Asiano Bistro Is Inclusive, Elegant and Accessible
Kung Pao shrimp at Asiano Bistro bears little resemblance to its mass-produced, buffet-line kin.
(photo by Brian Clarey)
You know, I’ve been here before — seen this room, walked this floor. Seems like a lifetime ago that I waited tables and tended bar at Trilogy. Since then this room saw life as the Grappa Grill after it moved here from its roost in High Point, and now it houses Asiano Bistro, the newest thing in pan-Asian haute cuisine.
They’re trading on the success of the PF Chang’s juggernaut that sprung up over on Friendly and has since commanded a significant portion of the restaurant-going public, with wait times on busy nights rivaled only by the Olive Garden.
You can see it in the menu: Nestled among quality interpretations on Asian standards like crab Rangoon, spring rolls and tempura is a take on the big chain’s lettuce wrap. And alongside the usual slate of soups — hot and sour, wonton, egg drop and miso — is a Thai thom yum soup with lemongrass and shrimp.
The menu is strong, particularly for dinner. Entrees include ribeyes and pork chops, all done in the style of the Pacific rim. There are noodles galore: udon, lo mein and chow fun. A hibachi list includes plenty of steaks and seafood. A sushi bar installed in the main dining room turns out both classic and nouveau-style rolls and a la carte selections. And while the specialty items include all the things you’d expect, like General Tso’s chicken, garlic shrimp and moo goo gai pan, the quality and freshness of the dishes far exceeds that of your standard Chinese buffet, as confirmed on a visit for lunch last week.
The place was fairly empty for lunch, something endemic to the location I believe — I remember making an average of about $10 during lunches when I worked at this spot. And we sat in a room off the patio that was a wine and retail space when I worked there. A clever renovation removed the wall behind the bar, opening up the lounge and creating a nicer line of sight. Gone is the walk-in cigar humidor, and the wine cellar has been converted into a private dining area. Soft lighting, thematic art and tones of black, dark wood and imperial red make for a nice setting.
For starters, we went with a standard house salad — good leaf lettuce and spicy ginger dressing — and a hot and sour soup that is as fine as any I have ever tasted. A bowl of fried noodles were excellent — often the noodles I get at Chinese restaurants make me a little nauseous; these did not, and the duck sauce did not taste like jelly, which was also a pleasant surprise.
A couple of sushi rolls were prepared competently. A simple yellowtail roll benefited from the inclusion of thinly sliced green onion. I liked the Boston Roll, made with shrimp,. Boston lettuce and avocado, as well, but my choices were limited as many of the rolls contained cucumber, to which I am allergic.
We settled on the Kung Pao shrimp lunch special, which was a large enough portion to share, with brown rice. The Kung Pao exemplified everything that is great about this restaurant. It was made fresh, evidenced by the crispy texture of the vegetables. The shrimp were peeled and butterflied by an expert hand. And unlike a lot of Kung Pao, this was not loaded with MSG or any unrecognizable ingredients.
Owner Huong Ni says she opened the place in March, and that dinner business has been steady. And she’s considering hiring a delivery guy to spice up the lunch trade over on Lawndale.
Asiano Bistro 2618 Lawndale Drive Greensboro