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Update as of January 13, 2014 — Little Asian Kitchen is temporarily closed while the owner/chef identifies a new locale. Stay tuned here for news.

Coral Way is turning out to be a source of real “finds” as I’ve discovered in my culinary forays. Earlier I wrote about Jardim de Portugal and Farolito, both worth the visit for their Portuguese and Peruvian cuisine. But I knew more great discoveries awaited. Enroute to the Gables, I always pass by the The Little Asian Kitchen (love the name), 1721 Coral Way (t.786-332-4230), but was put off by the front of the restaurant which cried out Chinese take out place. What got me off the fence, ready to take the plunge was a craving for Thai and Vietnamese food and a good review by Miami Herald restaurant critic Victoria Pesce Elliott. It turned out to be the right decision.

A clue to the food that awaits is the pedigree of the Thai chef and co-owner Patama Nitynara – the Setai and MOMI, the “hot” place for ramen in Mary Brickell Village. The menu features the usual Japanese selections and an assortment of ramen. We went for the Southeast Asian dishes, starting with a Goi-Chan, Vietnamese shrimp roll stuffed with lettuce and vermicelli, rolled in rice paper and served with hoisin dipping sauce. The rolls were plump and freshly prepared. We paired that with the vegetable spring roll, super crispy unlike most you find in Chinese eateries. The star dish hands down was the Royal Duck Curry, generous pieces of tender, moist duck with a crackling, crispy skin (they really know how to roast and fry here) in a red curry sauce made with coconut milk, pineapple chunks, oh so sweet litchis, red and green pepper and tomato – a perfect combo of piquant and sweet. This dish in itself was worth the trip and leaves you with a hankering to try all of the curries. Curries come with a bowl of rice, soup or salad, and an option for beef or shrimp at a small supplemental charge.

Though I realize that beer is usually in order for Asian food, we chose a glass of Sauvignon Blanc which turned out to be a generous pour, getting high marks in my total evaluation. For dessert we had phyllo like flutes filled with warm apples with mango ice cream. Good, though next time I’ll have the Thai donut with vanilla sauce.

The restaurant space is simple yet spacious, and when full, as it was the night we went, not at all noisy. It’s a friendly place. In fact, we happened to strike up a conversation with a couple at the next table (when they left, the table was occupied by Jorge and Darlene Perez ,so the word is definitely getting out). The restaurant is working out the kinks in the service, so you might need some patience, but it’s worth it.

A big plus, there’s free parking in the back and an entrance there as well. Lunch is also served and prices are lower Entrees at lunch range from just under $10 to under $13, some with soup or salad; at dinner range from $12+ to just under $18. Most dishes at dinner serve two people.

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