From their former storefront on Elizabethton’s E. Elk Avenue, Red Chili has moved over to new more spacious digs on Sycamore Street in the landmark Bonnie Kate Theater building. Their new dining room is both longer, wider and taller than before. The cashier/takeout counter is at the rear of the dining area, with kitchen and restrooms farther back. The wait staff is friendly and knowledgeable. The vibe you get dining at Red Chili is a pleasant Urban Shabby/Chic, at once both familiar and comfortable as your favorite armchair.
For starters: pot stickers and spring rolls
Red Chili has a passel of new offerings alongside the old favorites. It was curiosity about these new offerings that brought the dine-around bunch and I over for supper one Friday night. Upon our arrival, our capable server, Morgan greeted and showed us to our table. For starters, I asked Morgan to bring us two of our favorite Red Chili appetizers to enjoy; some pot stickers ($4.95) and vegetable spring rolls ($5.95). Red Chili pot stickers are seasoned pork forcemeat filling a wonton dumpling seared in a very hot wok and served with ponzu sauce. The spring rolls were also delicious, with thin rice wrappers filled with a finely-minced vegetable mixture, quick-fried and then served with a chilled fresh pineapple reduction. Its use at our table brought raves from my friends; tangy, sour and slightly astringent.
Looking over her menu, our Dieter friend was pleased her pursuit of a gluten-free lifestyle would not be interrupted by dining out at Red Chili. Her teriyaki chicken ($12.95) featured soba, or gluten-free buckwheat noodles. The soba noodles acted as a bed for the stir-fry mixture of coarsely-sliced chicken strips and namul, Korean vegetable mixture of mushrooms, onions, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts and the like in a flavorful sauce. The Dieter found her entrée to be a treat for her palate.
The Carnivore spotted an entrée entitled Blue chicken ($12.95) having two of his favorite foods in the same dish: fried chicken and blue cheese. The fried chicken being white meat chicken tenders that are dredged, breaded and pan-fried with a minimal quantity of Asian vegetables with a ginger-teriyaki infusion and served with steamed white rice and blue cheese dressing. The infusion was very spicy, needing something to take the spice heat down a few degrees. Red Chili’s blue cheese dressing was made from mayonnaise with crumbles of blue cheese stirred into it. Even a bottle of store-bought would have been better than what was supplied to the Carnivore’sotherwise delectable entree.
Shrimp & noodles
My dining partner opted for one of her favorite Red Chili lunch-time choices, Shrimp & noodles ($17.95), being a good quantity of 8-10 count-sized shrimp, stir-fried with sautéed vegetables and Asian noodles. My dining partner found the shrimp to be delicious and, being tail-on, easy to handle. The vegetables were stir-fried to a turn, while the nutty flavor of the noodles tied shrimp, vegetables and sauce together: perfection in a bowl.
I’d heard of but never had occasion to try bebimbap. Red Chili’s menu lists the dish as “Be-Bim-Bob” ($13.95) but it’s the same; steamed rice covered in namul, sautéed vegetables plus thin-sliced beef strips and a good-sized dollop of gochujang, chili pepper paste. A fried egg is placed on top of the rice, namul and gochujang, and is served in a sizzling hot stone bowl that. For best effect, Morgan suggested I mix everything with the rice, blending all of the food components together in a delicious mélange of flavors and textures. The rice was especially so, being coated with bits of beef and fried egg, the savory sauce from the namul and the peppery spiciness and heat from the gochujang giving it a rich, soft and smooth feeling on the tongue. The textures and flavors in Red Chili’s “Be-Bim-Bob” are how my taste buds define the word “unctuous.”
Red Chili’s larger facilities, updated menu and excellent service are all elements of continued success. Be advised that they are open for business Wednesday through Saturday from eleven a.m. until 4 p.m., until 9:30 p.m. on Fridays and closed Sunday through Tuesday, and they do take credit cards now. The next time you are in the mood for Asian cooking, why not give that old “Chinese” buffet place a miss and try Korean cuisine done the right way. Aside from that easily-fixable blue cheese gaffe, having lunch or supper at Red Chili in Elizabethton is an experience you, your family and friends do not want to miss.
115 S. Sycamore Street
Wed, Thu & Sat 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Fri 11 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Available on Facebook & social media
Credit cards accepted