Saturday, August 11, 2012

Asian Bistro

I saw the sign for Asian Bistro pop up a few weeks ago in Northpointe Plaza, next to Club 24 Fitness. It's from the same owners of China One. One day, while out and about, I stopped there and asked the construction workers when it would open. They told me two weeks. Ever since, I've been keeping an eye on it.

On Friday, I got word that it was the restaurant's opening day. There even had a sticker on the Dominion Post advertising so. I grabbed a friend and headed that way.

I luckily was able to snag a copy of the menu beforehand and studied it. First off, when calling something an "Asian" bistro, it's tricky. Asia is a giant continent full of lots of countries. And there are a ton of different cuisines located there. I don't think we put that in perspective as Americans and sometimes see "Asian" food as Chinese food. And, that's embarrassing. So, I was hesitant about what the menu would entail.

The menu could use a healthy dose of organization. I had studied it beforehand and still had a great deal of trouble. There's a page called "Asian Cuisine," which is pretty non-helpful category. It ranges from chilean seabass, to Bangkok Beef, to Bulgogi, to Kalbi, to sizzling Mongolian Beef. My suggestion would be to separate these by the type of cuisine. They boast Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai and Vietnamese - SHOW us where each of these dishes is from (similar to Asian Garden). Other pages included "Hibachi Dinner" and "Entrees from the Kitchen" and "Sushi" and "Noodle" and "Rice Dishes." That doesn't make any sense to me. It is difficult to navigate, and you don't really know what you're eating without that organization. I do like the variety here; I just wish I could fully enjoy it.

That being said, I love the location - tons of parking and not too far from my apartment. The interior is gorgeous. It looks upscale, romantic and modern. There's a bar and sushi bar and mood lighting that softly rotates colors. Our server sat us quickly, took our drink orders and filled our glasses with water.

I wanted to try something that I had an idea of how it's supposed to taste; that way, I can have something to compare it to. That led me to the pad thai. It's $10 for tofu and vegetable, $12 for chicken and $14 for beef or shrimp. I went with the chicken pad Thai, as well as a California roll. Just ordering this made me wonder how they were going to do it: They need a sushi chef, as well as someone experience in Thai cuisine. Image a "European Bistro" and expecting the chefs to execute a Spanish dish, as well as a French dish. There's just a good bit of difference here.

Our server kept adding and taking away things from our table. When I ordered, she went to grab for the water glass, but I told her we still wanted water, too. When my friend ordered only sushi, the server grabbed her silverware from the table, as well as the dish it was sitting in. It was just odd - that kind of thing is fine to leave until the end. It was kind of distracting.

Finally, our meals came out. Their timing isn't quite right yet. My friend got hers a few minutes before my meal came out, but that's the kind of thing you work out after opening day. The presentation was quite appealing, but the taste wasn't quite as good. My overall thought was "Meh." California rolls were okay. Not tons of flavor. I added even more wasabi than usual to compensate for that lack of taste. My friend wasn't crazy about her sushi, either. The pad thai was fine, but kind of bland tasting. It lacked that sweet spiciness I've come to love from Chaang Thai. It needed more flavor, more ... something. It was just okay. And there were a lot of onions - some are okay, but I wanted more noodle and less crunch for my buck. When we were finished, they brought us a sliced orange.

So far, I've paid about $20 for a meh dish, so I thought trying dessert might help amp up this meal. The server was adamant about the tempura ice cream (kind of like the Mexican dessert - fried ice cream?), even telling me to get it without solicitation. You can get chocolate or vanilla, so I went with vanilla. My friend got the fried banana & ice cream (but I just realized, she actually didn't any ice cream? Just the banana...). My ice cream was great - light, fluffy tempur covered a frozen ball of french vanilla ice cream, topped with chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, sprinkles, whipped cream and a cherry. I like the crunchy cone, essentially, wrapped around a creamy decadent dessert. The banana was tasty - a fried banana, essentially. I love the coolness of the ice cream, though, with the fried. It was great.


Since it was opening day, we also got a gift set, which was really nice. Unfortunately, they only gave us one. I let my friend have it.

Overall, though, it was a pretty hefty bill for mediocre food. However, since there is such a variety here, another dish could be excellent. I just haven't found it yet. I do know one that I won't get again, though.

Grade: C
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