Nara, a place for authentic Japanese cuisine, tells their customers that their self-proclaimed goal is “to give Kansas City something they didn’t have before…” Located in the heart of the downtown crossroads, Nara’s New York City’s loft-style vibe brings out a big city feel that is difficult to find in midwestern cities and restaurants.
Inside an early 1900’s, gothic-style building, the exterior of Nara could not be more of a contrast from its interior. As you walk into Nara you are hit with its modern atmosphere. The brick room was lined with wooden, green cushioned booths and contemporary high top tables. Iron lanterns with rectangular cutouts create a centerpiece while red undertones light the otherwise dark room. Their circular topped windows provide a view of the downtown Power and Light District. Nineties music pumped from speakers throughout the inside and outside of the building.
My friend and I ordered three of Nara’s most popular sushi rolls — the Mango Tango Roll, spicy roll and vegetable roll, each recommended by our waiter — an edgy male server with tattoos for sleeves. His service was very attentive; he checked on us at least every ten minutes while we were seated. The other servers we encountered were equally bubbly and had personalities that could land them in a cheesy Chili’s commercial.
When he brought us our food we discovered every roll had an entirely different type of flavor: sweet, spicy and tra- ditional. The Mango Tango Roll is not like typical sushi because instead of raw fish and vegetables inside, there is a slice of mango and a chunk of cream cheese. Raw shrimp slices are positioned on top of each piece along with a criss- crossed drizzle of their tango sauce — both raspberry and mango sauce drizzled to overlap each other. To top off the roll, the sushi chefs place a jalapeño slice on top of each individual piece creating a satisfying mix of spicy and sweet. Biting into the roll, the tango sauce, mango and cream cheese are overwhelmingly sweet, but the spicy kick from the jalapeño roll soon balances the two flavors out. Overall the varying colors and artfully arranged appearance of the “Mango Tango Roll” is what made it stand out to me.
The spicy roll is comparable to a traditional California roll with cucumber and avocado inside, although instead of crab, it contained salmon. With this roll, you can choose between four different types of fish: salmon, conch, yellowtail and/or scallop. The salmon added a chewy, bubblegumish texture to the sushi. This may sound disgusting, but it was surprisingly delicious. Topped with Dynamite Sauce and firetruck-red fish eggs, the roll’s Dynamite Sauce is where it gets its name. The Dynamite Sauce has a spicy mustard flavor to it but it goes well with the salmon and vegetables inside the roll. It provides about a 20 second kick of spici- ness, but not spicy enough to make you immediately down a glass of water. This was by far both mine and my friend’s favorite roll.
The vegetable roll has avocado, cucumber, carrot and seaweed. The taste was pretty mild. You may want to dip it in some soy sauce to give it some more flavor. Without any sauce or topping it is lacking in flavor and tastes like you’re eating cold rice and raw vegetables, but not sushi.
Nara’s distinctive sushi rolls and loft-like interior bring a unique feel to Kansas City dining. So the next time you’re craving a good spicy roll, don’t go to Americanized Jun’s or RA — Nara will put them to shame.