North Johnson City is host to a restaurant that has been quietly educating local palates on the wonderful variety of flavors and textures that characterize Asian cookery.
Rainbow Asian Cuisine is located next to Best Western Hotel on North Roan Street in Johnson City.
Rainbow’s menu offers traditional Chinese and Thai favorites, along with some surprising curry entrees and a pleasing number of specialty dishes. Their kitchen uses fresh ingredients, top-quality choice meats and no MSG. They can modify the recipe of any dish to suit any diner’s particular requirements.
Feeling that our collective palates could use a new dose of smarts, my dine-around friends and I stopped in for a quick re-education.
For starters, I chose soup as my first course, while my table mates gave further consideration to their entree orders. Rainbow’s Hot & Sour Soup ($2.99) is a bowl of spiced-up chicken broth laden with tofu, sliced vegetables, egg and pork. While the dish could have used a bit more pepper, the chicken broth tasted home made, the vegetables were crunchy and plentiful, and the tofu and egg made a tasty counterpoint to the shredded pork.
To further stimulate our palates’ re-education, each of us ordered a different entree. I opted for the Pad Thai House Special ($10.99). Ten minutes later, the server presented me with a plate of chicken, pork & shrimp stir-fried with Thai noodles, egg, bean sprouts, ground peanuts and scallions, all served up with pad Thai sauce and accompanied by a side salad with ginger dressing. The noodles were done to a turn, with excellent texture. The amount of Thai seasoning was just right, enhancing the chicken, pork and shrimp mixture without overwhelming it, allowing you to savor all the other ingredients in the dish. The accompanying ginger salad used freshly grated ginger root in its dressing, making a pungent-tasting interlude between bites of the Pad Thai.
My dining partner chose the Pineapple Chicken ($10.99), and was rewarded with a sliced chicken breast stir-fried with freshly cut pineapple chunks, snow peas and bamboo shoots, served on Thai jasmine rice and sauced with a pineapple reduction. The flavor of the fresh pineapple was enhanced by that of the sauce reduction, and both brought a smile to my partner’s face with every bite taken.
Another of my table mates ordered the Happy Family ($16.99) house special.
This drew snickers from the rest of the table, as the “Happy Family” moniker on any Asian dish usually means that you’ll be paying a high price for whatever was left on the cutting board after all the other entrees had been prepared. Not in this case, however, as Rainbow’s chef used top quality chicken breast, steak, shredded pork, shrimp and crisp Asian vegetables in cooking this dish, all of which were well matched by the seasoned fried rice accompaniment. No sooner had the Happy Family platter hit the table than the rest of us were stealing tasty morsels from it. Again, the accompanying salad/ginger dressing combo fulfilled its role as intermezzo between our stolen forkfuls.
Our remaining member chose Lemongrass Chicken ($11.99). In this dish, Rainbow’s chef created a masterful blend of flavors that, when paired with a serving of the brown rice, tasted entirely different. Adding small doses of the salad’s ginger dressing every so often caused yet another delightful change in the dish’s “taste portrait.” This intrigued us, and my partners and I spent most of the meal trying to identify the herbs and spices used in the chicken’s lemongrass marinade. We finally gave up, but not before voting Lemongrass Chicken as the best entree of the evening.
The “tuition” for our trip through Rainbow’s gustatory schoolhouse totaled just shy of $75, drinks and tip included. Fortunately, Rainbow accepts credit cards, so you won’t have to apply for financial aid the next time you want to re-educate your palate.