Monday, February 8, 2010

Suzie Wong's -- Delicious and Healthy Cooking

My husband and I made our way to Suzie Wong's in East Walnut Hills this weekend, and wow, were we impressed.
Much of what passes as Chinese--or Asian--food in this town is greasy, heavy and unimaginative. With a few exceptions, it's like they're all drawing from the same sloppy kitchen. But Polly Campbell's four-star review in the Cincinnati Enquirer last month promised a vastly better dining experience.
Promise fulfilled!
As we perused the menu, we asked our server to help us find the healthiest food in the house, which seemed like a request she didn't get that often. But she good-naturedly guided our selection from among an extensive but not overwhelming array of appetizers, salads, noodle and rice dishes and entrees.

For starters, my husband first ordered an ahi tuna appetizer, but the kitchen had run out of tuna. So he settled on Suzie's Garden Salad ($4.95), a delightful combo that included mango, mandarin oranges and pomegranate seeds, topped with a ginger-soy dressing (his choice). I went with the Saigon Roll ($6.95), two hefty chicken, shrimp and veggie filled beauties that came with a spicy dipping sauce. (Top photo shows our appetizers.)

His entree came from the Noodles section, Wong's version of Pad Thai ($8.95, middle photo)--frankly, not a dish I usually would recommend because most renditions are piles of too-salty noodles so oily that the food practically slides off the plate. But this Pad Thai was exemplary, studded with crispy veggies and the steamed tofu he chose for protein (it could have been chicken, beef or shrimp for that price, a little more for duck breast or "seafood supreme") --and his empty plate didn't glisten at all.

I took our server's recommendation and tried the Wild Mushroom Trio ($12.95, bottom photo) from the Veggie Corner section of the menu. The description ("sauteed fresh shiitake, oyster and enoki mushrooms in a ginger white wine sauce on a bed of seasonal vegetables") doesn't even hint at the magnificence of this dish, at least to my taste. (Owner Alex Chin walked by as I was digging in and commented that I was eating his favorite dish in the house.) As with most of the entrees, the mushrooms came with a side of white or brown rice, but I didn't want it--the main course was just so perfect as is.
What was so great? Perhaps most notable was the tender meatiness of the 'shrooms themselves, especially the shiitakes, which had an ethereal taste and texture. The veggie combo with the mushrooms was delightful, too, including baby bok choy and the unusual lotus root, while the mild ginger sauce pulled it all together very nicely.

No liquor license yet at Suzie Wong's, which suits us just fine as bringing our own wine helps to keep the tab down--we brought a bottle of very nice Oregon Pinot Noir that set the food off perfectly. That situation won't last forever as the restaurant has applied for a liquor license--when they get it, manager Bill Hatfield says they'll stay open a lot later and serve interesting cocktails as well as beer and wine. Now that's something to look forward to....along with many lunch and dinnertime visits to try more of the amazing food.

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