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FOOD & DRINK

Walk Across Asia

Blue Asia
341 South College Road #52
(910) 799-0002
Price: $-$$
Bottom Line: Go there now.
Seriously. Go.

TRIPLE YUM: Blue Asia serves sushi of all varieties, including the simply luscious tuna roll, Mongolian beef and cheesecake served with a sponge-cake crust. Photo by Bethany Turner

I like Asian décor. there is something very inviting about the Spartan use of bamboo in the new restaurant on College Road, Blue Asia, which appeals to me greatly. I felt right at home the moment I walked in for a late afternoon lunch.

Located in a strip mall, University Commons, beside of AC Moore, Blue Asia is easy to miss. Diners, I tell you: It is worth looking for. This rather pleasant hidden gem should quickly make everyone’s list of places to try in Wilmington.

The menu offers a rather eclectic array of Asian dishes, with no single nation overly represented. Normally this lack of specialization makes me nervous. We don’t see a lot of restaurants, which boast “European” cuisine. However, I have to give Blue Asia credit. Their kitchen seamlessly navigates between Thai, Japanese and Chinese menu items. One can find hibachi as well as chow mei fun, Singapore street noodles and Vietnamese lemongrass pork, along with Bento boxes, sushi, satay, dumplings and so much more.

Whenever I review a restaurant which offers sushi, admittedly, I head straight for the tuna roll. Of course, a tuna roll is no great indicator of the creative implications of the chef; however, it’s a fantastic indicator to the quality of ingredients. As soon as a tuna roll arrives at any restaurant, I know what kind of care it takes in procuring the building blocks of its meals. I was in love when Blue Asia’s tuna roll arrived. The vibrant reddish hue of the fish told me immediately someone in the back took great care in selecting his ingredients. The firm rice, hinted by citrus, and the crunchy seaweed confirmed my suspicions.

I was taken aback when the waiter delivered my salad. Sure, pale-white iceberg lettuce and a few lonely scraps of shredded carrot passed for a salad. But I am a sucker for ginger dressing, and if iceberg lettuce is the only available vessel by which to consume it, then iceberg lettuce it is.

After many reconsiderations, I settled on the Mongolian beef as an entrée. While the first bite disappointed me—I was hoping for a spicier dish—by the third bite, I’d gotten over my pre-conceived notions about what Mongolian beef should be and instead appreciated what I had in front of me: tender beef and firm, steamed rice in a rich and flavorful sauce. Forget any notions you have about gelatinous Chinese take-out. This was a dish with an elegant texture. Great care was taken in that kitchen to perfect it. (And might I suggest to the good people at Blue Asia that whomever concocted the Mongolian beef be put in charge of the salads from now on?) Scallions, onions, carrots, and snow peas made the dish colorful and delicious. Crisp and firm, the vegetables complemented the beef better than I could have hoped. This variety would serve Blue Asia well in other areas.

I could have lived without dessert. The mango cheesecake, while fruity and luxurious, sat atop a style of crust I’ve not seen paired with cheesecake until now. More akin to a spongy spice cake than the hard-packed graham cracker-style crust to which I’m accustomed, I can’t say the change was welcome. Maybe others will enjoy the difference, but it did nothing for my palate. I give the pastry chef credit for the light fruity flavor of the cake itself, but I just couldn’t get past the texture of the crust.
Finally, I took an order of garlic chicken and fried rice home because, let’s face it, we Americans love our leftover Chinese food. I’m pleased to report that Blue Asia is every bit as good the next day. Properly spiced garlic permeated my refrigerator, and the moist chicken held up beautifully, I couldn’t have been more pleased if I’d eaten it fresh at my table.

Service also proved a high point of the afternoon. The sole waiter never gave me his name but did provide rather exceptional attention. I’ll add this wasn’t just to me but the five other tables enjoying late lunches as well. As I watched him move effortlessly about the dining room, it occurred to me that I hadn’t noticed a single gap in service nor heard a single complaint or request he didn’t anticipate. Service like that complements fine food every bit as much as good wine does.

Furthermore, I found the pricing very reasonable. Two sushi rolls, two entrées, dessert and a glass of tea only set me back $32. That’s tough to beat—for two meals and especially for the quality.

Simply put, Asian-food fans would be crazy to pass up Blue Asia. Elegant understated décor, friendly and efficient service, prices to die for—oh, and the food tastes fantastic. Blue Asia gets my recommendation. You should have already put down this review to drive there now. Seriously. Put down the paper and go eat. encore will be there when you’ve finished.

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