17 August 2011
Hooray! Good and reasonably priced Chinese (and Thai) food is only a short drive away. As a New York transplant, this is something that I have longed for since leaving the Empire State eleven years ago. As a restaurant reviewer, local residents often ask me for suggestions on places to eat or are excited to tell me about their latest dining adventure. Quite a few people have suggested that I try Made In Asia, the new Chinese and Thai restaurant that opened three months ago. I usually give new restaurants a few months to “shake things out” and my visit to Made In Asia was no exception. Last week, my husband Dick and our friends Bonnie and Don met on a hot and humid day for a cool and fun afternoon, exploring the menu and ordering lots of treats.
Made In Asia is located in the small strip of shops by Wal-Mart at Zion Crossroads. It’s nothing special from the parking lot, but a little oasis of sophistication once you step through the door. The restaurant was decorated in a minimalist and modern style. The ceiling was high, with fans and had an industrial feel. Taupe seats and booths had high backs for privacy and were offset by black tables. Recorded light jazz played in the background. Don remarked on its departure from typical Chinese decorations with lots of red, dragons, and lanterns. I really liked the décor – it had a calming, zen-like quality.
Our server made us feel welcome and answered our questions in a warm and professional manner. We ordered “small plates” to share and we each ordered a different dish from the lunch menu, which is available everyday between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. The small plates are from $4.95 to $6.50 and would be a good snack with a drink, as a small meal if you are not that hungry, or as a nice appetizer to share. The entrees on the lunch menu are from $5.95 to $7.95 and include a choice of a fried egg roll or egg drop soup or wonton soup. The Chinese entrees include white rice or fried rice as well. A small portion of cucumber salad was placed at the center of the table to be enjoyed with the entrees. It tasted just like my own cucumber salad recipe and I thought this was a nice little addition to the fare.
Don ordered the small plate of mussels. The six large mussels were presented beautifully and with a sauce that was a little spicy. Don really enjoyed them and said that he would have them as a meal. I like my mussels much smaller and sweeter and found the large ones a little chewy. I ordered the small plate of fried dumplings and couldn’t have been more pleased. They were light and tasty, perfectly cooked with a delicious pork mixture in very thin dough. Even the sauce for dipping was light, not overpowering. We scarfed them up pretty fast.
Bonnie and Dick ordered the egg rolls and found them hot and crispy. Don enjoyed his egg drop soup, which he found thick and tasty. I ordered the wonton soup. The wontons were delicate and sweet, but the soup was a little too bland for me.
Bonnie ordered white meat sesame chicken, which looked beautiful with fresh, green broccoli resting on the chicken and a bowl-size portion of fried rice. Bonnie said everything tasted good and fresh. I tasted the sesame chicken and especially liked the fact that the sauce was slightly sweet and the chicken was really moist.
Don ordered the egg foo yong with fried rice. The three generous, crispy, but not greasy egg patties were a pleasant surprise. He thought the portion was large enough for two people to share. Don found the gravy a little thick but really liked the taste. Both Bonnie and Don brought some of their food home for lunch the next day and thought that the sesame chicken and egg foo yong reheated well.
Dick ordered a favorite of his, pork lo mein, and he was not disappointed. He found the generous serving of noodles well-cooked and the light sauce really enhanced the noodles.
I was the brave soul who ordered lunch from the Thai offerings. I had pad see-ew with beef. I have no idea how to pronounce this dish, but I can say with all honesty that it was delicious. The flat noodles were delicate and translucent. Some broccoli was tossed in with the very tender meat and a sauce that was just a tiny bit on the sweet side. This dish is a winner. When Dick tasted it he was quite sure that he would order pad see-ew the next time we visit Made In Asia. And it also reheats well.
Although we were all full, we were intrigued by the dessert selection. By this time there was a huge storm outside and we decided to keep the fun going and ordered the only two desserts on the menu, which were $4.25 each. The banana rice cake is similar to rice pudding, although more delicate with finely mashed banana in the center and raisins throughout the rectangular-shaped “cake.” The fried ice cream was vanilla ice cream that was crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Chocolate syrup and whipped cream completed the dish. I am always a big fan of fried ice cream and enjoyed this rendition. The desserts were individual portions but could be shared if diners only want a sweet little taste after their meals.
After lunch, we met Jennie, the owner and general manager of Made In Asia. Her story is one that is very familiar and endearing. Jennie moved to America with her parents when she was 12-years-old. Her parents – who immigrated to the United States when they were in their thirties and spoke very little English – started to work in restaurants and finally opened their own restaurant. Many restaurants followed and her father still owns and operates a restaurant in Lansing, Michigan. Jennie is anxious for her father to come to Virginia to retire. She’s also hoping he’ll help when he wants to at the three restaurants she owns in Virginia – the others are in Chesterfield and Powhatan.
Now that Made In Asia has their liquor license, Jennie hopes that patrons will consider coming by after work – or on a rainy day – for a drink and maybe a snack. We told her that we were impressed by the freshness of the food that was served. She was glad that we noticed and explained that because the kitchen is a little small, meats and vegetables are delivered every other day.
Jennie is also pleased to see that many patrons are becoming regulars, a true sign of a successful restaurant. Lunchtime can get crowded and noisy so I suggest that you eat lunch at 1 p.m. if you want a quieter experience. Take out is also available and with its Zion Crossroad location, it is a good option when you are returning from Richmond or northern Virginia.
Made in Asia
39 Market Street, Zion Crossroads
Monday - Thursday 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.; Friday - Saturday 11 a.m. - 10:30 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m. - 9:30 pm