While waiting for your food, take a gander at the essay about Thai cuisine inside the menu at Naviya’s Thai Brasserie. If you can manage to make it past the part discussing the alleged life-saving properties of coconut water (apparently used from time-to-time for emergency IVs in tropical countries), you’ll find some enlightening passages about the importance of flavor balance for good Thai cooking.
While I can’t attest to the medicinal efficacy of coconut water, I can say that Naviya LaBarge (Thailand native, co-owner and head chef) knows what she is talking about when it comes to Thai food. Of all the Thai joints I’ve frequented during my three-plus years in Minneapolis, Naviya’s cuisine does a most remarkable job striking a flavorful balance between the five fundamental Thai tastes: spicy, sour, sweet, salty and pungent.
My date and I split chicken Pad Thai ($14) and spicy red curry with shrimp ($15). The Pad Thai is satisfyingly savory and less spicy than most of the other dozen or so Pad Thais I’ve tried around town. Likewise, the curry is more savory-sweet than spicy, which isn’t a bad thing at all — remember, Naviya’s is all about balance, and both dishes integrate savory-sweet-spicy in a harmonious and tasty fashion.
Beyond balance, the thing that sets Naviya’s apart from other Thai restaurants is the extent to which the flavors of the ingredients remain intact throughout the cooking process. The bountiful amount of veggies in both dishes looked garden fresh and were packed with natural flavor. Indeed, during my first visit to Naviya’s a couple months ago, co-owner Kim LaBarge (Naviya’s husband) told me that his kitchen features an ultra-high BTU burner, facilitating flavor lock-in and quick service.
Our food was served before we could fully come to terms with the notion of coconut water coursing through someone’s veins. Of course, the quick service may have had something to do with the fact that upon arrival we were the only patrons in the restaurant (our server assured us that it’s usually much busier), but the quality of the food and presentation indicated that the service is appropriately described as efficient, not hasty.
Naviya’s ambiance is very low-key. We sat at a table next to a window lined with candles. The sparsely adorned dark violet walls are softly illuminated and a smooth jazz mix provided the conversational backdrop. Tucked into a quiet, quaint corner of Linden Hills, Naviya’s is an ideal date destination — especially if your date is with me in enjoying the soulful strumming and crooning of George Benson in between bites.
To complement your meal, Naviya’s offers a robust selection of wines and rare Asian teas. I ordered a couple Changs, the top-selling Thai beer that our server aptly characterized as a cross between Tsingtao and Summit.
Naviya’s Thai Brasserie
2812 W. 43rd St.