Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Jesse Wong's Asean Bistro

For my money, Jesse Wong's Asean Bistro is the best Chinese restaurant in Howard County. It isn't the authentic Chinese of Grace Garden in Odenfon. But I have a soft spot for the Asean Bistro because I went on an early date with my wife. It's a surprisingly nice decor for a shopping center joint. Live piano music most nights. Elegant design.

And they have scrumptious General Tso's chicken under the name "Chef Xu's."

That's my guilty pleasure. I like going with a group where you can order an array of dishes. General Tso's is like hamburgers -- better to get them at a good place than settle for greasy ones. With a crowd, I can balance off the friend chicken in brown sauce with Szechuan green beans and some other, more-healthy fare.

The truth is that the Asian Bistro has such a broad menu that I never order Chef's Xu's when it's just me and Mrs. HowChow. This is Chinese food as served in most American restaurants, but well-made and served in a nicer atmosphere than your normal shopping center. We love those green beans, the spicy black bean chicken, great tofu dishes, the chow fun noodles. Recently (late 2008), we discovered the red sauced wonton appetizer and the duke chicken entree. The first is a bowl of mild wontons stuffed with pureed scallops, chicken and pork and then sitting in a soy-based sauce that gives a really nice flavor. The entree is spicy, sauteed chicken with peanuts. A cousin of kung po, but strips of white meat instead of diced chicken.

When we lived in Ellicott City, the Asean Bistro was our delivery joint. The black bean chicken, a chow fun, and hot & sour soup with a wax-paper bag of crispy, fried noodles. You can't get those noodles at the restaurant. Only delivery. That was great eating for nights when we just couldn't open the refrigerator. Now, we drive to the restaurant.

(Update: By late 2010, I wouldn't say Asean Bistro is the top restaurant anymore.  Asean Bistro can't touch Grace Garden in Odenton, and my most-recent meals at Asean Bistro haven't been as good as I remember from five years ago.  It's still a fine place to eat, but it has come back to the pack even while places like Red Pearl in Columbia serve good dishes.  Check out my 2010 post about Chinese restaurants in Howard County.)

Asean Bistro was one of Elizabeth Large's "Top 10 Restaurants in a Strip Mall" in her blog, which is great fun. Check out the restaurant's Web site, which generally has a coupon you can print for $5 off a $50 tab.

If you're looking for Chinese, I definitely recommend Grace Garden, although only for people who want an adventure. I'd also recommend dim sum at Asian Court. Some people love Hunan Manor and Hunan Legend. I'm still trying to figure out what to order so that I can enjoy the good stuff, but you can try Hunan Legend's "secret" menu. Or click for a 2009 "best restaurants" in Howard County.

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.

Asean Bistro on Urbanspoon


Anonymous said...

My husband and I have gone to Asean Bistro for years now. However, we just went not too long ago and all the food was different. I have always ordered the Sesame chicken and my husband gets their version of the General Tso's. We love the dishes because they aren't drowning in gooey sauce, but maintain a little crispiness and aren't too heavily breaded. The last time we went, though, all the food (as well as presentation) was completely different - not even remotely what we've probably ordered 20-30 times before. We had guests with us and it was rather embarrassing since it seemed like very low-end takeout. We weren't sure what happened and with guests, we didn't want to ask while there. Do you happen to know if they changed chefs, ownership, or something?

Unknown said...

We take all of our friends, both local and out of town guests, to Asean Bistro. Jesse Wong has a knack with food, presentation, and atmosphere, and this place has the whole package. Their lobster with chef's spicy butter sauce is my favorite lobster dish in the world! And my husband loves their Hawaiian Steak; I don't know if it's on the menu but ask for it, it's fantastic. I have never been disappointed in the 10 years we've been going there regularly, and we also get take-out from them at least once a week. Great quality, nice people, lovely atmosphere... highly recommended.