I first heard the term “pork belly” in the 1983 film Trading Places, i.e. breakfast bacon. This pig bit has become trendy in the last few years, but a recent visit to Asian fusion restaurant Creazian presented more expressions than I’d had in a single meal.
Pork belly pops ($9) started us off on a high note. These cubes of braised, fatty meat on skewers were glazed in maple and ponzu sauce. The sweet was matched with salt and spice, and the lightly crisped meat was tender and succulent. Next were orders of calamari ($8)—tempura-fried baby squid mantle and tentacle—at once tender and crispy, tossed in sweet chili, lemongrass, scallion and chipotle aioli.
A dish of stir-fried chicken, mushroom and crispy noodles was served with leaves of iceberg lettuce to make lively chicken lettuce wraps ($6). Flavors of garlic, ginger, soy and a hint of fish sauce were enhanced by a side of cilantro and scallion. Next was a rice flour and turmeric crepe ($9)—banh xeo—stuffed with pork belly, prawn, bean sprout and scallion and served with a side of cilantro, basil and pickled daikon/carrot. Usually a light, savory dish, the crepe itself was sweet and quite oily.
A pair of steamed lotus buns ($7) stuffed with braised pork belly, cucumber and pickled daikon/carrot possessed a near perfect contrast of flavors and textures. If you’ve got room for just one appetizer, don’t skip this.
My sister-in-law’s banh mi sandwich ($7)—a French baguette with barbecue pork, Vietnamese pork sausage, cucumber, cilantro, jalapeño, pickled daikon/carrot and house spread—was just OK. The bread was nicely crusty, but the pork was a bit dry and included more than a few gristly bits.
Her husband’s seafood noodle soup ($13)—pho do bien—with prawns, calamari, blue crab, veggies, egg noodle and chicken broth was pretty satisfying. The seafood was tender, and the broth was hearty. A kid’s order of beef pho ($9) with rare steak, flank, brisket, veggies, rice noodles and beef broth was well received and quickly consumed.
My bowl of tonkatsu ramen with soft pork belly, ajitsuke tamago (soft-boiled egg), wood ear mushrooms, garlic chips and scallion was close to being great ($12). The broth was rich, the fungi and meat plentiful, but the noodles were in a bit of a knot that required some disassembly. The egg yolk was a bit runnier than the jammy consistency I love with proper Japanese ajitsuke tamago, but still yummy.
Our friend and her son ordered a pair of poke bowls ($12)—one salmon, one ahi tuna. The fresh, cubed fish was available on a choice of rice—brown or white—or organic mixed greens. Toppings included crab salad, seaweed salad, edamame, sweet onion, jalapeño, wasabi, chipotle aioli and ginger ponzu sauce. The fish tasted fresh, and the seaweed salad was quite good.
A goi ga salad ($8) of thin-sliced chicken breast, cabbage, cilantro, basil, pickled daikon/carrot, crushed peanut and nuoc mam dressing was my wife’s selection. The fish sauce dressing was fine, but the chicken was dry and the shredded lettuce quite limp. I think this dish works best when the traditional cabbage is used for more crunch. Orders of lo mein ($11) for the niece and nephew were a hit, featuring thin egg noodles loaded with plenty of stir-fried chicken, pork, prawn, broccoli, bok choy and carrot. The veggies had crunch and the meats were tender. As it should be.