Pan-Asian? Really? Yes, we know, we know … But it appears there’s something more going on at Asian Bistro. Here are our first impressions after an initial visit. The restaurant features the cuisines of Korea, Thailand, China, Japan, and Vietnam (represented by only a bowl of pho). The owner is Korean-American, and as soon as you’re seated, an array of banchan, small dishes of food (Korean) meant to be shared, is brought to the table. Today the banchan included kimchi, potatoes, bean sprouts, and fish, all cool and bright tasting, each boasting its own herb, spice, and sauce profile. Let this be a signal: we think the best way to approach Asian Bistro is as a Korean restaurant (something in very short supply in these parts.).
Kimchijeon, listed on the menu as an appetizer called kimchi pancake, could serve three or four comfortably as an appetizer. The kimchi- and vegetable-filled batter is cooked in a pan, then the hot pancake is cut into wedges and served with a dipping sauce. This is very easy food for a Korean food newbie to enjoy. The leftovers, incidentally, were spectacular heated on a grill, which added a welcome smoky edge. The avocado salad, presumably not of Korean extraction, again could serve multiple eaters as a starter. An entire avocado is served sliced atop a bed of lettuce, anointed with a ginger dressing of more interest than the usual article.
Our two entrees were of less interest. The Pad Thai, from the brief Thai section of the menu, is pleasant if unexciting, and we found the Korean grilled short ribs, called kalbi, to be rather dry and lifeless. The menu notes that there are four chefs, each specializing in one of the regional cuisines. You can see them at work in the open kitchen. Which chef has the responsibility for preparing the lone Vietnamese dish, we could not suss out. Looking around the dining areas (which include a number of outdoor tables), we spied a lot of sushi, and a few people eating from compartmentalized plates, like upscale TV dinners. This we’ll have to investigate further. About half the clientele appeared to be Asian. Service could not be more welcoming and solicitous.31 Station Drive Princeton Junction NJ 08550 609-378-5412 Asian Bistro Website (looks buggy to us) Asian Bistro on Facebook