Xia a refreshing departure from the conventional

by Keith Barber

It’s only fitting that Xia, the Asian fusion restaurant, is thriving just off the beaten path in downtown Winston- Salem. You have to walk a couple of blocks from 4 th Street, but it’s well worth the effort. Located in the city’s financial district, Xia is renowned for doing a brisk lunch and after-work dinner business. Bankers from Wells Fargo/Wachovia, BB&T and Piedmont Federal have been known to take advantage of Xia’s lunch specials and filling up the restaurant’s center tables. Xia, named for owner Xia Lieu, serves Vietnamese cuisine along with traditional Chinese and Japanese favorites. Xia earns the “Asian fusion” distinction by pulling a variety of its recipes from an entire subcontinent and executing those recipes to near perfection.

My dinner companion and I visited Xia on a cold winter’s night. The first thing that caught our attention were the bright red walls and we were reminded that Chinese New Year kicked off on Valentine’s Day. Red is synonymous with Valentine’s Day. It’s also the traditional good luck color in Chinese culture. Legend has it that many Chinese people celebrate the New Year by giving their doors and windowpanes a fresh coat of red paint. Perhaps deferring to its Vietnamese tradition, the heavy wooden front door at Xia is painted black.

The next thing that hits you is the wonderful aroma of whatever delicacy Xia’s talented chefs happen to be cooking. Our waiter told us that nearby homeowners have complained that the smell is too enticing.

On the periphery of the center tables are 10 booths outfitted with linen scroll menus in bamboo cylinders, a thoughtful, authentic touch. Not being much of a drinker, I ordered the green tea. Suzanne ordered hot sake, which she said created the inner warmth of a roaring fire.

As an appetizer, I ordered the wonton dumpling soup, while Suzanne went with the house salad. I found the dumplings to be undercooked and a bit tough, while the broth was overly salty. Suzanne lauded the light ginger dressing and freshness of her salad. As we waited on the main course, I took in our surroundings. I really enjoyed the intimate feel created by the hardwood floors, mood highting and freestanding waterfall. However, the Top 40 music that was pumped into the dining room put a damper on the restaurant’s elegant theme.

Then, I heard a sizzling skillet. It was my Saigon chicken entr’e. The saut’ed chicken filled with asparagus, onions, mushrooms, broccoli, carrots and baby corn did not disappoint.

Suzanne ordered lemongrass chicken with green beans, which was spicy but flavorful. The Szechuan sauce complemented the tender chicken and vegetables, but it took two glasses of water to cool the fire.

Xia’s breaks up its dinner entr’es into sea, land and vegetarian categories with prices ranging from $8 to $22. Atlantic salmon, Chilean sea bass and General Tao’s shrimp dominate the seafood menu. Mandarin orange chicken and Hunan style beef highlight the land menu, while sizzling Saigon tofu and Singapore street noodles bring variety to the vegetarian offerings.

Traditional Asian food lovers will be happy to discover Xia’s Noodles, Mein and Rice section of their menu.

Favorites include Cantonese chow fun, lo mein beef and double pan-fried noodles. The dinner favorites section of the menu includes whole, crisp-seared red snapper with a light spicy sweet and sour sauce for $22. Also, Sate from the Sea, which is described as shrimp, scallops and calamari stir-fried with vegetables over pan-fried noodles for $15. Finally, the traditional Vietnamese black pepper shrimp and chicken rounds out a fabulous menu that appeals those who crave a little variety in their Asian cuisine.

Xia won runner-up honors in best Asian restaurant in Smitty’s Notes’ 2009 Best of Winston-Salem contest. It’s no wonder. The cozy, out-of-the-way bistro offers great food at reasonable prices served in an elegant atmosphere with outstanding customer service.

wanna go?

Xia Asian Fusion Cuisine 134 N. Spruce St. Winston Salem