Where Did We Go?
2800 Kirby Drive, Houston, TX 77098
What's the Skinny?
Nara, a modern Korean restaurant with Japanese influences, has come on the scene and quickly discovered Houstonians "Achilles heel"…good food! Named Houston's "first modern Korean-inspired kitchen", they have been receiving rave reviews for dishes like their Spicy Oxtail Ramen, Bulgogi Pot Pie, and Spicy Butter Crab Roll. "SHUT THE YUM UP", is the first thing that comes to mind after hearing those dishes, right? Well, we are still waiting to try those classics because when we visited all we had on our minds was Korean BBQ. Our first visit was the week they opened their Korean Grill Room and in here is where the magic happens. Chef Donald Chang has created a modern and upscale experience, without losing the fun and traditional aspects of Korean BBQ.
To keep it real, as in real authentic, there is no better measure than having his Korean mother (Kyong Ja Chang) and sister (Head Kitchen Chef, Esther Cho) on staff. They are the only ones that have the top secret family recipe for the Banchan (small side dishes served with the Korean BBQ), which are prepared and served daily at Nara. Another great spin that Chef Chang has included with his Nara’s Korean BBQ experience is substituting the traditional cut of meats for premium cuts of meats - say hello Kobe Beef and Kurobuta Pork.
This semi-private, cozy and inventive grill room is located in the rear of the restaurant. It can seat up to 14 people and features three wooden tables; allowing each group of 4 to 5 people to experience their personal built-in yakiniku grill. Unlike many private rooms, the Nara Korean Grill Room is not just for private parties. Although it would be a great location to host an event, when not booked, the room is also available and open for community-style seating (reservations can be made for 2 to 12 people). The full main menu, drinks and desserts are also available in the grill room.
What Did We Love?
The highlight of the grill room is most definitely the Korean BBQ. Chef assistance is available for grilling, but that's no fun. We found it quite exciting to place our premium cuts of meats on the grill and cook them to our liking. There are several premium meats available including the Bulgogi (ribeye), Galbi (short rib), Ogyeopsal (brisket), and the Kurabota SamGyup Sal (pork belly). All beef is locally sourced from the Texas T Ranch in Wallis, Texas and the pork is procured from Kagoshima, Japan. The quality and texture is the most important thing when it comes to beef and the marbling found in the meat at Nara is the "proof in the pudding".
As we grilled our meats, it was recommend that we go light on the rice to allow the meat to shine. We can admit that this was quite difficult as the Tamaki Gold Japanese White Rice was pretty fantastic in itself. As each piece of meat was grilled, it was placed on red and white leaf lettuce, and rolled into a wrap along with rice and our choice of sauce. This created a perfect bite of juicy and flavorful goodness. The joy of Korean BBQ is that it's not very heavy, this meal was no exception, and we had enough room for dessert (which rarely happens). We held a toast to the evening with soju and that was the perfect way to break bread and ready ourselves for a memorable meal.
The entire dining experience was amazing and we highly recommend it.
Urban Swank did receive a complimentary tasting, but the opinions expressed are our own.