Category Archives: Chinese

It’s fast … it’s casual … it’s Asian!

Lettuce wraps
The lettuce wraps at Yang Kee Noodle (top) and I Ching Asian Cafe are similar, but Yang Kee provides more lettuce and goodies on the side. Photos by Robin Garr

(Yang Kee Noodle, I Ching Asian Cafe, Voice-Tribune, July 12, 2007)

If you like the fresh, healthy and enticing flavors of the colorful cuisines of East Asia, but feel a little wary about dining at ethnic eateries where the menu is printed in a language you can’t speak, then fast-casual Asian dining may be just right for you.

Coming from the West Coast, as so many modern food trends do, this spreading development is largely carried by franchise chains like Pei Wei (P.F. Chang’s little brother), Rice Boxx, Pick Up Stix Fresh Asian Kitchen, Chef Martin Yan’s Yan Can and Tokyo Joe’s.

Like the similarly swelling wave of “fresh burrito” chains, competition is keen in this niche, and the concepts are so similar that sometimes the only way to tell where you’re dining is to look at the corporate logo.

None of the Asian chains have reached Louisville yet, but the concept is going strong in the East End, with two independent properties competing from shopping-center venues just a mile apart on Shelbyville Road.
Continue reading It’s fast … it’s casual … it’s Asian!

Cravin’ Asian at Shah’s Mongolian

Shalimar
Two build-your-own stir-fries at Shah’s Mongolian Grill. Photo by Robin Garr

(Voice-Tribune, April 12, 2006)

I love Italian food and wine and sometimes feel that I can’t get enough of it. But after spending over two weeks in Northern Italy, enjoying the real thing for breakfast, lunch and dinner, I came home last week just about ready for a change of pace.

But what, exactly, would fill the bill? Instinctively, I emulated the Italian nobleman Marco Polo, who headed for the exotic East in 1266 and found all manner of good things: I headed for Louisville’s East End to check out a favorite Asian eatery that I was overdue to visit because of ownership changes and new offerings since my last review.
Continue reading Cravin’ Asian at Shah’s Mongolian

Get ready for the Year of the Pig, at Liang’s Café

Snow White Fish
Liang’s Snow White Fish is as pretty as its name and tastes even better. Photo by Robin Garr.

LEO’s Eat ‘n’ Blog with Louisville HotBytes

In Western culture, even those of us who’ve learned to prize the tasty joys of pigmeat can’t fully escape our Old Testament heritage: Calling an associate “pig” will not win you friends or influence people.

The Chinese, however, informed by nearly five millennia of pig-loving heritage, take a broader view: In the legend and lore of the mysterious East, the noble swine is considered loyal, chivalrous and pure of heart.

Lunar Year 4705, the Year of the Pig, is coming on Feb. 18, and I for one plan to enjoy plenty of Chinese food before, during and after the 15-day celebration.
Continue reading Get ready for the Year of the Pig, at Liang’s Café

Chains – Was Mr. Marx right?

P.F. Chang's
Long waits were common when P.F. Chang’s opened in Louisville last year. Photo by Robin Garr

LEO’s Eat ‘n’ Blog with Louisville HotBytes
(P.F. Chang’s, Cheesecake Factory)

“Unite,” Karl Marx urged the workers of the world. “You have nothing to lose but your chains.” And speaking of chains, my experiences with dining at the franchised variety too often remind me of another Marx – Groucho – who famously said, “I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn’t it.”

Please note that I’m not simply bashing all chains, sight unseen. I’ve had splendid meals at quite a few, and published glowing reviews. But whether you’re looking at a restaurant chain like Cheddar’s or a newspaper chain like Gannett, simple logic argues that when corporate bean counters rule spending, corner-cutting and diminished quality are likely to follow. Chains simply operate under different constraints than an independent local business run by an owner-chef whose passion drives him or her to excel regardless of costs.

This seems to work, most of the time. Consider the popularity of the Louisville Originals restaurants and similar locally owned eateries: You’ll find few chains knocking the locals out of any critic’s list of Top 10 places to dine.

And yet … some chains clearly do something right, because hungry crowds fairly knock down their doors. Take the suburban culinary meccas P.F. Chang’s and Cheesecake Factory. The three-hour waits of the early days may have diminished a little since they opened last autumn, but eager diners still line up hungrily at dinner time.

What is their secret? Continue reading Chains – Was Mr. Marx right?