My first memory of what metamorphosis involves was in fifth-grade science class. My classmates and I were privileged to watch what used to be a big and stripey caterpillar change first into a green chrysalis and then into a beautiful Monarch butterfly.

My teacher Ms. Acker wrote the word “metamorphosis” out on the blackboard and told us its meaning:

“To change from one form to another.”

Metamorphosis, (better known these days as “morphing”) has a very special meaning for anyone in the restaurant business during “Interesting Times.” One restaurateur, Choon Fa Yong, knows very well what metamorphosis is, and has used it to make Yong Asia House in Gray even better than it was before the “Interesting Times” showed up.

First impressions

Yong’s version of metamorphosis is unique indeed. The restaurant had had some work done to its entry and cashier/carry-out station just before the onset of the pandemic. Yong and his wife Adeline saw the pandemic as an opportunity to remodel the restaurant’s interior, changing it into a serene dining area with increased seating, a muted but still-mesmerizing décor, and a wait staff that is friendly, efficient and unobtrusive. The restrooms are still to the left and down the hall, just past Yong’s imposing sushi bar. Alas, the buffet line is no more, a casualty of the “Interesting Times,” though Adeline says that the buffet “will be back in some form, once things settle down a bit more.”

Teriyaki Chicken & Steak

The Retiree, just back from her trip to the coast, was regaling my dining partner and I with her version of “Traveler’s Tales.” As an accompaniment, our globe-trotting friend told our server Monica to bring her an order of Yong’s Teriyaki Chicken & Steak ($12.99).

This is one of chef Yong’s best stir-fry creations, with bite-sized chunks of white meat chicken and sirloin steak joined by a varied mix of Asian vegetables sauced with the restaurant’s best teriyaki concoction. Plated with Yong’s savory fried rice, their Teriyaki Chicken & Steak entrée is a feast for the eyes as well as the palate.

Chow Mee Hoon

My dining partner opted for a plate of Yong’s take on Chow Mee Hoon, ($11.99) a superbly flavored entrée where angel hair pasta, white meat chicken and some good-sized shrimp are stir-fried together in a spice-laden and savory brown sauce, with an egg thrown in for good measure. Thus prepared, angel hair pasta is hard to handle with a set of chopsticks, so my dining partner used her fork instead and was soon twirling up her entrée and having a great time doing it.

Sushi: Spider Roll and Dynamite Roll

I chose two Yong’s Specials from the restaurant’s sushi menu: the spicy Dynamite Roll ($8.59) and the Spider Roll ($9.59).

My Dynamite Roll had fried shrimp and spiced crab wrapped in sticky rice, sauces and crunchies. The Spider Roll, a blue crab whose shell has molted and is then battered and deep-fried, was joined by masago (fish roe), cucumber and avocado, wrapped in sticky rice and enrobed in an edible nori wrapper before being sliced and served.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with sushi, the rule is that taste and texture be matched by presentation. Though my Dynamite Roll and Spider Roll fulfilled the first two requirements, its presentation needed a smidge more organization on the platter.

Still, as the saying goes, “two out of three ain’t bad.”

The bottom line

Choon and Adeline have taken advantage of these “Interesting Times” and worked a real metamorphosis on Yong Asia House that can only mean more success for the pair and their restaurant. The décor is both spectacular and serene, the service exemplary and the food equally so. I am hoping that Yong Asia House can make that one extra effort to bring back their truly remarkable Sunday buffet.

Though it may be slow in coming, the dine-around bunch and I are looking forward to the next metamorphosis at Yong Asia House.

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