3 stars for The Little Asian Kitchen on Coral Way

One step into the harsh fluorescent glare of this Coral Way pan-Asian might make you think about doing an about-face. But don’t. Though it has all the charm of a high school cafeteria with purple walls, faux terra cotta tiles and fake plants, this newcomer sparkles when it comes to the food, especially the curries.

That’s thanks to the talented and friendly chef and co-owner Patama Nitnara, a native of southern Thailand who has been cooking in Miami for more than a decade including runs at the Setai on South Beach and Moon Thai. She runs the kitchen here with amazing grace, and comes out to chat with guests when she gets a chance.

The menu (soon to feature more duck and fish dishes) is probably twice as long as it should be, with more than 70 items, including an array of flashy sushi rolls and made-to-order desserts. The pacing of the meal can be erratic, but the young servers hustle.

What Worked

  • Fresh, delicious and gorgeously seasoned “white tuna” chunks
    Fantastic goi chon — shrimp, vermicelli and greens freshly rolled in rice paper with a sweet, warm hoisin and peanut dipping sauce
  • A bountiful nest of green papaya salad with a tender snap and a distinct hit of spice
  • A meaty rendition of pho with a simple broth that includes a platter of super-fresh culantro, mint, bean sprouts and lime to create a complex and multi-textured meal that is too big for one person
  • Simple but delicious red Thai curry topped with baby basil leaves – tender lozenges of white meat chicken in a creamy, spicy broth of coconut milk, dotted with colorful strips of red bell pepper, green peas, crunchy bamboo slices and sweet, fresh pineapple
  • Lush, delectable pad Thai topped with fresh shrimp and lots of just-roasted peanuts and herbs
  • Exquisite green apple sweet rolls that tasted like a freshly made, gourmet version of a McDonald’s apple pie – a flaky, cigar-sized cylinder stuffed with tiny cubes of hot, cooked apple alongside cold coconut ice cream and whipped cream
  • A modest $10 corkage fee