By Amy McCarthy
By Scott Reitz
By Scott Reitz
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Alice Laussade
By City of Ate
Parking in front of Naan Korean Grill & Sushi Bar isn't free unless you drive a hybrid. They actually have meters in front of every primo spot in front of the restaurant (just like all the other establishments that are a part of the newish Watters Creek outdoor mall in Allen) that say "free parking for hybrids" and require that all other vehicles pay by the hour. Three cheers for instantly sending all Hummer drivers in Allen through their shiny new sunroofs, Watters Creek Mall. You get all kinds of points for out-uppity-ing the uppity.
We arrived around 7 p.m. for dinner, and inside you could feel that it was that strange quiet time of evening that happens at all restaurants when the dinner rush hasn't quite started yet. The waiters who worked the lunch shift are punching out, and the dinner shifters are punching in. For those two chicks at the bar who've been flirting with the bartender for the last two hours, happy hour is beginning to turn into sad hour.
We were seated in the middle of the restaurant, surrounded by several empty tables in a space whose openness gave off a distinct mall vibe. For a place that offers $19 sushi rolls, the layout wasn't elegant.
Calamari with wasabi$9
Bul go gi$17
Shrimp and vegetable tempura$10
Texas Tornado roll$16
To start our meal, we had the calamari and the short ribs. I think we got the calamari because wasabi cocktail sauce sounded more exciting than it actually ended up being. Turns out, when it's hidden in a cocktail sauce, wasabi, unsurprisingly, tastes just like regular horseradish. This wasn't bad; we just felt dumb for ordering it—like we should have asked for breadsticks and bottomless salad too. The pork ribs were big, marinated in a sort of Thai peanut sauce and swimming in a shallow pond of sweet chili sauce. They were tasty with a nice amount of heat, but I couldn't help feeling that this was something that would be right at home on the Cheesecake Factory menu. And that's pretty much the feeling you get from the entire place, which might be exactly what you should expect from a restaurant that's housed across from the Victoria's Secret at an outdoor mall.
For our main course, this night we went with sushi. If you're really into rolls, this place has plenty of options for you. I just hope you're also really into cream cheese since a lot of their rolls include it. (It's not that I don't like cream cheese in the occasional roll, but I always try to limit it to a reasonable percentage of the rolls to avoid that post-roll cheese bloat.) Jalapeño is also prevalent, and the jalapeño roll was one of the better offerings, with a sliced jalapeño, avocado, tuna, spicy sauce and roughly chopped octopus. Chopping the octopus into smaller pieces eliminated the usual toughness problem you get with octopus sashimi, and the roll was overall a nice surprise. And we also enjoyed the Texas Tornado, with its yellowtail, cream cheese, jalapeño and scallions deep-fried in a tempura batter, but it was more of that Texas State Fair sort of enjoyment than anything else. The Naan special is an insult to everyone. It's basically a sliced Vietnamese spring roll (stuffed with crab, tuna, salmon, asparagus and mango), only somehow it's the blandest spring roll on the planet and doesn't hold together well when sliced. Probably should have tried the Korean Kowboy (which involved short ribs and blue cheese), but we'd already done the pork short rib appetizer and chickened out.
As for the sashimi, these are thick, thick slices, like they brought us mini tuna and salmon steaks. The tuna was not nearly as good as what you might be able to get in a pre-packaged sushi lunch from Central Market—the best adjective to describe it would be "grainy." The salmon was fresh-tasting and buttery, but each of the five pieces had a little corner of what seemed to be connective tissue, which threw off the experience and suggested that it was training night at the sushi bar.
The next night we went, we started our meal off with the veggie and shrimp tempura. It couldn't have been more boring. Now, I know that ordering something like veggie and shrimp tempura isn't exactly a walk on the wild side, but just because a dish is simple doesn't mean it has to be tasteless. And from asparagus to fried onion rings, this dish was just completely uninteresting. It made me long for an Awesome Blossom.
For entrees, the only two options that were offered for tableside grilling were the bul go gi and the kal bi with assorted vegetables. Since you're not trusted to tend to your own food on your built-into-the-table hibachi grill, reason No. 52 not to take a date to this establishment would be the totally awkward moment that happens while your server grills your dinner in front of you. He's not talking. You're not talking because you don't want him to eavesdrop on your conversation about what a tool your boss is, and in the meantime you're watching him and thinking, "Shouldn't he be turning that meat? I'd totally be turning that meat at this point if I were him. Why isn't he turning the meat?" It just doesn't make for a comfy series of moments.