Welcome to the club
By Julia Beizer
Friday, January 8, 2010
At a glance: Most Asian Satay Club customers never see the inside of the dining room. Delivery is big here; eating in is not.
That's a shame. To-go patrons are missing out on an attractive 90-seat space with a long, dark bar stocked with the makings of tiki cocktails. The walls are painted muted shades of green and crimson. More than enough servers stand ready to make your stay a comfortable one.
The Tenleytown restaurant is a family affair. Teck-Hin Chan cooks most nights, and his sisters, Elin and Amy Chan, run the front of the house. Anthony Goo, Amy's husband, helps out at the sushi bar. The family's attention to detail comes through in little touches such as herb garnishes, attractive ceramic tableware and warm greetings when you enter.
On the menu: Thailand, China, Japan, Malaysia, Vietnam and Singapore are all represented on the long menu. Over the course of four visits, I found the Thai dishes to be most reliable. An order of Thai fried rice felt like confetti on the tongue, the light grains tossed with feathery wisps of egg. The drunken noodle dish, ordered for a vegetarian, arrived buried under a heap of spicy bell peppers, onions and crinkle-cut carrots.
Thanks to a generous sprinkling of whole dried chilies, the kung pao chicken packed its usual fire, roasted peanuts and bell peppers providing crunch and sweetness. The restaurant also has a modest selection of sushi. The offerings are about what you'd get at any number of sushi joints in the area: good, if not especially inventive.
Appetizers are fun here. DIYers, order the lettuce wraps. Julienned veggies, slices of chicken and some of the restaurant's spunky peanut sauce arrive on a green leaf-shaped platter. The dish is a fun one to eat with friends; so much so that I overlooked the spongy texture of the chicken and the too-few lettuce wrappers. A nutty sauce comes with the restaurant's namesake satays. Teck-Hin got that recipe from his mother.
Tom yum soup was another hit, marrying sour and spicy flavors in an orange broth brightened by shards of lemongrass. Spinach dumplings outshone their pork-filled counterparts.
The best deals are at lunch between 11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday. In addition to the regular menu, the restaurant offers 18 meals for $7.95. The price includes a salad or soup; dumpling or spring roll; and an entree such as pad Thai, General Tso's chicken or stir-fried eggplant.
At your service: Service is unobtrusive and pleasant. When business is slow, expect to have three or four waitresses attend to your table.
What to avoid: Hot-and-sour soup had a gelatinous quality when I ordered it toward the end of lunch service. The Vietnamese summer roll could have benefited from more variety inside the rice-paper wrapper; carrots, cucumber, cilantro -- anything would have kept the noodles and lettuce company. Milky red and green curries were suitably spicy, but I found more success with the noodle dishes.
Wet your whistle: The restaurant offers canned soft drinks and Thai iced tea and coffee. Tiki cocktails such as mai tais, mango mojitos and banana-flavored drinks are sweet accompaniments to the spicy dishes. There is a small wine list and beer selection.
Bottom line: Asian Satay Club's food will certainly cure a pan-Asian craving. Stick around a while. The dining room's not so bad either.