Ever been in a restaurant, seated, already committed so to say, perusing the menu, searching, not finding, settling on a maybe, perhaps two? Been there; done that. Usually such experiences turn out okay, but not wonderful. Sometimes, well, you can’t win them all.
At Asian Paradise, Jewish diners-out will enjoy the opposite experience, I’m betting. This long-time fusion restaurant features a menu packed with choices that bring the entire Pacific Rim to your taste buds. If anything, you will face the problem I do when there: too many outstanding options from which to choose. Let’s see; there is the pad Thai with fettuccine rice noodles, made with my choice of chicken, beef, tofu, or the vegetable version. Pad Thai is a personal favorite of mine. Or like Tevye, “…on the other hand” maybe Vietnamese basil beef? Really liked that last time I ordered it. Or maybe Mongolian beef — always hearty, tasty, delightful. Or how about Pan-Asian grilled salmon or crispy Peking duck? Then too, there is a sushi menu as long as your arm, with at least a dozen outstanding choices for kosher-style diners which are both visually appealing and oh so delicious.
Fusion is part of the cache of Asian Paradise. Fusion, you’ll recall, is a style of cooking that blends ingredients and methods of preparation from various countries, regions and/or ethnic groupings, in an effort to create new recipes, taste sensations, and inter-ethnic twists for diners out. My sense is that while Asian Paradise features fusion tastes, the easier way to embrace the concept is by noting the origin of the dishes sprinkled throughout the menu. Most items on the menu are of Chinese, Southeast Asian or Japanese origin. Indian curries add to the geographic representation as well.
That said, General Tso’s chicken and sesame chicken are highly popular entrée dishes at Asian Paradise, according to GM Rainbow. “General Tso’s chicken most popular; everybody loves it, lots of people order it,” she stated. “Sesame chicken same way; very popular.” Here’s the rub: both dishes are “Chinese” in that they originated in Chinese restaurants, but those restaurants happened to be in the United States. For sure, General Tso’s chicken was never eaten by its eponymous namesake. He met his end in 1885. The dish that bears his name is claimed to have hit the dining scene in 1972, in the Big Apple at Shun Lee Palace, where Chinese immigrant chef T.T. Wang concocted and named it. Patrons loved the dish, and other NYC Chinatown eateries were quick to replicate it. Once established in New York City, General Tso’s chicken stormed out in all directions, appearing on menus from sea to shining sea and all points in between.
Sesame chicken, a sweet version of General Tso’s favorite, features a murky past, with no clear provenance. Conventional wisdom is that it too came from the ingenuity of a New York City chef in Chinatown, probably in the early 1980s. Regardless, both dishes were fashioned in the US of A to please the palates of diners here, not in China.
The point of all the above is that there are lots of solid, wholesome, delicious choices offered on the Asian Paradise menu. Anyone favorably disposed to Chinese food, and more broadly, Pacific Rim cuisine, some of it with a clearly American component, will easily find several dishes that suit them. I always do.
Among my favorites and already mentioned earlier is Vietnamese basil beef, a stir-fry dish that is packed with flavor. “The basil beef we start with the sauce and the basil (in the wok); the basil goes into the brown sauce for special flavor, and the green onions also,” Rainbow said.
After a brief stir-fry to meld these flavors, the more noticeable ingredients are added. These include red and yellow-orange bell peppers, broccoli florets and meaty chunks of shitake mushrooms, followed by thin-sliced pieces of beef, so tender the pieces seem macerated. The result is an entrée with eye appeal that is both aromatic and delicious. You, as the diner, are able to control the spiciness of the dish, and in my case, a little spicy is just right — perhaps a two on a 6-level scale.
Since almost every dish and the sauces that go with them are created when the patron orders, you have a lot of control over what goes into your entrée choice. Don’t like scallions? Hold those, please. Enjoy highly spiced foods? Pour it on, please!
See you at Asian Paradise!