Holladay • Narra Asian Bistro is one of a handful of restaurants in Utah serving the sour and salty flavors of the Philippines.
But if you don’t want Filipino food, there are Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese dishes at this “Asian fusion” eatery — located in the shopping plaza south of the Old Mill Golf Course.
Owners Mario Dubon and his wife, Carlarae Pelaez-Dubon, say the menu mashup introduces customers to a new cuisine, while also providing something familiar.
It’s an interesting dynamic as the restaurant finds itself in the untenable position of having to perfect four kinds of food — each with different herb and spice combinations — out of one kitchen.
After several visits to Narra, I found the Thai offerings to be the most well-balanced with Filipino dishes running a close second — yet none besting its one-region-only competitors.
Of the Thai offerings, start with fresh spring rolls ($7). The massive rice paper bundles burst with butterflied shrimp, chewy rice noodles, lettuce and herbs along with a chunky peanut sauce. Narra’s pad thai ($14) steers clear of the too-sweet American standard with pops of bright lime added to the toothsome rice noodles and tossed with fresh carrots, onions, bean sprouts and a slightly spicy sauce.
I also enjoyed the yellow and pineapple curry stews rich in coconut milk and pungent spices (both are $13). Plenty of fork-tender potatoes and carrots along with juicy cubes of chicken thigh meat — pineapple chunks are added to the latter — keep in check the sweetness often found in this dish.
From the Filipino section of the menu comes adobo. Considered the national dish of the Philippines, it combines vinegar, soy sauce and herbs that act as a protein tenderizer and produces a stewlike sauce served with rice.
Chicken adobo ($12) is a standard-bearer filled with dark-meat chicken. The coconut adobo’s green beans and garlic ($10) seemed particularly heavy on the vinegar even with the addition of coconut milk. The sautéed green beans, carrots and mushrooms were a welcome vegetable side.
Familiar appetizers such as chicken pot stickers ($8) and cream cheese wontons ($6) open the door to more creative offerings like the signature sisig baskets ($8) — crisp wonton wrapper cups filled with sautéed pork and then garnished with deep-fried cracklings and drizzled with a kicky garlic aioli.
For the business crowd, $8 lunch bowl specials are offered Monday through Friday with three items available each day. For an additional $3, make your meal a combo with cream cheese wontons and egg drop soup.
Or sink your teeth into a pandesal sandwich ($9.50) made with a slightly sweet Filipino bread roll and filled with either sweet sausage or eggplant.
Don’t miss the desserts and specialty drinks. There are mango sticky rice ($6), 10 flavors of bubble tea ($5) as well as Filipino fusion treats like turon ala mode ($7) — a fried banana egg roll with a coconut caramel glaze over ice cream. The pandesal bread pudding is ($8.50) soaked in vanilla custard and studded with mangos and candied walnuts.
Prices at Narra Asian Bistro are reasonable, particularly given the family-style quantities. And service couldn’t be more affable. Most guests will have the pleasure of speaking to one or both of the owners during their meal. They are friendly and open to guest questions and suggestions.
Narra Asian Bistro is a thoughtful introduction to Filipino specialties while also covering the more familiar cuisines of Southeast Asia.
Heather L. King owns www.slclunches.com and can be found on social media @slclunches.
Narra Asian Bistro • ★★1/2 (out of ★★★★) This Asian-Fusion restaurant in Holladay is one of the few places to enjoy chicken adobo, pandesal sandwiches and other Filipino favorites — but the menu includes more familiar Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese options, as well.
Food • ★★1/2
Mood • ★★★
Service • ★★★
Noise • 1 bell
Location • 6550 S. Big Cottonwood Canyon Road, Suite B, Holladay; 801-410-8200.
Hours • Monday-Friday 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m.; Saturday 4-9:30 p.m.; and Sunday 5-9:30 p.m.
Entrée Price • $-$$
Children’s Menu • No.
Liquor • Beer and wine.
Reservations • No.
Takeout • Yes.
Wheelchair access • Yes.
Outdoor dining • No.
Onsite parking • Yes.
Credit cards • All.