Eastern promises

Paricha Itthiworaku prepares fresh spring rolls at Asiana.

Paricha Itthiworaku prepares fresh spring rolls at Asiana.

Photo/Allison Young

For more information, visit www.asianacuisine.com.

In a location that has seen more than one restaurant come and go, the folks of Asiana Cuisine have done a good job making it feel brand new. Though predominantly Thai, the menu includes various Southeast Asian dishes with Chinese, Japanese, Malaysian, Philippine and Singaporean influences. There’s nothing to indicate land of origin for each dish, so my family and I just ordered what sounded good and left it at that.

We were served piping hot cups of the day’s complimentary soup, a mildly spiced rice and ginger concoction that was new to us and thoroughly enjoyed. Next up came the appetizers, including golden calamari ($7.95), crispy egg rolls ($4.95), fresh rolls ($4.95), and chicken satay ($7.95).

Squares of squid fried in tempura were served with a sweet chili sauce. They were perfectly cooked and delicate in texture and flavor—very different from the Italian variety. The egg rolls were small, crisply fried and stuffed with cabbage, carrots, mushroom and silver noodles, but not much flavor. The sauce added a little, but I wouldn’t order them again.

The Thai-style fresh rolls were essentially lettuce/cucumber/carrot salads, wrapped in rice paper with a lone piece of barely detectable shrimp. The peanut sauce helped quite a bit, but I prefer Vietnamese spring rolls.

Chicken satay is usually a highlight of a Thai meal, but these were quite yellow—turmeric?—and oddly lacking in flavor. Again, the peanut sauce improved the overall taste, and a small cup of cucumber salad on the side helped with plenty of rice vinegar and sesame oil flavor.

Entrees included chicken pad Thai ($9.99), teriyaki chicken ($9.99), pumpkin curry ($12.95), wonton noodle soup ($8.95), crispy duck ($13.95), red vegetable curry ($6.95), and garlic pepper chicken ($8.95). Every one of these dishes was delicious, which was a relief given the mixed results with our choice of starters. Note: their 1-5 scale is hotter than most. Try it at 2 or 3 and add sauce to taste.

Pad Thai is one of my favorites, and though I’ve had better, this version went well with the rest of our meal. The teriyaki was pretty much what you’d expect, crispy chicken in sweet sauce served with mildly fermented cabbage. My wife’s favorite Thai dish, pumpkin curry, was prepared with prawns as well as chicken in the coconut milk and spice. I thought the flavors were well-balanced, which is a bit surprising since I’m usually not a fan of pumpkin unless there’s crust, sugar, nutmeg and whipped cream involved.

The soup did have chicken wontons, but there were also noodles and other goodies in the broth. My niece loved this and was miffed when told we’d finished it. (“There was a big bowl. Now where is it?”) Luckily, the fried duck breast with honey and vegetables distracted her from further soup-related accusations. The red curry involved coconut milk, spices, and a variety of vegetables with great texture and flavor. The chicken stir-fried in garlic and black pepper was combined with broccoli for another satisfying dish.

Strangely enough, all this food arrived without rice, including the brown stuff my wife ordered for $1. Once alerted, our server brought the rice with apology, but it was nearly too late.

The ladies wanted dessert, but I have to admit being a little shocked at the $5.95 price for a single scoop of plain ice cream. It just seemed a bit much, especially when compared to the very reasonable prices we paid for everything else.

But all said, no one left hungry or without a smile.