This Coral Gables favorite Thai restaurant just opened a spot in North Miami Beach

Panang curry at Moon Thai and Japanese restaurant is available with several meats, including jumbo shrimp.

In Thailand doing anything has to be sanuk or fun, and at the new Moon Thai in North Miami Beach, it means a good time with organic fare.

Sit outside at a communal table or order a cocktail at the bar. The walls are inlaid with polished black pebbles and recesses hold Buddha statues. Restaurateur Jack Punma grew up in Pisanuloke, a town between Chaing Mai and Bangkok, on a farm where he climbed palm trees to get coconuts. He also picked fruits and vegetables and pounded curry pastes for his single mother to sell at the market. The entrepreneur studied business at the University of Miami, putting himself through college working in restaurants. He opened the first Moon in Coral Gables 18 years ago. He loves seeing a full moon over the ocean, thus the name.

Start With These Dishes

Bento boxes are a good choice at Moon Thai and Japanese restaurant

There are four menus to mix and match: Thai, Japanese, dim sum and lunch, where bento boxes and Japanese sushi, sashimi and roll combos are featured.

If going Japanese, start with the Uni Lover. The sea urchin is served in a shot glass of sweet sake with a raw quail egg to drink in one gulp. It also includes shiso leaf wrapped uni tempura and barbecue eel sushi topped with uni and caviar.

Thai starters include steamed calabaza squash slices with a touch of brown sugar and grated young coconut. Or get larp salad, a specialty of Isaan in northeast Thailand. Layers of lettuces hold ground chicken, beef or pork seasoned with lime juice, palm sugar, toasted ground rice, chiles, mint and cilantro.

Share These Dishes

Red curry at Moon Thai and Japanese is available with duck.

Thai meals are always communal and should be here too. The must-get is the khao soi. The rice noodle dish comes soaked a complex curry with chicken or beef, topped with a nest of crispy fried egg noodles. Be sure to add a squeeze of lime, bean sprouts and pickled mustard greens. Or try the jumbo shrimp in tart-sweet tamarind sauce with broccoli florets.

Panang is a thick, slightly sweet, mild red curry originally from Penang, an island off the west coast of Malaysia. Here it comes with vegetables and tofu or a choice of chicken, beef or pork. It’s fragrant with kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass. Or share gang goong saparod, a hotter red curry with shrimp, pineapple and cauliflower to soak up with jasmine or brown rice.

Don’t forget a selection of Moon Rolls to pass around. There’s surf and turf with lobster, New York strip, shrimp tempura and spicy tuna with arugula. Dance with Shrimp has spicy tuna inside and shrimp and avocado on top.

Save Room For Dessert

For a traditional Thai treat, order the khao niao khai ping, triangles of sticky rice stuffed with mashed malanga root, grilled in banana leaves. Seasonal fruit like rambutan are also a choice.

Contact Linda Bladholm at lindabladholmlola75@gmail.com. Hidden Gems highlights out-of-the-way restaurants in Miami-Dade County. It is not intended to be an anonymous, critical review.

Moon Thai Organic Kitchen

Address: 3455 NE 163rd Street, North Miami Beach

Contact: 305-974-5129, moonthai.com

Hours: Sunday-Thursday 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11:30 a.m.-11:30 p.m.

Prices: Appetizers $7-$14, soups/salads $4-$18, noodles/rice $10-$14, entrees $15-$38

F.Y.I. The seafood is wild catch and sustainable and the veggie and meats are organic. There are branches that are not organic in Coral Gables, Coral Springs, Kendall and Weston.

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