When Tammy Songtong was the executive chef at the Sheraton Orchid in Bangkok, she sent her son, Sunchai “Sunshine” Naknoon, to Los Angeles to study English. He made his way to Miami 20 years ago, and learned to make sushi from a sensei (master).
For 16 years, Naknoon ran the sushi bar on Fisher Island, where he became friends with many regulars. One of them, Jose Alvarez, backed him in his own restaurant, a Japanese-Thai spot called Nikko by Sunshine, where his chef-mom runs the kitchen.
The tranquil space has black walls and a small sushi counter flanked by phraya nak (Thai serpent-dragons) inlaid with bits of colored glass and overseen by a smiling Buddha. The menu offers sushi, rolls, dumplings, soups, salads, teriyaki and Thai noodles and curries. Mother and son grow Thai chiles to make a spicy, by-request barbecue sauce that will light a fire in your mouth.
Songtong salutes Alvarez with a hamachi and jalapeño roll named for his wife, Hilda. Another Fisher Island friend is honored with the Linda, composed of rice, tuna tartare, potato sticks, and wasabi guacamole topped with flying fish caviar.
Lunch combos bring a mix of sushi and sashimi or soba noodles with a spicy tuna roll. Pad Thai is classic with al dente rice noodles tossed with tamarind juice, fish sauce and palm sugar with bits of egg, crushed peanuts and bean sprouts.
Stir-fried noodles came from Vietnam in ancient times but were made popular by a prime minister in the 1940s who named them pad Thai (fried Thai-style) in his campaign to promote Thai nationalism.
There’s also roasted duck, fried rice, chicken, pork or beef with house-made egg noodles or in anise-scented Thai basil sauce or red curry.
Dip small, doughnuts into sweet condensed milk and say “Aroy! (Delicious!).
Linda Bladholm is a Miami food writer and personal chef who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.