

By Clay Fong

Boulder´s Naraya Thai and Sushi, formerly known as Siamese Plate, offers an affordably priced Southeast Asian and Japanese menu, similar to its predecessor.

Happily, it’s also under new ownership. The previous proprietor, who was indicted on tax and employment charges, is long gone. What hasn’t changed much is the colorful décor in this second-floor venue, which still affords a picture-window perspective of Folsom Street below.

There were few customers around during a late lunch with friend Lisa, and we sat on upholstered seating bolstered by triangular-shaped cushions that brought Dr. Seuss’ surreal drawings to mind. We ordered off the lunch special menu, which features Thai specialties ranging in the seven- and eight-dollar range, depending on choice of protein. These include tofu, chicken, beef and shrimp, starring in such dishes as Jungle Curry and Prig Pow, a roasted chile-based entrée. Other available menu items include happy hour sushi specials, tempura and teriyaki plates, as well as a comprehensive array of Thai soups, salads, curries and stir-fries.

A miso soup starter, available for a modest $1.50 upcharge at lunch, tended more towards clear broth than more typical opaque versions clouded with soy sediment. Nevertheless, this bowl was more than acceptable, loaded up with plenty of nori, although there wasn’t much tofu to speak of.

I also enjoyed a $1.95 Thai ice tea, which possessed a subtle floral perfume alongside an almost smoky tea flavor, characteristics indicative of high quality. A tad more cream would have fully rounded out the flavor, making for a textbook version of this confection-like refresher.

Lisa and I both opted for traditional, if not predictably safe, Thai choices. Each came with a perfect ly  hot and crisp egg roll, with a pleasantly thin wrapper and fresh-tasting cabbage filling. Her main course was an $8.45 shrimp Pad Thai, the classic noodle dish that combines pungent fish sauce, creamy egg and peanut. While Lisa felt the dish was a little on the sweet side, and the skinnier noodles might require an adjustment for those accustomed to thicker ones, this was a fine interpretation. The shrimp were reasonably ample, and possessed quality flavor, a pleasant surprise at this price point. She had plenty of leftovers, and she later reported they were greatly appreciated by others at home.

I’m a bit of a sucker for good Thai curries, and I happily consumed my $7.25 red curry with chicken. The flavors were balanced with an appropriate hint of sweet mingling with earthy, peppery tones. One endearing aspect of this curry was that the included vegetables, including eggplant, zucchini and corn, were cooked crisp-tender, and retained appealing texture and their own flavors. I’d probably order it at a higher spice level next time, but I’ve taken to ordering Thai dishes at a more mild heat level on initial visits. Too often, less-skilled Thai restaurants use sugar and spice to mask otherwise indifferent flavors, and happily, this culinary camouflaging wasn’t the case here.

While it may not be the fanciest place in town, Naraya offers an economical, quick and satisfying alternative to similarly priced Asian offerings consisting of more pedestrian fare such as fried rice and sesame chicken. It’s a  decidedly low-key spot, which can be just the ticket for those seeking out unfussy but balanced Thai flavors in a quiet setting.

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