VOTE FOR THE BEST OF ORLANDO® 2021 NOW THROUGH AUG. 1!

Thursday, February 1, 2007

KATA TONIC

Fusion lounge invigorates Orlandoâ??s Thai dining scene

Posted on Thu, Feb 1, 2007 at 4:00 AM

Another day, another Thai restaurant opens its doors for business (yawwwn). Seems that over the past decade, sit-downs of the Siamese variety have lotus-blossomed across our fair city and, for the most part, offered a decent mix of cultural authenticity and moderately exotic interiors with their pad thais and panangs. But none really broke from the pack, and most opted for a formulaic, albeit successful, 'If it ain't broke, don't fix itâ?� approach ' a maxim that rings especially true in the restaurant biz.

So when Kata settled into the building that once housed an O'Boys Bar-B-Q, visions of gilded knickknacks, bamboo appurtenances and photos of the King of Siam and his consort swirled in my head. A can of baked beans and barbecue sauce might've made it in too.

To my surprise, however, Kata appropriated a slick, contemporary motif accentuated with cube ottomans, cushioned benches and a sushi bar nestled against a backdrop of deep-red, black and beige-toned walls. Hushed lighting lent an understated elegance and the Buddha Bar music had me bobbing my head while sipping on jasmine green tea out of a square teacup. (Word of advice: Don't bob and sip.)

Owner Ron Prampree and his sister Aou Whitlock modeled their restaurant after Kyoto Sushi & Sake Lounge in Delray Beach, where Ron served as head chef. No surprise that the theme here is decidedly more Japanese than it is Thai, and that sushi comprises a good chunk of the menu (32 rolls are offered). 'Kata,â?� in fact, is a term referring to the practiced movements of Japanese martial arts, as well as a wok-like Thai cooking vessel, and it's clear that Ron utilizes both when preparing his dishes.

Tobacco leaf isn't an ingredient in the Havana roll ($10), but sweet plantain is, providing a pleasantly sweet surprise that meshes well with the eel, avocado and cream cheese center. Fans of edamame ($5) will appreciate having the green soybeans served in a steamer basket ' a purposeful touch. I also liked the spicy conch/octopus ($9) saturated in a fiery kimchee/yuzu-juice mixture, and served with crunchy diced cukes. The sweetness of the conch worked better with the tangy spice than did the octopus, but the starter is a mouth-burner any way you cut it.

Pacing needed improvement ' our entrees were served too soon after the appetizers arrived, and the small table was barely able to contain everything, particularly the enormous plate of chili-sauced beef filet ($25). Yes, I wanted to ride the burn from the spicy conch, but what I got instead was an overly sweet, slightly runny and negligibly peppery dish. You can choose from a variety of meats, such as lamb and duck, or swap out the chili sauce for basil or peanut options.

Green curry with chicken ($13) isn't extraordinary, but will cater to both diners in search of a traditional meal and those prone to intestinal discomfiture. Cooked in a light coconut milk, the curry, with bamboo shoots, bell peppers and zucchini, had the requisite smack of lemongrass.

Rainbow ice cream ($5) was a clever presentation of three espresso cups filled with the intoxicating flavors of silky red bean, green tea and vanilla ice creams. The cheesecake spring roll ($6) was too thick and rich a dessert for my liking.

But props to the siblings for injecting some much-needed verve and élan into a dining scene set in its ways. There's nothing wrong with traditional Thai restaurants, but places like Kata offer an alternative, and do their part to mature a culinary movement.

Tags:

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Orlando Weekly. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Orlando Weekly, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at feedback@orlandoweekly.com.

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Orlando Weekly Press Club for as little as $5 a month.

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Read the Digital Print Issue

July 21, 2021

View more issues

Calendar

© 2021 Orlando Weekly

Website powered by Foundation