At first, whatever restaurant is planted there thrives like a crocus in early spring. Just as crocus-like, it suddenly disappears from the scene, an out-of-date Facebook page and a hastily-lettered sign taped to the restaurant’s front door as its only farewell.
So I am always interested when a new restaurant sets up shop in just such a location. One such restaurant caught my attention recently, and I brought the dine-around bunch with me to see (and smell and taste) how they were doing.
Asian House is a purveyor of Asian cuisine. The restaurant is located on the Jonesborough end of West Market Street in Johnson City. It occupies a storefront in the Walmart shopping center, with a Mexican taqueria and a frozen yogurt shop as neighbors. The dining area has seating for about 60 in various booths and tables. The décor is best described as New Asian; clean lines with minimal decoration throughout. The cashier/takeout counter is located near the front door. The sushi station is toward the back of the dining room.
Hibachi Chicken: Asian House has a comprehensive menu that offers something for just about every taste and appetite. Because of this, the dine-around bunch and I decided that we would each order from different parts of the menu, giving us a good cross section of both the variety and the skill of Asian House’s kitchen. The Retiree led off by ordering something simple; hibachi chicken ($7.59). Here, coarsely-chopped pieces of chicken thigh meat, cooked in a teriyaki sauce-based stir-fry with rice and various chopped vegetables; onion, carrot, water chestnut, the usual. The result was prepared to order, and in front of the Retiree inside of 10 minutes. After two bites, the expression on our friend’s face told us she had made the right choice.
Vegetable Lo Mein: The Dieter, still wanting to eat more vegetables than meat and bread, chose the Asian House vegetable lo mein ($7.59) for her evening meal. To a stir-fry of chopped carrot, broccoli, bean sprout, onion, shallot and water chestnut was added a good quantity of lo mein noodles that were vigorously stirred and then plated with a pork egg roll as an added bit of yummy for the Dieter’s tummy. I was allowed to twirl my fork in my friend’s plate, and was very pleased with the result. The egg roll was pretty good, too.
Happy Box: The Carnivore wanted a meal with variety, and found it with a “Happy Box” ($10.99). My meat-eating friend filled Asian House’s version of the traditional bento box with General Tso’s chicken as the stir-fry entrée, sided with sweet carrots, mushrooms and broccoli, and featuring two crab Rangoon, six pieces of maki sushi, a California roll in this instance, and a pork egg roll. A meal fit for any meat eater, and a good demonstration of what Asian House’s overall kitchen skill set was.
Shrimp & Chicken: My dining partner had been fighting a headache all day. My partner favored the Japanese grill or “teppan” style of cooking, but today without the usual “flippety-flippety show” that comes with such a meal. Her order of the grilled shrimp & chicken combination platter ($10.99) was prepared in Asian House’s kitchen with a minimum amount of noise. The platter as presented to my partner featured grilled 15-count peeled & de-veined shrimp with chopped and grilled chicken thigh meat, all layered onto fried rice and mixed with cooked sweet carrot, onion, mushroom, and broccoli. There was a ramekin of shrimp sauce to hand, and included a pork egg roll either as the appetizer or dessert. My dining partner tucked into her teppan-grilled shrimp & chicken with evident delight, remarking that the cook had gotten the texture and flavor of both the shrimp and the chicken just the way she liked them.
Sushi medley — Vegetable Roll, Alaskan Roll, “Bonsai Tree”: A sushi-based supper was my assignment for our evening meal at Asian House, and I was not disappointed. Our server informed us that Asian House was running a “Twofer” special price: $8.50 for both a six-piece vegetable maki roll and a six-piece Alaskan maki roll. As I was closing my menu, I spotted the “Bonsai Tree” roll ($7.99) among the house specials and included it on a whim. The two maki rolls were both very good, the vegetable roll being filled with julienned cucumber, raw carrot and scallion, wrapped in nori (dried seaweed) paper, rolled in white sticky rice and dusted with toasted sesame and poppy seeds. The Alaskan roll was the same, but with smoked salmon, cucumber and avocado as the filling. While both maki rolls were quite good, the real star of my sushi show was the “Bonsai Tree” roll. Here the Asian House sushi virtuoso took finely chopped spicy yellowfin tuna surrounded with sticky rice, wrapped in thin, delicate strips of cucumber, then sliced into six sections and presented on the plate as an abstract flower. The taste and texture of this delicacy was so unique it required no additional sauces or spices of any kind.
Bottom line: Asian House is a fine restaurant that features Japanese, Chinese and southeast Asian cuisine. Its location is the perfect place to fish for hungry customers, while the kitchen has enough variety served at a fair price to keep customers coming back again and again.
3101 W. Market St.
Daily except Monday 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Credit cards accepted