Craving curry as well as a California roll? Get both at Thai Rama Sushi, a stylish spot in Miami Springs where you can dial the heat up or down, from mild to mouth-smoking, on a five-star scale. Owner Mony Lon came to Miami in 1981 as a young Cambodian refugee and grew up in Pembroke Pines. He won a scholarship to the New York School of Visual Arts, and on summer break in 1994 returned to Cambodia, where he met and married his wife, Neang. She moved in with his parents and helped his mother cook at Thai restaurants while he finished school. Mony worked for several design firms in Miami, and seven years ago bought the restaurant, creating a serene space presided over by a painting of Jayavarman VII, the great Khmer king.
Thai and Cambodian cuisines share the same ingredients and Chinese-Javanese-Indian influences, so it was no stretch for a Cambodian family to take over a Thai place. He hired his sister-in-law, Heamg Sea, to cook and mastered sushi himself. Fans of Thai food covet the low tables with cushions. Begin with skewers of beef or chicken satay, spiced fried squid or ground pork patties wrapped in wontons and fried until golden served with plum sauce. Salads can make a light meal with lime-marinated meat or seafood punched up with chile paste, lemon grass and kaffir lime leaves on a bed of lettuce. Soups are based on lemony broth enhanced with a touch of kapi (fermented shrimp paste), garlic, and roasted chile powder with cute little straw mushrooms and bell pepper strips plus a protein. Pan-fried noodles include pad Thai, pad kee mao (with vegetables) and pad woonsen (glass noodles with celery, egg and bean sprouts). Curries range from slightly sweet Southern-style massaman with potatoes and cashews to hot, aromatic green with bamboo shoots and peas.
House specialties include red curry fish with pineapple, ginger chicken and basil duck — crispy, boneless pieces with sweet Thai basil adding a touch of anise flavor. The dishes here are clean and grease-free, so it’s best to end with fruit — just ask what’s in season.