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Karli Evans

Lung Yai Thai Tapas

Written by
Karli Evans

Sometimes we tolerate uncomfortable situations because we know the end result will be worth it, like getting a tattoo or napping next to an airport TGI Fridays for 19 hours in order to spend two weeks in Rome. That’s how we feel about Lung Yai too. You might have to wait a long time for your table and put up with rules and situations that you won’t encounter at any other restaurant in Miami, but if you’re up for the challenge, you’ll be rewarded with some of the best Thai food in the city.

Without a doubt, Lung Yai has the longest wait on Calle Ocho. An hour-and-a-half is normal on weekends, though you can order beer, wine, or sake and drink it on the sidewalk while you kill time, which definitely makes 90 minutes go by quicker.

Karli Evans

When the host with the clipboard finally does yell your name (and you need to be within earshot to hear it), you can sit inside or hold out for an outdoor table, which is worth the extra 15-minute wait. It’s much quieter, with small wooden tables for groups of two to four and string lights, and it’s absolutely a better option for dates where you actually want to hear each other’s answer to, “If you had to get mauled by an animal, which would you choose?” Inside, it’s just counter seating, where there are signs forbidding cell phones and you’ll be face-to-face with the kitchen, which is fun to watch but can make the whole place feel like a sauna that runs on hot oil and coconut milk.

Karli Evans

You’re only allowed to order once at Lung Yai, so take your time with the menu to make sure you haven’t missed anything. Get at least one of the snacks - the dumplings are the perfect size to pop in your mouth whole (we like the shrimp over the pork) and the chicken wings are fried crispier than any other wings in town. The papaya salad should be on your table too, especially if you sit inside and need relief from the massive wok five feet away that’s slowly raising your internal body temperature. And the “chef’s recommendation” portion of the menu is where you’ll find some of the best dishes, like the khao soi - a bowl of egg noodles in a golden curry that tastes the way a hot shower feels. Get it with braised beef and make sure no one you’re with tries to steal the crispy noodles on top.

Sure, dinner at Lung Yai takes some planning, patience, and possibly a spare shirt to change into after yours has been thoroughly poached in sweat. Maybe that’s not for everyone. If you think eating out should always be a painless and relentlessly accommodating process, go somewhere else. But if your priority is first and foremost the food, come to Lung Yai - because just like an obnoxiously long layover or the pain of a thousand tiny needle pricks, the end result is going to be worth it.

Food Rundown

Shrimp Dumplings

You can get these with shrimp or pork, steamed or fried. There are no bad choices here, but the fried dumplings come out crispy enough to break a windshield and go great with a beer.

Chicken Wings

We understand if you want to save stomach space for other things after waiting an hour for a table, but these are our favorite chicken wings in town. They’re crispy, juicy, and come with a sweet sauce that always makes us want to get another order.

Crispy Tofu

These little guys aren’t the most thrilling snack on the menu but they are cut into triangles, which - you may remember from geometry class - is the tastiest shape.

Papaya Salad

This is a really crisp and refreshing salad that delivers a nice contrast to most of the spicy, creamy, and meaty dishes on the menu. It also might cool you off a bit if the flame from the burners creeps a little too close to your eyebrows.

Khao Soi

If you took a bath in this golden curry you’d probably come out looking ten years younger. We like it best with braised beef, which balances with the slightly sweet curry better than a gymnast on a hoverboard.

Green Curry

The green curry is essentially the Tom Hanks of the menu - it has near-universal appeal. It’s a very good thing to split with your friends and comes with rice and your choice of chicken, pork, beef, tofu, or veggies.

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