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Narraya

4475 Mission Boulevard, San Diego, 92109, United States

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This neighbourhood Thai restaurant in Pacific Beach has a reputation for using some unusual ingredients. The premises are quite smart, though the lighting, as so often the case in restaurants in the USA, was remarkably murky. The waitress seemed very anxious at to the level of spicing that we could tolerate, repeatedly suggesting that we should have our dishes adjusted to be mild, despite our reassurances that we had both been to Thailand several times. The menu was lengthy and had that rather unpromising sign, pictures of the food. I do not really see any inherent reason why this is a bad idea, indeed rather the contrary, but I have rarely eaten good food in a place where photos of the dishes appear printed on the menu. It suggests somewhere where the clientele need reassurance about what might turn up on the plate. The menu itself was extensive and covered a range of regions of Thailand.

Tom yum goong was served in a heated metal dispenser, and although the prawns in it were fine, the stock itself was too sweet, and the spice mix did not have the rich complexity that the best versions of this classic dish have (11/20). Worse was minced bison, which was served with some onions but was remarkably bland, hardly having any spices at all, so all you really tasted was a plate of minced meat (10/20).

Dover sole was deep fried, served fillleted, and suffered from a sickly sweet sauce that entirely overwhelmed the taste of the fish, though the latter was cooked OK (11/20). A mixed seafood dish had some pleasant scallops in amongst a range of fish and shellfish, but was again rather bland, the advertised peppercorns one of the few elements to give much spicy kick (barely 11/20). Better were entirely decent pad Thai noodles, with good texture (12/20).

The bill was USD 40 per person with a few beers, which is not excessive, but I was less worried by the bill than the consistent over-sweetening and lack of a sure hand in the spicing department, which is surely what good Thai food should be all about. Service from Thai waitresses in smart silk dresses was fine.

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