Most chefs keep a few culinary tricks up their sleeves for special events and good customers, and Chef Bee at NaiYaRa is no exception. His o'toro tartare isn't listed on the menu, but enough people have learned about it that it's become the restaurant's most requested not-quite-so-secret dish.
Thus, with the tuna being out of the bag, so to speak, Piyarat Potha Arreeratn, AKA Chef Bee, invited Miami New Times to try the o'toro tartare, as well as some other house specialties. In December, Bee's popular Sunset Harbour eatery will turn 1, and we took the opportunity to ask the Thai toque to reflect on the past year.
Forget the saying the best things in life are free, because NaiYaRa's o'toro tartare costs a whopping $65. But the dish's main ingredient, otoro, refers to the extrafatty meat taken from the underbelly of a bluefin tuna. Indeed, the best slices of otoro sell for around $25 per piece at upscale sushi restaurants, and in 2013 a whole bluefin tuna sold for a record $1.76 million, or $3,603 per pound. Needless to say, Chef Bee doesn't skimp on the delicacy here.
The NaiYaRa rolls' main ingredient is tasty salmon belly.
Photo by Valeria Nekhim Lease
After finely mincing the fatty otoro, he enhances the protein with freshly grated wasabi, truffle paste, rayu (a hot sesame-seed oil), and a honey-kimchee sauce. According to Bee, the wasabi at NaiYaRa consists of 80 percent Japanese wasabi and 20 percent horseradish, whereas in many eateries the proportions are reversed. The tartare is then pressed into a wooden box and brushed with homemade soy sauce. And, as if this dish weren't already luxurious enough, Bee crowns it with ikura, caviar, edible gold flakes, freshly shaved black truffles, marinated fresh wasabi, and rice crackers for some crunch. Edible flowers are positioned on top.
An obsessive amount of attention has been devoted to NaiYaRa's o'toro tartare, and the effort more than pays off. The tender fish's meat is the real deal, and it will knock you back a bit. It's a little sweet, salty, and spicy all at once, and thankfully none of the accoutrements distract from the otoro itself.
Chef Bee earned accolades when he worked at the now-defunct Khong River House, but he now has two places of his own: Oishi Thai in North Miami and NaiYaRa, which is named for his daughter, Naiya. Since it opened, NaiYaRa has been one of the most sought-after reservations in town thanks to its buzzy atmosphere and refined Thai-meets-Japanese fare. The upbeat chef expresses gratitude to his team and loyal customers for making the past year such a success.
Our waiter described the milk chocolate pot de crème as a cross between panna cotta and mousse.
Photo by Valeria Nekhim Lease
NaiYaRa hasn't changed since it opened last December, says Bee; "it's only gotten better." According to him, the best way to experience the eatery is to come for happy hour on Friday and order some appetizers and drinks for $7 each before proceeding into the dining room.
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Other items he recommends (these are on the menu) are the beef jerky with Burmese sticky rice, the crispy bok choi, the crab fried rice, and the green curry sea bass. They were all winners, particularly the delicate sea bass with its aromatic broth. NaiYaRa also has a signature roll made with tamaki gold rice. The NaiYaRa roll features salmon belly, cucumber, avocado, scallion, and truffle oil.
Chef Bee and his team have no specific plans for NaiYaRa at the moment aside from continually improving. Sounds like a good enough answer.