One of 2015's most anticipated restaurants, NaiYaRa, is set to open at 1854 Bay Road in Miami Beach's Sunset Harbour neighborhood, joining Pubbelly, Lucali, Icebox Café, Sardinia, and the Fresh Market to further solidify the reputation of this out-of-the-way pocket of South Beach as a culinary oasis.
According to an update by Amicon Construction, a boutique firm that's spearheading the build-out, the restaurant's design will showcase "retro Thai culture, materials, and artifacts in a contemporary setting" and is slated to be finished by the end of this March.
The restaurant is Piyarat Arreeratn's ode to Thai street food. Affectionately known as Chef Bee, Arreeratn had been making food at Oishi Thai since 2005, but he gained major notoriety at Khong River House when he helped open the restaurant in December 2012 and then abruptly left about six months later. The departure resulted in a lawsuit filed against the chef by Khong parent 50 Eggs, which accused the chef of stealing trade secrets, while Bee's attorney accused 50 Eggs of trying to do a "Vulcan mind wipe" of the chef's cooking knowledge. The lawsuit was later settled.
Now, Bee is opening the restaurant he has always envisioned, concentrating on the food that inspired him from his youth. "Since my childhood, I have had the opportunity to grow up next to six different countries and have been inspired by a variety of food from those areas." Everything about this endeavor is personal, down to the name and elephant logo, the chef explains. "In our culture, the elephant is the symbol for hard work, long life, and honesty. [Naiyara] is also my lovely 4-year-old daughter's name."
— Killer Bee (@Chef__Bee) January 10, 2015
If you follow the chef on Twitter, you've probably seen dozens of tantalizing dishes he's been working on. However, the chef says those are just the tip of the iceberg. "So far, I have only shown not even 5 percent of what I can do. This year with NaiYaRa, I will offer Sunset Harbour more of me from Mekong River, plus my culinary experiences." The chef is talking about the extensive travel he's done in the past year, as well as learning from mentors such as Nobu Matsuhisa and Naoe's Kevin Cory.
Bee says NaiYaRa will offer both Thai and Japanese cuisine, with a heavy emphasis on the soulful street food he adores.
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Although NaiYaRa's opening was initially slated for fall 2014, some permitting issues and street construction delayed the debut. But Arreeratn says the project has gained momentum and is near completion. "The city will take another couple months to get the streets fixed, and we are hoping NaiYaRa can open to the public at that time."