Nara [Max Burkhalter]
How do you combine the food you grew up enjoying with cuisine you've spent the last few decades perfecting? Donald Chang's answer to that question is his West Ave. Japanese and Korean restaurant Nara. Touted as a Japanese food guru for his work at Uptown Sushi, some locals might remember when Chang launched another restaurant by the name Nara. That Nara was a Japanese restaurant that relied entirely on Chang's training rather than his cultural background. It did well, enjoying a decade-long run before closing several years ago. This new Nara is a different concept, one that will combine Chang's Korean heritage with his training in Japanese cuisine. It's far detached from Long Point's less flashy, less ritzy stretch of Korean dining establishments; Chang still aims to put the family-run idea at the forefront pf this new spot, reminding diners that the food they're sampling is made from authentic recipes, some written by his Korean family.
Chang has created distinct dining areas including a sushi bar and robata grill, which will allow him to show off his Japanese fare, as well as a private dining room for smaller events and an open-ended chef's bar, where Chang will exercise his creative muscle to create dishes that might astonish even the most jaded diner. Recipes from his mother will make a showing, as will the oh-so-in-demand bowl of ramen—any new Japanese fusion place would be remiss to open at this noodle-crazed time without serving up the dish of the moment. Look for traditional Korean dishes alongside modernized iterations, too. Fusion seems to have become ubiquitous at this Upper Kirby complex, with Latin-Indian fusion restaurant Trenza just on the opposite end from Nara . Bold flavors flank this development. What's yet to be seen is how receptive diners in this area will be to Korean fare if they walk in expecting Chang's Japanese cooking.
Just as any business man or woman will tell you, do what you know, and do it well, any artist will remind you to follow your instinct, your roots and your passion. So it makes sense that as the owner and chef at this ambitious new Asian fusion restaurant, Chang will pursue both of those endeavors. And with all of the press it's been receiving, it's high-profile location and with many of his family members relying on the restaurant's success, there is little room for anything less than a stellar product. Chang's attempt at merging his Korean heritage with his Japanese know-how is now available to the public, with the chef's table set to open in a few weeks. Head there for dinner from 5 to 11 p.m. Call (281) 249-5944 for reservations.
· Nara [Official Site]
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