PHOTO BY KEVIN KORINEK
The beef satay appetizer.
St. Charles is getting a taste of the Far East.
Last night, Ameristar Casino (One Ameristar Boulevard, St. Charles; 636-949-7777)
opened its newest culinary adventure – Asia, a hybrid of influences that specializes in upscale Asian-American cuisine.
The venue is a little different from other restaurants at the casino in that it is literally situated on the casino floor. You won't hear the slot machines during your dinner — it's tucked away in the style of restaurants at Vegas casinos — but you’ll have to go through the gate with your ID and walk past a slew of gambling tables before you can try it out. And that’s by design.
The restaurant is located behind the Asian gaming section of the casino, near games like Baccarat and Magic 7. And while Ameristar was interested in developing the space into something other than more tables and slots, its executives also saw an opportunity to reach a growing market. “Vietnamese and Chinese — there's a pretty robust population here and there was a real need for a quality restaurant in the area that served a quality product,” said David Begonis, the casino's vice president of hospitality. “We didn’t want it to be too ostentatious, just kind of upscale with a cool environment and great food.”
The restaurant is clean and spacious, and customers can look out into the pit to watch gamblers know when to fold ‘em. It resists the temptation to fall into Asian-themed kitsch – there are just a few architectural touches, offset by a wall of tea kettles that separate the main dining floor from a more private section. Executive Chef Don Yamauchi and Chef de Cuisine Hai Ying Bushey made sure to incorporate several different taste profiles for lovers of pan-Asian food.
Diners can start the night off with a flight of sake, distilled with colorful notes of banana and roasted nuts, or opt for trendy Taiwanese-style bubble tea – a chai tea concoction with honey syrup and small orbs of tapioca floating at the bottom.
And while the appetizer list is standard fare, it shouldn’t be avoided. The beef satay is a standout, a set of marinated flank steak skewers with peanut hoisin dipping sauce. Pair that with the citrusy "Dragon Berry Punch," made with real pitaya, better known as dragonfruit, and you’ve got a winning combination.
Main dishes include a well-executed General Tso’s chicken and a crispy Szechuan beef, but don’t forget to leave without trying the mango fluffy ice, topped with popping pineapple tapioca pearls — a refreshing dessert that’s just as fun to eat as it is to Instagram. Rich, mango flavor is packed densely in layers of shaved ice into a pillowy, syrupy treat. If that’s not enough to keep you at the poker table all night, order a Vietnamese iced coffee and the waiter will mix it together right at your table.
As with most good meals, the check invariably makes its way to you, exchanging a bit of your personal fortune for a paper one. But this check arrives inside a giant fortune cookie, made in-house. Your fortune? Chances are good you'll have better luck dining at Asia than playing the slot machines.
Turn the page for more photos of the Ameristar's Asia.
PHOTO BY KEVIN KORINEK
The restaurant is just off the casino floor.