Nara is a new Korean and Japanese fusion restaurant in the West Ave shopping center off of Upper Kirby, in the old Katusya space. I have been very interested in making a visit since I first heard about it. But, you know wedding, honeymoon, and I completely forgot about it. Well, since we've settled in, Matt and I have decided to implement date night and this past Friday was our first. It was an automatic...Nara!
So, if you didn't know, I'm Korean. So, naturally, you would suspect I would be more critical of a Korean restaurant. But, I have every intention of being open minded, but still, I am influenced by my experience of Korean food. When you walk in, you can see the old Katsuya's presence, just a bit. There's still the large open spaces, sushi bar in the center, and bar to the right of the door. They have revamped and it does look great. I decide I do not want to do any sushi since I have had Uptown sushi's sushi. You know, since Nara is the same owner as Uptown Sushi, chef/owner Don Chang. We mostly went with our sever suggestions, the Shiseto peppers, rice cake with oxtail, bibeembap, steamed buns with short ribs, steamed buns with chicken, mimi chicken salad, the kimchi, and the green tiramisu. Our favorites were the rice cake with oxtail, bibeembap, and chicken salad. I like the crispyness of the rice cake, sauce and the oxtail. It had a nice texture and tasted great too. The bibeembap, mixed rice with fried egg was pretty tasty too, and the mimi chicken salad just tasted light, I really liked the dressing on it, light soy based vinegar sauce. The kimchi was bland, it just wasn't ripe enough. But, if you aren't used to kimchi, you probably wouldn't notice. The green tiramisu was pretty good too.
I thought the menu was a little slim and a lot of Uptown Sushi's presence on it. It was probably only the appetizers, salads, and main entrees that seemed new. The staff has this Uchi-like presence about them, this team work style and explanation of foods type environment. I heard people complaining about the portions of the dishes. Our sever explained it was like a tapas style, small sharing plates. We were stuffed by the end of dinner for two. We ordered about 9 dishes and it came out to $140 including 2 glasses of wine, which isn't bad. I think if you keep an open mind and keep in mind it's Korean/Japanese fusion, you'll have a nice experience. Overall, we liked our visit and it was a great place for our first date night.