No one ever said that opening a new restaurant was easy — and Casey Adams, the owner of the beautiful but still unfinished Nara at 1617 Main has learned that lesson well. Nara was tentatively scheduled to begin serving Japanese fare in August and even scheduled a “grand opening premiere” on August 8 to benefit Harvesters. Alas, the debut had to be canceled twice, thanks to a host of unexpected problems that come up when you’re creating a new dining venue in a very old building.
“I’m now telling people that Nara will definitely be open before the completion of the Sprint Center,” says executive chef Terry Barkley. “You do realize I’m joking, of course.”
Joking, he explains, because Nara — which has already hired a serving staff and a kitchen crew — is poised to open quickly after it obtains an occupancy permit from the city. Until then, there’s still work to be completed on the robata grill area and in the kitchen, which will be overseen by Tim Brady, who moved back to his hometown from Austin, Texas, to start rocking those heavy metal woks in the main-floor kitchen.
The name Nara comes from the ancient former capital city of Japan. Chef Grant Perler, formerly of Matsu and the Kona Grill, has created an extensive sushi menu but also promises noodle dishes, steaks and a pulled-pork sandwich with mango-chili barbecue sauce.
Barkley spent weeks testing recipes that nonsushi lovers might crave (working in the kitchen of the defunct Dragonfly Grill while Nara was under construction last winter), including a dessert list that only sort of leans to the Far East: The ginger-pear cheesecake is made with the Asian citrus fruit yuzu, and Barkley’s spin on traditional Italian panna cotta uses Chai tea as an ingredient.
Now Barkley is eager to start executing those recipes in Nara’s 110-seat dining room and 25-seat lounge. And I’m eager to try them.