Chinese ... er, Asian food takeout is usually relegated to three situations within my life: last-ditch option for a quick lunch around my food option-deprived workplace; occasional bi-annual craving for the stuff; or the inebriated need for spicy deep-fried classic deep fried meat and rice and soy sauce combo. So, generally I don't make takeout Asian food a part of my usual repertoire.
However, I found the food at Snow Peas Modern Asian Kitchen to be light, fresh, tasty, and I didn't experience either of the two common post fast-Asian food dilemmas—either hungry an hour later; or desperately feeling the need to chug gallons of water to counteract the salt-lick phenomenon.
Snow Peas is in a renovated Yokohama Rice Bowl restaurant on Craycroft just south of 22nd Street, and the restaurant is airy, spacious, bright and clean. It hasn't quite shaken its fast-food restaurant feel, but once the food arrives, you won't care. Since the restaurant's business seems to be at least half takeout and half dine-in, I decided to try lunching in and taking dinner to go for my two visits.
I had lunch with Nicole, a friend and co-worker—we ventured up to the non-descript building right around noon and were surprised to find very few patrons in the restaurant and no line. There were only two or three employees working, but they were friendly enough and our order was promptly taken. We started with the veggie egg rolls (two at $2.99); and the calamari tempura ($6.99) for appetizers; then I chose the spicy lemongrass noodle combo ($8.99), and Nicole opted for the Szechuan beef entrée ($7.99). Each of our orders came with a cup of soup—I went for the egg drop while Nicole chose the hot and sour. Both were tasty, the hot and sour was definitely the favorite, but they weren't anything special.
At Snow Peas, you order at the counter, then your order is delivered to your table. Nicole and I intended the egg rolls and calamari to be appetizers, but the egg rolls were delivered with her Szechuan beef, and then about five minutes later, my lemongrass noodles, and then a good 10 minutes after that, our calamari arrived at the table. All of the food was hot and tasty, but it was odd that calamari would take longer to prepare than the entrées. Nicole enjoyed her beef entrée, though it wasn't at all spicy, and my noodle dish, which was specifically called out on the menu as being spicy, wasn't either. But the thin rice noodles—mixed with lemongrass, various stir fried veggies, shrimp, chicken and beef—were tasty. The only other issue I had with it, apart from the lack of spiciness, was that the sauce served alongside the hot pasta was cold. Although the calamari was the last dish to reach the table, it was definitely the favorite. Long tender strips of squid were deep fried to a light golden crisp and served with scallion tops and a delightfully umami oyster-like sauce mix.
For my second stab at Snow Peas, I sent Ted with a long list of takeout items to pick up after work and bring home. The menu is quite extensive, with Cantonese, Vietnamese, and traditional American-style Chinese takeout flavors dotting the menu. We decided on a bowl of wonton soup ($7.99), a braised beef rib appetizer ($4.99), Cantonese shrimp ($8.99), braised pork with eggs ($8.99), and Hong Kong style spicy chicken ($6.99). Entrées all come with your choice of white, brown or fried rice at no extra charge (we chose fried).
The beef ribs were the only disappointment. They were tough and had way too much sauce, which was overwhelmingly sweet and flavored with Chinese five-spice. The to-go containers aren't packed to the brim like at most Asian takeout restaurants, but the portions are reasonable, except for the braised pork and eggs, which could have been a little heartier serving size.
The Hong Kong style chicken and the braised pork and eggs were the standouts of the meals —the chicken was spicy this time, with lots of grilled tender white meat strips in a rich but spicy red sauce, with crisp, fresh stir-fried veggies. The pork and eggs (well, egg, technically), which I was a bit skeptical of at first, turned out to be a few slow-cooked and incredibly tender chunks of pork and a hard-cooked egg in a light, meaty brown sauce, and was absolutely delicious.
While it may not be your traditional Asian takeout place, and it's not quite a modern, sit-down Asian fusion restaurant either, Snow Peas strikes a delicate balance between the two that seems to work. As long as they keep serving fresh, light fare that isn't all salt, soy sauce and deep-fried, I think they'll be successful.