In 'n' Out

Asian Bistro offers innovative fare--and delivers to most of the midtown area

In recent years, restaurant home delivery has gone the way of saddle shoes and penny postcards.

But there are thankfully some exceptions--such as Asian Bistro, a relative newcomer to the Campbell Avenue restaurant corridor that makes deliveries for both lunch and dinner.

As a harried working couple, John and I decided we had to give the delivery service a try. A map on the to-go menu shows the delivery area is fairly large: The boundaries are River Road to the north, Broadway Boulevard to the south, Oracle Road to the west, and Swan Road to the east.

We called in our order: crab wontons ($4), vegetable spring rolls ($3), vegetable fried rice ($6.50), sweet and sour pork ($7.50) and sesame chicken ($10). Because we'd ordered at least $25 worth of food, we got a free order of chicken spring rolls ($3). We choose brown rice to go with the meal. The woman who took our order told us it would arrive anywhere between 45 minutes to an hour later.

But 30 minutes later, a car drove up in front of the house, and what do you know? We had our dinner! We plated the food and dug in.

The appetizers all hit the mark: The spring rolls were crispy (the chicken was actually noticeable), and the wontons required two or three bites, as they were so full of crab-flecked cream cheese. Size also mattered with the sweet and sour pork and the sesame chicken: The battered pieces of both were large enough to require a knife. The chicken was lightly covered with a dark, sweet sauce, and only white meat was used. The pork was pretty good as well; plenty of sweet and sour sauce came with it on the side.

I was also impressed with the vegetable fried rice. Short-grain rice had been lightly tossed with myriad vegetables, including broccoli, sliced snow peas, carrots and bean sprouts. All those vegetables made me wish I'd ordered the shrimp fried rice ($7.50), in hopes that the shrimp would be equally abundant.

With such positive results, a lunch visit was in order. I met Karyn Zoldan there on a Friday.

The room is small, but with two walls of windows and another mirrored wall, there is a sense of space. On the fourth wall is a huge piece of art that depicts life in what appears to be ancient China. There is also a bar, but as of this writing, Asian Bistro is still waiting for its liquor license to get approved.

The lack of liquor doesn't necessarily mean boring beverages, though; fruit slushes, milk teas, bubble teas and flavored teas are available ($2.50; add tapioca for 50 cents), as well as blended coffees, sodas and bottled water. Karyn ordered the Pink Lady slush, which contained melon and watermelon. I had the strawberry/banana Beautiful Life.

We split a cup of Thai vegetable tom yum soup ($2), salt and pepper shrimp ($12) and the Macau baked chicken rice ($8.50). (There are also lunch specials available, for $6.50 to $9.50, including an entrée, soup and a chef's-choice appetizer; the same goes for dinner, $7.50 to $10.50.) Our side rice of choice was again brown. Our oh-so-polite server informed us that the baked rice would take a little longer, and she'd bring the other food out ahead of time "if that was OK" with us.

The soup arrived first. Fiery red from all the hot pepper that is used in this traditional dish, the soup was flavored with lemongrass and a mix of other light veggies too finely chopped to tell what was what. We enjoyed it--me more so than Karyn--but we agreed it wasn't something either of us would order on a regular basis.

Next came the shrimp. About a dozen shrimp had been lightly dusted with breading, salt, pepper and--to quote the menu--"exotic spices." The shrimp was cooked perfectly, and the crumbly breadcrumbs were slightly salty, peppery and "exotic." Served atop light crispy noodles that had been tossed with peppers, onions and such, it was the high point of the meal. I would seriously consider ordering this for my next home delivery.

We were a little disappointed with the Macau chicken rice. It was obvious from the look and aroma that curry had been used in the yellow coconut cream sauce; this should be noted on the menu. While the presentation on the shrimp had eye appeal, this dish did not. It looked lumpy, thanks to chunks of dark-meat chicken and potatoes. The chicken seemed undercooked and--maybe it's me--having rice and potatoes together didn't work.

One other small quibble: The written dessert menu didn't gibe with what was actually available. Several things were missing, but we didn't care; we split the old family-recipe mango pudding ($3). It offered great color, a light and creamy texture, and a strong essence of mango, all of which made this tiny dessert delightful. This would be a great antidote to our upcoming summer heat.

I'm looking forward to a chance to order in again from Asian Bistro. Maybe even tonight ...

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