Was it cultural sensitivity with regards to Anzac Day or just sensitivity to holiday penalty rates that caused the Japanese restaurant Asakusa to be closed? Whatever the reason, our intended target for the night’s outing with daughters and granddaughter in tow, was blacked out and closed when Strop and I arrived. No worries, we’ll just go to the next place. So we stepped next door to number 121 and sat down at a newly re-modelled, re-managed, and absolutely empty Asian King, where we were soon joined by Stropette, Pancetta, and The Stropolina.
We have our choice of tables, and a high chair for the Pancetta is found, followed soon after by a large plate of prawn crackers. Pancetta thinks these are a very good idea and proceeds to eat some and spread the others around the restaurant. She is also fairly taken with the chopsticks and proceeds to conduct the music in her head, give a presentation, and make a few notes on the white paper table covering. The wait staff think she is very cute, so they’re definitely getting a tip.
The menu is large and colourful, and takes a bit of time to get our head around. Asian King is basically a Chinese restaurant and it’s menu has a number of overlaps with last weeks subject the Green Gourmet. We decide to exploit this duplication and order some of the same dishes but with actual dead animals in them this time. Just to see. So the order includes Peking Duck Pancakes, Sang Choy Bow, and Shandong Chicken for comparison. To this we add Szechuan Style Shredded Pork with Golden Buns, Peking Style Shredded Beef, Seasonal Stir Fried vegetables, and Shanghai Steamed Mini Pork Buns for Pancetta. With the ordering done we get down to drinking our Madfish Classic White wine and entertaining the youngster. The only other customers in the restaurant are two single Asian men – presumably students – one of whom impresses with both his dexterity and his manners by eating his prawn crackers with his chopsticks. I hope Pancetta took note. There are a couple of take away orders while we are there, both walk-ins and on-line orders, but mostly the place is empty. Meanwhile Pancetta has been offered some fruit which she proceeds to convert into a grapey slip-and-slide beneath her chair. Distraction is needed so The Stropolina takes Pancetta for a walk on the footpath. This is a new trick, actual bipedal walking, and she is keen to engage anyone and everyone on the strip in conversation on the thrills and spills involved. Pancetta returns from her walk just in time for the entrees, with lots of giggling at the idea that we are still there in the restaurant, right where she left us.
I’m just going to say this once, ok, meat is better than gluten – or any other analogue for that matter. There are large chunks of roasty toasty duck in the pancakes and yummy pork in the Sang Choy Bow. Then it’s on to the Shandong Chicken which is a revelation and the winning dish for the night. The Szechuan style pork is disappointing but the Peking style beef is yummy despite being very sweet. Kind of like beefy lollies.
We had a great time at Asian King and didn’t feel as if our antics were inconveniencing anyone else, except for the two Asian guys – and they didn’t seem to notice. It would be worth getting to know the menu better, because I suspect there are a few gems hidden away there. I would certainly go back for some more Shandong Chicken. But unfortunately we can’t, that is the cross we bear, always eating somewhere new. We have to cross the road to Cheeky Czech next, a place I have been looking forward to for a while – both because of it’s name and because it’s not Asian – I really feel like a change of cuisine. In the interest of completeness – which is the only thing Painting the Bridge has going for it after all – we will go back to Asakusa sometime when they can be bothered to be open.
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