Thursday, March 26, 2009

Dining by Delorean: Asia

Posted By on Thu, Mar 26, 2009 at 3:02 PM

  • User "Grenex," Wikimedia Commons
Ian hops in Gut Check's time machine and returns to restaurants Riverfront Times has reviewed in the past.

It's fitting that I'm visiting Lumière Place for this inaugural installment of Dining by Delorean. Casinos operate outside the usual space-time continuum. Is it morning, afternoon or night? Today, a week or a year from now?

Exactly a year has passed since I reviewed Asia, Lumière Place's Japanese-Chinese-Vietnamese restaurant, but as I settle into my seat, the bleep-bleep-bloop of electronic slot machines barely audible above the casino's cranked sound system, it feels as if I were last here only yesterday...

I wasn't impressed with Asia:
Like many Chinese (or Vietnamese or Thai) restaurants, Asia offers too many dishes for a critic to undertake a truly representative survey. Still, I can report that nearly everything I tried was rather timid in flavor, and a few items were downright bland.
Are there any signs of improvement?

click to enlarge JENNIFER SILVERBERG
  • Jennifer Silverberg
There have been a few, very slight changes. The menu no longer looks like the photocopy of a photocopy, as I described it. And the two most extravagant items -- bird's nest and shark's fin soups, the latter controversial as well as expensive -- are gone. Otherwise, Asia still offers the same uninspired, overpriced survey of the best-known Asian cuisines.

Today I start with the Vietnamese egg rolls, which are plump with ground pork but taste of too many seconds submerged in hot oil. My main course is the grilled lemongrass beef -- a house specialty, according to the menu -- very thin slices of beef garnished with chopped peanuts and scallions sit atop vermicelli noodles pressed into a broad, flat ovoid; on the side is a dish of nuoc cham, the traditional dipping sauce of fish sauce, garlic and chiles.

The beef is chewy and tastes mostly of grill char. The nuoc cham adds a sweet, spicy note, but that's not enough to overcome the bluntly flavored beef. The pressed vermicelli, the texture like a cross between noodles and Jell-O, absorb enough of the nuoc cham to be tasty, if simply so, on its own.

The check comes with a fortune cookie: "You have a friendly heart and are much admired." I shake my head: Once again, Asia misses the mark.

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