Tag Archives: Pan-Asia

AFAR’s foodie guide to Asia

So we’re still in the midst of our current trip, but why not make future plans for other great foodie destinations? We recently came across Afar’s “A Foodie’s Guide to Asia,” which covers eats in Hong Kong, Seoul, Tokyo, Bangkok, Beijing and Chiang Mai. We are definitely bookmarking these lists for potential future trips.

Bo Lan Restaurant

Dishes from Bo.Lan Restaurant in Bangkok

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A Quick Bite at: Republic

Republic
37 Union Square West
New York, NY

As they say, in restaurants as in real estate, location, location, location. Republic, a fast-casual spots serving Pan-Asian cuisine, is in an absolutely great location, right across from Union Square in New York City, and that holds much of its appeal. The restaurant is a large and somewhat cavernous, with quasi-communal seats (the tables are connected, but you are not sitting directly next to strangers, unless you are only a group of 2 perhaps). The atmosphere was loud and bustling, and the restaurant seemed to be doing a pretty healthy turnover of tables. We arrived at noon Sunday and the tables were nearly full with the NYU crowd, even so, we didn’t have to wait very long. Republic incorporates its sleek noodle theme into its decor, and the walls are lined with large black and white photos of model-types enjoying (and sometimes wearing) giant piles of noodles.

Yes, the stock in trade at Republic is noodles, namely GIANT bowls of noodles, which we saw most tables guzzling happily. The main influence is Thai, but there are also Vietnamese, Japanese and Chinese flavors. The broth noodles, seemingly the most popular option, had huge portions in included such varieties as Spicy Duck and Curry Vegetable ($11-14). There was also a selection of non-broth noodle and rice dishes, including of course Pad Thai. The globe-trotting theme continues with the drink selection which includes both hot and cold sake, an assortment of Asian Beers and Vietnamese iced coffee. Between two of  us we ordered the Spicy Coconut Chicken – rice noodles in turmeric-coconut broth ($14). The portion was truly generous, but the broth and chicken were both a little bland and lifeless. However, we heartily enjoyed the vegetarian dumplings ($7) and the super-flavorful cold Peanut Noodle Salad with carrots and jicama ($11).

While Republic is not a soulful place, you can’t fault the owners for hitting upon a formula that works. Moreover  you definitely get a lot of food for your money, and there is something to please herbivores and carnivores alike. It won’t rival our favorite go-to Thai places, but it was a perfect place to meet a group for lunch in NYC. Plus, if you are in a lunch crunch, you will be sure to make your 1 o’clock meeting.

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Southeast Asia: The Mighty Durian

Until this trip we had never tasted Durian before. Its reputation as a horrendously stinky yet somehow delectable fruit, along with its spiky appearance, intrigued us. I mean, Durians are banned on the subway in Singapore, how could we not be intrigued?

Our first real experience with a Durian was at a hawker market in Singapore’s Chinatown. The whole bottom floor of the hawker market was dedicated to produce. At one stall there was a woman carefully cutting and slicing bits of a Durian, with its signature spiky skin and yellow fruit. Curiously, there was no smell as we approached. We steeled ourselves and bought a small section of Durian for a few cents. The flavor itself was nutty, creamy and papaya-like (almost). We were surprised to say we pretty much liked Durian!

Our second experience with a Durian was in Malaysia – we were at a big glossy mall in Kuala Lumpur and Durian gelato was for sale at a stand. However, we did not have the same experience as in Singapore – and this second Durian product had a knock-out aftertaste and a garlicky flavor. So our experience with the Durian was mixed, don’t know if we’ll be up for a third round – maybe the next time we are in SE Asia.

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Pan Asian cuisine in Chicago: Miss Asia

Miss Asia
434 W. Diversey Pkwy
Chicago, IL 60614

Miss Asia is a new North Side restaurant with some broad culinary ambitions – to cover nearly every country in Asia. Though the focus is on Thai food, Miss Asia boasts dishes from Malaysia, the Philippines, Korea, Japan, Laos, Vietnam, India, Indonesia, Cambodia, Singapore, Nepal, China, and Mongolia. Undeterred by Anthony Bourdain’s comment that “Asia is a big place, how are they going to do the whole thing?” (said on last season’s Top Chef) we decided that we were going to try some dishes off the non-Thai section. The size of the menu was daunting in itself, but all of the prices were very reasonable.

Anne ordered the Teriyaki Chicken off of the Japanese portion of the menu. The Teriyaki chicken ($9.95) was served on a bed of rice and veggies and was not too sweet (a good thing). I opted for the Indonesian Opor curry ($9.95). The curry itself was coconut milk-based and mild and was fragrant with lemongrass and cilantro. We were both pleased with our dishes. There is a lot of value for the price, as most dishes are under 10 or 11 dollars. Maybe we’ll be back to try some of the Thai dishes that are the restaurant’s specialty.

The place was trendy, and fancier than your typical corner Thai takeout, with bright orange walls, tables with linens and Buddha statues and wall hangings. However, when we arrived at 7, nearly the whole place was empty. However, it was the middle of a rainstorm, so that might have not been helping. Hopefully, they will be able to attract a steady clientele. Sadly, though, I don’t think I can count this restaurant on our official ETW map. Otherwise, most of Asia would be gone in one fell swoop!

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