By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Alice Laussade
By City of Ate
By Scott Reitz
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Alice Laussade
N9NE tried it. Now they're no more. Nove Italiano tried it. Now they're no more. Now Naga Thai is trying it, opening a restaurant in the overpriced abyss known as Victory Park. Einstein once said that one definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. So, is Naga Thai insane, or does it have a restaurant plan so crazy it just might work?
665 High Market St.
Dallas, TX 75219
Region: Uptown & Oak Lawn
I really don't love going down there. The parking bites, and it's never quite as happening as it claims (and longs) to be. So many storefronts stand empty. And unless there's a Mavs game or a Keith Urban concert, the action is limited to half-dressed women outside of Ghost Bar (not that that's a bad thing) and the "see and be seen" crowd at Craft.
But we quickly found free parking, and things were already looking up. The look and feel of Naga Thai is pretty simple and comfy. A banquette facing out to the street sits at the restaurant's front—lousy view but great use of space—and a medium-sized dining room with wide, curved booths and tables with high-backed chairs sits just below.
Lots of curves and curls unwind throughout the place—in the geode-like art on the walls (which looked to be Christopher Martin) to the curling fabric pattern on the back of the booths to the miles of carrots that decorated our plates. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
The space was warmly lit. Read: Everyone looked good in that light. A mod, bean sprout-looking chandelier; orange color scheme; and groovy, toothy wood border all around lent a cool vibe. And the large, glass-doored wine cellar made it look as if you could walk right up and help yourself, although I'm pretty sure you'd get kicked to the curb if you tried it.
As for the bad and the ugly. One: enough with the club music already. And two: Are a pair of televisions over the bar and one in each bathroom really necessary?
Here's what Naga does have working for it—choices. The menu is divided up into seven sections, including a series of styles from ginger to cashew to sweet onion that you can have made with your choice of chicken, beef, tofu, veggies or shrimp. The number of permutations is pretty impressive. Sorry, no idea how to do that math.
Speaking of math, as far as prices go, these are the kind of equations I don't mind one bit. Although very out of character for that part of town, entrees ranged from $11 to $18 and the apps all hovered around $5 or $6. Not bad.
We decided to go dim sum-style to start, ordering a variety of little plates, each of which came out decorated with curls and curls of carrots. I went for the steamed dumplings first. The noodle was al dente, and the inside was a balanced blend of chicken and shrimp. (Your average joint serves pork and shrimp.) I really enjoyed the mild texture and taste that the chicken provides, and the honey chili sauce that it came with it was sticky, spicy and sweet.
My companion went straight for the crab Rangoon, of which I am generally not a big fan. Not a cream cheese girl. But they were the cutest little fried things. At first bite, "Wow" was all she managed. I tried it for myself and can certainly see the attraction. The outside was crisp and a great contrast to the creamy, crabby insides.
The tum tip fritters on the other hand were my kind of fried goodness. Filled with chicken and shrimp and served with sweet chili sauce, they hit just the right balance between savory and sweet and crispy and, um, not. Not sure what the opposite of crispy is. Not mushy. Firm, maybe. Anyway, they were delish.
But the pièce de résistance was the egg roll. The rolls were crispy, flaky perfection outside, and the middle was mushy. Not in a bad way, but in an excellent, textural perpendicularity to the crisp of the roll's wrapper. I would battle my way through the Victory weekend gold diggers for these babies.
As for the entrees, the first to arrive was the fried rice, which sadly turned out to be a bad pick. It was way too spicy in that "look how hot I am" kind of the way instead of the "man, that's flavorful" sort of way.
The sweet chili sea bass, on the other hand, was just as sea bass should be. Crisp on the top with flaky, tender layers of fresh, sweet meat beneath. The sauce it came in was nectarous and zingy and was particularly good on the crisp asparagus and broccoli. The dish was gorgeous, too, with all of its variety and bright colors.
The Massaman curry was also quite tasty. It was milky with just the right amount of zip to wake your mouth up but not send it running for cover. The chicken, sweet potatoes and lotus root made for a pleasurable mix of feels and tastes.
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