Mrs. HowChow and I gorged on Asean Bistro delivery and takeout when we lived off Rte 108. We alternated entrees -- both because we enjoyed many of their dishes and because we could never remember which chow fun was which. (We came to enjoy both.) But an Asean Bistro meal begins with hot-and-sour soup, and the hot-and-sour soup came with crispy noodles. The most Americanized kind of Chinese noodles. Fried up, bagged with wax paper, dropped or dipped into the dark, tangy soup. That soup, those noodles, and a reality TV show soothed away all the pains on a work-day night.
But where are the crispy noodles at Asean Bistro itself? The restaurant clearly shares a kitchen with the takeout window, but the soup -- although served in a classier decor than my couch -- comes out alone, bereft of its crunchy companion, naked in its little bowl. The soup is still delicious, but we are amused every time that the waiter tells us that they don't have crunchy noodles. I know they have the noodles. They know I know they have the noodles.
Last month, Mrs. HowChow was refused her crunch, and we were amazed when the next couple to sit next to us actually got them. The couple was friendly and insistent. "You don't have noodles?" The waitress told them that she wasn't supposed to serve noodles to eat-in customers. We all started light-hearted joking that we should have ordered the soup takeout next door, then carried it inside to order our meal. Are the noodles not classy enough? Too expensive? Too Americanized?
Very quietly, the waitress returned and dropped off a bowl. Everyone laughed. The other couple enjoyed their soup. All was right -- and crunchy -- with the world.
Jesse Wong's Asean Bistro
Columbia Palace 9
8775 Centre Park Drive
Columbia, MD 21045
NEAR: In the shopping center just off Rte 108 between Howard High School and Rte 29. Very convenient from Rte 100. There is a Giant on Centre Park Drive, but Jesse Wong's is actually the closest store to Rte 108 near a dry cleaner and Dunkin Donuts.